Child slavery referrals up eight-fold

It 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, which is putting council services under increasing and significant pressure.

Latest National Crime Agency statistics show the number of council referrals of suspected child victims to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – the UK’s framework for referring and supporting victims – has risen from 127 in 2014 to 1,152 in 2018, up 807 per cent.

The rate of these child referrals has increased by 67 per cent in a year, from 690 in 2017, with children accounting for 92 per cent of all referrals made by English councils in 2018.

The LGA is warning that the rapid year-on-year increase in child referrals is further evidence of the current huge pressures on children’s services. Alongside that, the rising number of adult victims is adding to demand for housing and adult social care.

No specific funding is given to councils to support victims of modern slavery, who may have suffered terrible abuse, been forced to live in squalor and, in the case of many adult victims, been paid shockingly low wages as a result of exploitation by criminal gangs.

The LGA 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.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “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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