Modern slavery is a serious and often hidden crime. It includes slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour, and human trafficking, which is the harbouring and transportation of people for exploitation.

A victim is usually used and exploited for someone else’s gain, without respect for their human rights. It usually involves some element of coercion, such as threats, use of force, deception, or abuse of power so that the victim performs acts or services against their will.

Domestic servitude

This involves a victim being forced to work in private households performing domestic chores and childcare duties. Their freedom may be restricted and they may work long hours often for little or no pay, and sleep where they work.

Forced labour

Victims may be forced to work long hours for little or no pay in poor conditions under verbal or physical threats of violence to them or their families.

It can happen in various industries, including construction, manufacturing, laying driveways, hospitality, food packaging, agriculture, maritime and beauty (eg nail bars). Often victims are housed together in one dwelling.

Sexual exploitation

This includes sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, forced prostitution and the abuse of children for the production of child abuse images/videos.

Criminal exploitation

This can be understood as the exploitation of a person to commit a crime, such as pick-pocketing, shoplifting, cannabis cultivation, drug trafficking and other similar activities that are subject to penalties and imply financial gain for the trafficker.

Perpetrators force victims to claim benefits on arrival but the money is withheld, or the victim is forced to take out loans or credit cards. Cannabis cultivation is the highest category of criminal exploitation.

Other forms of exploitation

Other forms can include organ removal, forced begging, forced benefit fraud, forced marriage and illegal adoption.

Victims can be any nationality, gender and age. But children, young people and vulnerable adults are often targeted.

Under UK legislation, all modern slavery offences can be punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Where victims of modern slavery have been forced into committing a crime by the perpetrators, UK legislation states that victims may have a defence against prosecution.

England and Wales: Modern Slavery Act 2015


Call 999 in an emergency situation and 101 if sharing information about a modern slavery issue.


Modern slavery and exploitation helpline – 0800 0121 700.
Salvation Army referral helpline – 0800 808 3733.

Helping under 18s

For advice for under 18s, you can call the modern slavery and exploitation helpline on 0800 0121 700, the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000, or Barnardo’s on 0800 043 4303.

When you report a crime to the police, they should automatically ask if you’d like help from an organisation like Victim Support. But anyone affected by crime can contact us directly – you don’t need to talk to the police to get our help.

You can get in touch by:

You can also create a free account on My Support Space – an online resource containing interactive guides to help you manage the impact crime has had on you.

If English is not your first language and you’d like support, call our Supportline and let us know which language you speak. We’ll call you back with an interpreter as soon as possible. We also welcome calls via Relay UK and SignLive (BSL).

Families and friends affected by crime can also contact us for support and information. If you’re a child or young person under 18 and are looking for support, visit our children and young people website for information and tips.