Domestic Servitude

Domestic servitude is often experienced within a home type setting (sometimes by alleged/actual relatives, sponsors or partners), but the victim is not in a safe family home., rather living in a place of exploitation. 

The child is also often not able to access universal services such as health support or education, so may not be registered with these services. They are often treated differently to others within the household such as siblings. They may display indicators such as tiredness, withholding food or eating alone, they may appear isolated from peers, or have limited time to complete tasks. They can experience other forms of exploitation alongside this and may experience physical abuse too.

Victims of domestic servitude are often subjected to unbearable conditions or ‘working’ hours and forced to carry out tasks such as cleaning, cooking or providing care for other people/children (possibly referred to as a house maid / nanny / cleaner / cook) for little or no pay or told this is in exchange for accommodation.  These types of tasks can often be incorrectly viewed as being linked to the child’s cultural heritage, and this perception can act barrier to support and disruption of exploitation. 

Whilst victims servitude often have their movement restricted, some victims may be able to physically leave the place of exploitation. However, the control and coercion which the exploiter holds over the child means that they are unable to access help or make disclosures. There may also be a language and/or cultural barrier present. 

Exploiters will often also tell the children they will be deported / arrested if they speak to anyone, and may withhold documents or passports as a further means of control.

A child of any nationality can be a victim of domestic servitude however exploiters often target particular groups who have added vulnerabilities, such as children seeking asylum. Sometimes, the children are brought to the U.K. illegally and therefore are undocumented. They may have very limited/no contact with anyone outside of the house where they are being exploited. In this instance, the exploitation is unseen and therefore may not be identified or reported. 

The experience of being exploited is traumatising for children and it is unlikely they will be able to recover from abusive experiences without significant professional support.