Covid-19 ensured 2020 was a tough year for many organisations - and Unseen was no exception. But thanks to the support of people like you, we have been able to press ahead with our mission to stamp out slavery for good. Here is a snapshot of what we achieved together in 2020.

Our frontline workers continued to offer face-to-face support for survivors right through lockdown, complementing this with remote support too. We introduced social and wellbeing groups to help people cope with isolation and helped survivors with technology crash courses so they could stay connected during lockdown. Your generous donations enabled us to decorate our safehouses, re-carpeting the women’s project and painting the men’s safehouse.


When the country went into lockdown in March, all our upcoming fundraising events were cancelled, leaving a six-figure hole in our budget. You rallied round to support our appeal, and this ensured we maintained 24-hour cover on our Helpline and frontline services.


The nail bars and car washes that are typically associated with exploitation were closed during lockdown #1 – but that’s not to say that modern slavery stopped. The scandal of Boohoo in Leicester, for example, showed labour abuse continuing in spite of the lockdown. Our spokespeople ensured the issue stayed in the media throughout the pandemic, from appearances on local radio and Sky TV news, to articles in the Telegraph and specialist press.


The data and insights we gather from our Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline are invaluable in shaping the anti-slavery sector’s approach to exploitation – and our work in 2020 was no exception.

During the pandemic we reported on key sector movements and provided insights to inform prevention activities. For example, in 2019 the Helpline had identified the emergence of financial exploitation outside the workplace – essentially a new way of targeting individuals who are working for a legitimate business by taking control of their bank account and stopping them getting hold of their wages.

By 2020 (thanks to our training, Business Portal, regular reports and various partnerships), businesses and the anti-slavery sector as a whole were more aware of the issue and taking steps to address it.

Our Covid-19 report (pdf), published in October 2020, gave an early insight into the impact of the pandemic on victims of exploitation.


Unseen’s unique training is regularly updated to include new and emerging modern slavery trends and vulnerabilities, such as targeted financial exploitation, the signs to spot to raise awareness, and how to safely report and prevent it from happening to others.

When Covid-19 first hit we worked quickly to move all our training content online so we could continue to educate statutory agencies, businesses and community groups about the risks of modern slavery.


We continued growing the number of companies we work with across all sectors to strengthen their approach to modern slavery. Getting more companies behind our work not only means we’re better able to tackle exploitation in these businesses and their supply chains, but helps raise awareness of the extent of modern slavery in our society. Our partners now include household names such as Marks & Spencer, Tesco, British Land, John Lewis, Nationwide and BT. Find out more about how we’re working with business.


Our #WhatAreYouDoing? campaign highlighted the fact that more than 3,700 of the UK’s biggest businesses still do not have modern slavery statements, even though they are obliged to by law. These statements describe a company’s approach to forced labour and other forms of exploitation, including how they are working to reduce risks in their operations. The campaign encouraged our supporters to contact businesses via social media, asking them what they were doing about modern slavery, and in some cases challenging them to do more. Thanks to your efforts, companies such as banking giants HSBC and supermarket Sainsbury’s shared their approach to modern slavery on social media, helping highlight the issue far and wide.


Our evaluation report (pdf) on Unseen’s children’s safehouse project critiqued the current provision for child victims of trafficking in the UK. We argued that failings in the care system, poor training, reduction in resources and long-term lack of investment are contributing to a shocking number of trafficked children disappearing from care. Importantly, the report made waves in the right places, with the Children’s Commissioner’s office congratulating us on its publication and describing it as “excellent”.

These are just some of the things we achieved together to end modern slavery. Thanks for all your support in 2020 – and here’s to more success together in 2021.

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Justine Currell

As I came to understand more about the issue, including through a visit to an Unseen safehouse, I knew I needed to do more to stop this abuse and exploitation.

For the last five years of my Civil Service career, I was the Modern Slavery Senior Policy Advisor in the Home Office and led on development of the Modern Slavery Act, including the transparency in supply chains provision and business guidance.

I joined Unseen to lead the development of the Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline, and Unseen’s work with businesses. I am regularly called upon to present at national and international conferences and use my experience of working with Ministers to influence other governments internationally to take action to address modern slavery and, in particular, business supply chain issues.

In my spare time I enjoy keeping fit, music, reading and travelling.

Andrew Wallis

What ultimately compelled me to act was a report on how people from Eastern Europe were being trafficked through Bristol airport to the USA. Kate Garbers, who went on to be an Unseen Director, and I wrote to all the city councillors, MPs and the Police Chief Constable challenging them on the issue. The challenge came back to us: this city needs safe housing for trafficked women. And so Unseen began.

But we never wanted Unseen to be just about safe housing. We wanted to end slavery once and for all, and that remains our driving focus.

I chaired the working group for the Centre for Social Justice’s landmark report “It Happens Here: Equipping the United Kingdom to Fight Modern Slavery”. This is now acknowledged as the catalyst behind the UK’s Modern Slavery Act of 2015. It was a great honour to be awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours that year. On the other hand, I’ve also been described as “the loveliest disrupter you could ever hope to meet”.

This job has taken me from building flat-pack furniture for safehouses, to working with businesses to address slavery in supply chains, to delivering training, raising awareness and advising governments around the world.

When not at work, I enjoy travelling, spending time with my dog Harley, cooking, supporting Liverpool and Yorkshire CC, music (I’m a former DJ) and endurance events such as the Three Peaks Challenge and Tribe Freedom Runs – which I vow never to do again. Until the next time.