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Hundreds more modern slavery referrals

More awareness of modern slavery and the growing issue of young people being exploited by county lines drugs gangs, has meant hundreds more referrals to council children’s services departments, the Local Government Association reports.

Latest National Crime Agency (NCA) figures show the number of council referrals of suspected child victims of modern slavery in England to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – the UK’s framework for referring and supporting victims – rose from 127 in 2014 to 1,152 in 2018, an increase of 807 per cent. The rate of these child referrals has increased by 67 per cent in a year alone, from 690 in 2017, with children accounting for 92 per cent of all referrals (child and adults) made by councils in England in 2018.

Estimates of the number of victims of modern slavery in the UK vary from 13,000 up; and the overall costs to UK society of modern slavery are estimated at between £3.3 billion and £4.3 billion. The LGA is warning that the year-on-year increase in child referrals shows pressures on children’s services; and adding to demand for housing and adult social care. No specific funding is given to councils to support victims of modern slavery.

The LGA says it’s working with the Home Office on reforms to the NRM, and has recently published updated guidance for councillors on modern slavery. The association is urging the Government to use next year’s Spending Review to ensure there is long term and sustainable funding to help tackle modern slavery and support its victims. Such as; specialist support for adult and child victims after they are identified and referred to the NRM.

Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Councils are committed to tackling the despicable crime of modern slavery, which is a rising threat to our communities. It can destroy the lives of vulnerable people working in fear of physical violence from ruthless gangmasters for little or no pay. The spiralling rate of council referrals, especially relating to children who face specific risks through county lines drug trafficking or child sexual exploitation, is having a huge impact on overstretched council services, particularly children’s services.

“Extra funding next year will help but government needs to ensure councils have adequate long-term resources to tackle this abuse and support its victims, as well as creating a sustainable NRM system in the long term. Everyone needs to be alert to modern slavery wherever they live, particularly at hand car washes and nail bars, which are high risk sectors for exploitation, and to look out for people living in poor quality, overcrowded accommodation.

“Any suspicious behaviour should be reported to help rescue people living grim lives at the hands of heartless profiteering criminals.”

Anyone who believes someone is in immediate danger due to modern slavery or exploitation should call police on 999, or 101 if there is no immediate danger. Or, call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.


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