Local authority leaders have called for a ‘coherent, cross-sector’ approach to tackling modern slavery as new figures reveal an increase of almost 50% in the number of people referred as potential victims.
According to the latest figures, the number of people referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) between July and September last year was 1,322 - a 47% increase on the 901 people referred during the same period in 2016.
The NRM is the body responsible for taking care of potential victims of modern slavery.
Overall, Government figures estimate there are between 10,000 and 13,000 victims of slavery in the UK.
The Local Government Association (LGA) today called for a ‘coherent, cross-sector’ approach to fighting modern slavery at a series of events designed to educate councils on effective ways of eradicating the problem.
Council leaders are also urging the public to familiarise themselves with tell-tale signs - such as large numbers of people being transported to properties in vans - that could alert them to modern slavery happening in their local area.
The LGA described the public as the ‘first line of defence’ against slavery.
‘Modern slavery can be hidden, often in plain sight; on our high streets, in local businesses and even in suburban streets,’ said Cllr Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board.
‘Our residents may be unwittingly using victims of modern slavery to wash their cars, paint their nails or lay their drives, unaware of the hell they are living through.
‘Members of the public are our first line of defence when it comes to tackling this scourge, and we urge all our residents to be aware of the tell-tale warning signs of modern slavery, and report any concerns to police or their local authority.
‘We all have a crucial role to play in helping tackle modern slavery, if we know what to look out for and what to do if we spot it.
‘Tip-offs from residents can help councils work with partners to better tackle slavery and exploitation.
‘A simple phone call could make a world of difference to people living wretched lives at the hands of heartless gangmasters. We can all work together to stop criminals profiting from other people’s misery.’