Number of reports of modern enslavement doubling in the UK care sector

In the past year, the number of reported cases of modern servitude in the UK care industry has more than doubled. Between January and March, 109 potential victims were exploited for personal or financial gain, which is twice as many as during the same period in 2022.

The figures were obtained from the government-approved anti-slavery helpline, which is operated by the charity Unseen. The care industry is currently a "top priority" for investigators attempting to prevent worker exploitation.

The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), whose mission is to protect workers across the United Kingdom from labor exploitation, informed that it had more than 300 ongoing investigations in the care sector.

It is extremely uncommon to hear directly from a victim of modern slavery, but a woman who came to the United Kingdom on a work visa and was forced to work long hours as a caregiver. Terri was recruited by an agency in her home country of Africa and promised work as a domiciliary caregiver in the United Kingdom. The agency assured her that a work visa and transportation would be arranged.

She was required to undergo an in-person interview, pass an English proficiency exam, and submit evidence of her employment history. Through a care company, she was guaranteed a position as a care assistant in the United Kingdom. She was told that she could earn up to £29,000 per year.

For Terri, whose marriage was abusive, the position presented the ideal opportunity to flee with her three children.

Terri brought her mother to the United Kingdom so that she could care for Terri's children. Terri worked up to 20 hours per day and frequently seven days a week, which she found to be arduous. The promised vehicle to transport her between client engagements never materialized, so she was forced to walk.

Two months later, when Terri finally received her wages from the company, they amounted to less than £2 per hour, which is unlawful. Care employees must be compensated at least the national minimum wage - £10.90 (£11.95 in London) - for their attendance at appointments and travel time to and from the office.

Terri complained to the care company, but the company threatened to terminate her employment and revoke her visa. 

Her low income prevented her from continuing to pay rent for her mother and children, so they were compelled to relocate. Terri worked the night shift while her mother and children slept on the streets. A member of the public saw them, and Terri was reported to social services.

When they requested to see her schedule, they were stunned. Social services assistance Terri is referred to the National Referral Mechanism, a government program designed to identify and aid victims of modern enslavement. She and her family currently reside in housing provided by social services. 

She has "reasonable grounds" to prove she was a victim of modern servitude, according to the Home Office. Multiple industries, including construction and car washes, have been infiltrated by modern enslavement.

Last week's passage of the Illegal Migration Bill, according to Sara Thornton, the former Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, will make it more difficult to assist victims in need. The new law permits the government to legally detain and deport all individuals who illegally enter the United Kingdom.