‘More than 1,000 modern slavery victims’ discovered by councils in last year

Councils have discovered more than a thousand potential victims of modern slavery in the last year, research suggests.

The referrals of victims made by authorities in England have soared by 800% in five years, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

Spirally referral rates are being fuelled by the growing problem of young people being exploited by county lines drug gangs and increased numbers of people recognising the danger signs, the organisation claimed.

It cited National Crime Agency (NCA) statistics on the number of councils reporting concerns under the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – the programme to identify and support victims – and said these had risen from 127 in 2014 to 1,152 in 2018.

The referrals about children rose by 67% from 690 in 2017 and in the last year accounted 92% of all referrals made by councils in 2018.

The LGA warned this demonstrated the pressures on children’s services, housing and adult social care but no specific funding is given to councils to support victims and called on the Government for long term funding.

Councillor Simon Blackburn, chairman of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board, said: “The spiralling rate of council referrals 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.”

Government appoints first migration and modern slavery envoy

The first migration and modern slavery envoy has been appointed by the Government.

In the role, Jennifer Townson will campaign to tackle modern slavery and co-ordinate the UK’s efforts to do this with other countries.

The experienced official with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was appointed by a Whitehall panel and has a “range” of skills in this area, the Home Office said.

Creating the job was one of the recommendations made as part of a review of the Modern Slavery Act.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the foreign and commonwealth minister for human rights, said she would be a “strong voice” for the UK on the subject.

The announcement was made to mark Anti-Slavery Day, which sees a series of events taking place across the country on Friday.

At the same time, the Cabinet Office launched a campaign in London to help healthcare, job centre and bank staff to spot the signs of modern slavery.

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