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The Government has described modern slavery as a “brutal form of organised crime in which people are treated as commodities and exploited for criminal gain”, which “takes a number of forms, including sexual exploitation, forced labour and domestic servitude”. The Home Office says that the true extent of modern slavery is difficult to ascertain, as it is a “highly complex and hidden crime”.  

 Legislation to tackle modern slavery was enacted across all UK jurisdictions in 2015. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA 2015) received royal assent on 26 March 2015. The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 and the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 were passed in Scotland and Northern Ireland, respectively. The legislation provides for similar victim support measures and law enforcement powers throughout the UK. 

 There have been a number of reviews into how the legislation is operating in practice and whether there is adequate provision for victims.

 In April 2017 the Work and Pensions Committee published a report following its inquiry into victims of modern slavery. The Chair, Frank Field MP, announcing the report, said there was “a shocking lack of awareness and co-ordination in the front-line services dealing with modern slavery” and called for an “urgent review” to ensure some minimum safeguards for victims were in place. 

 On 2 May 2018 the Public Accounts Committee published a report which found that potential victims are waiting far too long for a decision on whether they will be treated as a victim of modern slavery. It also found that no minimum care standards have been put in place, so it is unclear whether victims are receiving adequate care, and that there is little evidence of what happens to victims after they have gone through the system.

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