National Crime Agency statistics indicate the number of children being identified as potential victims of modern slavery has increased by more than 800 per cent in the past five years.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said the spiralling referral rates are being fuelled by an increasing awareness of modern slavery and the growing issue of young people being exploited by county lines drugs gangs. The increase, it warned, is putting council services under increasing and significant pressure.
Cllr 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”.
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* National Referral Mechanism