London, 1950: Vera Drake lives with her husband Stan and their grown-up children, Sid and Ethel. They are not rich, but they are a happy, close family. Vera cleans houses, Stan is a mechanic in his brother's garage, Sid works for a tailor and Ethel works in a factory testing lightbulbs. But selfless Vera has a sideline which she keeps secret from all of those around her: without accepting payment, she helps young women to end unwanted pregnancies. When one of these girls is rushed to hospital following an abortion, the police investigation leads to Vera and her world comes crashing in on her.