There has been a lot of media coverage on modern slavery and human trafficking in recent times, both criminal offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (‘the Act’).  It is important to be aware that modern slavery can take place in a wide range of employment sectors, including health and social care settings. This could be in relation to staff working in these settings or service users who are seeking care or treatment.  Modern slavery and trafficking crimes include knowingly holding a person in a position of slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour, or facilitating their travel with the intention of exploiting them during or soon after.

In the June 2018 board meeting, the Care Quality Commission (‘CQC’) agreed its statement on Modern Slavery. Although, it is not a legal requirement for CQC to publish its statement under the Act, as a public body CQC must act in accordance with the Human Rights Act 1998 (‘the HRA 1998’) and act in ways which are compatible with Article 4 ‘Prohibition of slavery and forced labour’ of the HRA 1998. Publishing its statement on modern slavery helps CQC to meet its duties as a public body.

CQC’s statement on modern slavery provides clarity for providers, other stakeholders and CQC staff on how to play a part in combatting modern slavery and human trafficking and the action it will take in relation to this.

What the modern slavery statement means for providers

During inspections, CQC will check that providers have systems and processes in place to identify abuse and safeguard people from harm. This extends to ensuring that victims of modern slavery or human trafficking are protected and that any crimes of enslavement or trafficking are reported.

CQC will refer safeguarding concerns to agencies that are first responders under the National Referral Mechanism for victims of human trafficking and modern slavery. First responder agencies include the UK Border Agency, police forces and local authorities. If CQC is concerned that an organisation it regulates is engaged in modern slavery, it will inform the appropriate agencies responsible for taking enforcement action under the Act.

If it is appropriate to do so, CQC will consider modern slavery and human trafficking issues in joint targeted inspections of services and arrangements for children in need of protection. Inspections will be carried out in conjunction with Ofsted, HMI Constabulary and HMI Probation.

Modern slavery guide for CQC inspectors

CQC is working with the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner to produce a guide on modern slavery and human trafficking in the health and social care sector for inspectors. The guide will cover what the signs of modern slavery and human trafficking are and what to do if they have concerns that modern slavery or human trafficking may be taking place in a health or social care setting. The guide will include protocols for obtaining advice, support, reporting concerns and is due to be published by the end of 2018 or early 2019.

If modern slavery or human trafficking is found during inspections, CQC will respond to any regulatory breaches in line with its enforcement policy and may take enforcement action that could include changes or cancellation of a provider’s registration.

Organisations with a turnover of £36 million

Section 54 of the Act is of relevance to large health and social care providers with an annual turnover of at least £36 million. Under this section of the Act, organisations are required to prepare a modern slavery statement for each financial year. The statement should set out the steps the organisation has taken during the year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking are not taking place in its supply chains and own business, or, a statement setting out if no steps have been taken in relation to modern slavery.

With regards to a ‘no steps’ statement, some organisations such as UK quoted companies, are already required to undertake non-financial reporting on human rights and these organisations not obliged to produce a statement on modern slavery and human trafficking. However, organisations that choose this option should think carefully, as not producing a statement may damage the organisation’s reputation.

To ensure that a modern slavery and human trafficking statement is sufficient, it should include the following things:

  • The organisation’s commitment to understanding modern slavery risks.
  • An explanation of the companies organisational structure and supply chains.
  • Steps the organisation is taking to ensure that there is no modern slavery in its own business or supply chains.
  • The organisation’s policies in relation to slavery and human trafficking.
  • The organisation’s due diligence processes to slavery in its business and supply chains.
  • Parts of the orgnaisation’s business and supply chains where there is a risk and the steps it has taken to manage that risk.
  • The training on human trafficking and slavery available to its staff.
  • The organisations effectiveness in ensuring that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in its business or supply chains, measured against performance indicators it considers appropriate.

Modern slavery statements should also be published on the organisation’s website.

Smaller organisations

It is not a mandatory requirement for organisations with an annual turnover of under £36 million, to produce a modern slavery and human trafficking statement and CQC’s approach to checking whether services are protecting victims of modern slavery will be dependent on its assessment of the risks within a service.

What next?

At this stage, it is hard to know how CQC will assess the risks of modern slavery and human trafficking in practice. However, the publication of the next version of the inspector’s handbook and the production of the modern slavery guide should hopefully shed more light on this area.

For further information, CQC’s full statement on modern slavery can be found on CQCs website at the following link:

https://www.cqc.org.uk/sites/default/files/modern-slavery-human-trafficking-statement.pdf