The government will not be able to reduce the prevalence of modern slavery significantly or show that it is achieving value for money until it establishes effective oversight, the National Audit Office has warned.
The government has targeted human trafficking in supply chains as a key part of its strategy. However, the NAO said: “The Home Office has an incomplete picture of the crime, the victims and the perpetrators. Accountability within the modern slavery strategy is unclear, oversight of victim support is inadequate and few cases have led to prosecution. The NAO also finds that the Home Office has limited means of tracking its progress and there remains much more to do to ensure victims of modern slavery are identified, protected and supported effectively.”
The strategy was introduced by the Home Office in 2014 and aimed to significantly reduce the prevalence of modern slavery. The 2015 Modern Slavery Act made provisions for slavery, servitude, forced labour and for human trafficking, including for the protection of victims and for an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
NAO head Amyas Morse said: “The campaign to drive out modern slavery is in the early stages. So far it is helping to establish the scale and international nature of this issue. To combat modern slavery successfully, however, government will need to build much stronger information and understanding of perpetrators and victims than it has now.”
The NAO report accepted that the Home Office had laid some important foundations for achieving its goal to significantly reduce modern slavery.
“Annual adult referrals of potential victims to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) have increased substantially between 2014, when the Modern Slavery Strategy was introduced, and 2016, showing that more potential victims are being identified. It has introduced new legislation requiring businesses to report what they are doing to prevent human trafficking in their supply chains and published a typology of modern slavery offences and offenders in the UK in October 2017.”
However, it said the strategy does not include measures of success for its objectives nor a definition of what success looks like and accountability for delivering the modern slavery strategy is unclear.