Experts in the modern slavery sector have come together to discuss the devastating impact of exploitation on mothers and their children.

The roundtable event, hosted on 5 October 2021, followed the publication of Hestia’s latest Underground Lives report ‘Forgotten Children: The Intergenerational Impact of Modern Slavery’.

Hestia’s report found that there are approximately 5,000 children in the UK who are either born as a result of exploitation, who had witnessed their mother being exploited, or who were born shortly after their mother escaped slavery.

Many children are potentially lost in the system without getting the appropriate support needed.

Listen to an audio summary of the event below.

As a result, mothers’ trauma can have a profound and long-lasting effect on their children, with some experiencing developmental delays and poor mental health.

Key figures in the sector, including the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Dame Sara Thornton and Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, spoke at the roundtable, discussing Hestia’s findings and key recommendations.

Dame Sara Thornton, the UK's Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, speaking at the roundtable event.

Speaking at the roundtable, Dame Sara Thornton said:

“I really welcome the report and what stuck me straight away on page one is your estimate of potentially 5000 hidden children, and that number was really quite startling.

“We’ve got 5000 potentially very hidden, traumatised children, but also marginalised and not having the sorts of things that we would all want for children, or that we all know that are important for their development.”

Hestia’s recommendations include the government amending the Modern Slavery Act 2015 to recognise children as victims in their own right, and for health professionals, teachers and social workers to receive training help them better understand the impact of modern slavery on women and their children.

Baroness Butler-Sloss said:

“The area raised by Hestia is extremely interesting and totally neglected.

“With any luck we might be able to carry some of these recommendations forward, as I intend to do as co-chair of the parliament group on modern slavery, and the vice chair of the Human Trafficking Foundation. I’m not going to let this rest.”

Baroness Butler-Sloss (centre), welcomes the report and its recommendations

Advocates for Hestia’s Phoenix Project, which provides long-term support for survivors of modern slavery, also shared the experiences of some of their clients, reflecting on the individual challenges faced by survivors of modern slavery and their children.

One advocate, Hannah, explained how a woman she supports, Rosie*, was forced by her traffickers to illegally claim benefits. She was arrested and spent a year in prison.

Rosie was identified as a victim of modern slavery and released. However, her daughters still fear abandonment after their mother was taken to prison so abruptly.

Sharing Rosie’s story, Hannah said:

“Rosie has lived with her daughters in their current accommodation for the past one and a half years. Her eldest daughter has still not unpacker her suitcase, as she has said that she is fearful that she will have to move again and pack everything up.”

Listen to the below audio summary of the event below, which explores our key findings, all of our recommendations, and thoughts on the report from experts.