Publication of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner's Annual Report 2019-2020
The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Dame Sara Thornton, has published her Annual Report for 2019-2020. The Annual Report has been laid before Parliament today by the Secretary of State (Home Secretary) in accordance with the Modern Slavery Act (2015).
The Annual Report outlines the Commissioner’s work so far to achieve her objectives as outlined in the Strategic Plan 2019-2021, within the four priority areas of: improving victim care and support; supporting law enforcement and prosecutions; focusing on prevention; and getting value from research and innovation.
Dame Sara Thornton, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, said:
“The Modern Slavery Act (2015) sets out my role to encourage good practice across the UK and my strategic plan set out how I planned to do that. This report is structured around the four priorities in the strategic plan and details my activities over eleven months from my appointment in May 2019.
“More victims of modern slavery are being identified and protected but there are still too many weaknesses in the systems. In particular, we need to do more to ensure that those who have suffered from the most egregious criminal acts are supported to become survivors leading lives of sustainable independence. Ever-longer delays in decision-making within the National Referral Mechanism must be addressed and I hope the new NRM Transformation Programme ensures a more needs-based, end-to-end system of support. Timely, quality decision making must be a fundamental aspect of this.
“The number of modern slavery operations by police forces has increased by 29% since last year, but the number of modern slavery flagged prosecutions has not kept pace. Meanwhile, the number of prosecutions under the Modern Slavery Act remains too low and organised crime groups continue to see the rewards as high and the risks as low. There needs to be scrutiny of the low number of prosecutions and convictions under the Modern Slavery Act.
“One of my early priorities has been to improve the impact that research on modern slavery has on policy and practice, initially focusing on survivor support. Whilst there is a substantial amount of academic research on support for survivors of modern slavery, this research is not always informing policy and practice or having an impact on the effectiveness of survivor support. In order for research to translate into impact more consistently, there is a need for researchers and stakeholders to cultivate a culture of collaboration, understanding and respect.
“The Modern Slavery Policy and Evidence Centre, announced in July 2019, is a unique opportunity to support police and practice with high quality, well-informed and collaborative research. I am an active member of the Centre’s Advisory Group, and my team supports the Centre’s various working groups including on their research priorities.
“I have also put emphasis on the structural issues which allow slavery and trafficking to flourish. Raising public awareness, ensuring that businesses are putting stakeholders as well as shareholders at the centre of their thinking and supporting international development to build resilience in priority countries all contribute to preventing modern slavery.
“Ending modern slavery requires concerted action from the widest coalition of motivated people and organisations at the local, regional, national and international level. While the challenge is substantial, I have been enormously encouraged by the commitment and dedication of so many who tirelessly work in this sector, both in the UK and internationally.”
Notes to editors
- Part 4 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 created the role of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. The Commissioner has a UK-wide remit to encourage good practice in the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of slavery and human trafficking offences and the identification of victims.
- The Commissioner is given an annual budget with which to appoint staff and carry out her duties. She is accountable through her strategic plan and annual reports, which the Secretary of State lays before Parliament, setting out the extent to which objectives and priorities are achieved. Her Strategic Plan 2019 – 2021 was launched in October 2019.
- Dame Sara Thornton was appointed as the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner by the Secretary of State following consultation with the Scottish Ministers and the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland. She took up post at the beginning of May 2019 and her appointment is for three years.