More people rescued from Modern Slavery in England & Wales

published on 18 Oct 2023

A new report shows that the number of people being supported by The Salvation Army’s modern slavery services has increased in every region across England and Wales.  

In the last year 3,533 people were rescued and supported in safe houses and outreach services run by The Salvation Army with its partners.  This is a five percent increase on the previous year. Many had been forced to commit crimes, work against their will, or coerced into sex work.

The figures are part of The Salvation Army’s twelfth annual report on its work providing specialist support to adult victims of modern slavery in England and Wales through the Government’s Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract

Of the 3,533 referrals:

  • 58% experienced labour exploitation, such as being forced to work in factories, building sites or farms with little or no pay – a 12% rise from the previous year. 
  • 19% experienced sexual exploitation.
  • 15% experienced criminal exploitation like being forced to sell drugs.
  • There were over 100 different nationalities with British people being the second most common group needing help.

Estimates released by The Salvation Army earlier this month show that for every survivor of modern slavery in the UK who has had the chance to escape and receive support, there are at least seven more people who remain trapped in slave-like conditions*.

Cover image of The Salvation Army's 2023 Modern Slavery annual report

The Salvation Army is calling on the public to spot and report the signs of modern slavery to help The Salvation Army and its partners reach those still trapped so they can get help to people like James*2

Case study

James*2  is a British man who was exploited through county lines and cuckooing (where criminals take over the home of a vulnerable person for drug dealing). 

He is now living in a Salvation Army safe house and getting help to manage his addictions and recover from his ordeal. James was homeless when Covid-19 struck and was given temporary accommodation as part of the government’s response to the pandemic. Shortly afterwards he lost both his parents which left him even more vulnerable. 

James was tricked, trapped, and exploited by a man called Tom living nearby. Tom befriended James using drugs which James then became dependent on. This led to Tom and others using James’ home as a base to sell drugs from and when James complained, Tom threatened to cut off his supply. James was often kept locked in his bedroom with a bucket for a toilet that was only emptied twice a week. When he was allowed out of his room, a person would follow him around the flat to make sure he didn’t run away and tell the police.

“It was even more frustrating because I could see the police station from my flat window,” James remembers, “I was so close, but I couldn’t get to them. It felt like it went on forever.”

Eventually the police raided the flat and recognised James as a victim of cuckooing and took him to a Salvation Army safe house. He said, “Without this place I’d have been another statistic and I’m not going out like that.”

Major Kathy Betteridge, The Salvation Army’s Director of Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery, said: 

“We are deeply concerned by the alarming increase in people trapped in modern slavery in every region across England and Wales.  Modern slavery tends to be hidden in plain sight and we are continuing to see there is no limit to the imagination of a trafficker when it comes to people being bought and sold for their own gain. 

“Anyone can help The Salvation Army and the police fight modern slavery by raising the alarm if you are worried someone is being exploited. We all have a part to play and together we can be a voice for the voiceless. Please learn how you can spot the signs and where to report your concerns.”

The Salvation Army’s free confidential 24/7 referral helpline 0800 808 3733 is available for anyone who suspects they or someone they have met may be a victim of modern slavery and needs help.

Over the last 12 years, The Salvation Army’s and its partners’ specialist support workers have helped 21,824 survivors get medical care, counselling and legal advice and a safe place to stay where needed.

The full Modern Slavery 2023 report and information on how The Salvation Army supports survivors, can be found on our website here

*1 It is estimated that there are 122,000 people in the UK living in modern slavery [1], that is 1.8 individuals per 1000 people. In 2022, a combined total of 14,895 positive reasonable grounds decisions were given by the Immigration Enforcement Competent Authority (IECA) and Single Competent Authority (SCA).[2] Therefore, for every survivor given the opportunity to enter support, there are at least seven people still living in modern slavery.   

[1] Source: World | The Global Slavery Index (   

[2] Source: NRM (National Referral Mechanism): Modern Slavery: National Referral Mechanism and Duty to Notify statistics UK, end of year summary 2022 - GOV.UK (  

*2 Name changed to protect identity


A Salvation Army volunteer wearing a red puffer jacket delivers a care package to an older woman

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