Modern slavery is an umbrella term encompassing slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking.

Victims of modern slavery are unable to leave their situation of exploitation, controlled by threats, punishment, violence, coercion and deception.

Slavery violates human rights, denying people their right to life, freedom, and security. Modern slavery is said to be ‘hidden in plain sight’. Many of us will have unknowingly seen the victims, perpetrators, or effects of slavery in our day-to-day life.

Modern slavery is difficult to identify and we still have a lot to learn about the nature of modern slavery in Waltham Forest.

For this reason, we are committed to tackling modern slavery in Waltham Forest through the following three aims:

  • Tackling modern slavery through strong leadership and effective partnerships
  • Raising awareness of modern day slavery
  • Identifying and supporting victims of modern slavery

Our statement on Modern Slavery (PDF)

Types of modern slavery

There are many types of modern slavery, however, slavery typically falls under one of the following categories:

Labour exploitation or debt bondage

Where vulnerable people are exploited for labour or forced to work for little or no money.

Victims may be coerced into working in dangerous conditions, live in squalor, and have limited access to their own money and belongings.

Debt bondage may see a person being forced to work for a person who has lent them money, which they have little prospect of paying off.

This can happen in various industries, including construction, manufacturing, laying driveways, hospitality, food packaging, agriculture, maritime, and beauty nail bars.

Domestic servitude

Where victims are made to work almost constantly in private households.

The pay is often very low and payments may be delayed or in kind for food and accommodation.

Victims may have their freedoms limited. For example, they are stopped from leaving the house, have their identity documents removed, and have restricted contact with the outside world.

Sexual exploitation

Where adults and children are groomed or forced into sex work or to perform sexual acts.

This could be group exploitation, where victims are forced into sex work with multiple people, commonly being based in brothels, on the street, or in ‘pop-up’ locations.

Single exploiters may groom the person to engage in sexual activity with them, this is often very common in child sexual exploitation.

Criminal exploitation

Where individuals or groups of people are controlled, maltreated, or forced to commit crimes and unlawful acts against their will.

This covers gang and drug related activity, such as county lines, forced begging, shoplifting, benefit fraud, and theft.

Sham and forced marriages also fall under this category. Often women who are forced into a marriage can also be subject to domestic abuse.

Who is affected?

Anyone can be a victim of modern slavery and there is no typical profile for a victim.

In the UK, victims were found to be men, women, and children of all ages, ethnicities, and nationalities.

It was found that slavery was more prevalent among those who were the most vulnerable in society. This is because they were either socially excluded or belonged to minority groups.

Spotting the signs of modern slavery in Waltham Forest

There are lots of signs that a person may be living in slavery, these include:

  • Unexplained injuries and/or looks neglected
  • Controlled or always watched by another person
  • Anxious, scared, withdrawn, distrustful or lacks confidence
  • May live and work in the same place and/or doesn’t know work or home address
  • No access to passport or documents. These may be held by someone else
  • Limited contact with family or outside world
  • Forced or intimidated to work with little or no pay
  • Bonded by debt or has money deducted from their salary
  • Controlled by another person
  • Over occupied house in a poor state with people leaving and entering in large groups early or late at night

See the Modern Slavery flyer (PDF)

Concerned about a potential victim

If you are concerned about a child in Waltham Forest child please call 0208 496 2310 or email

If you are concerned about an adult in Waltham Forest adult please call 0208 496 3000 or email