The government’s plans to defeat modern slavery will only work if local authorities are given the financial resources to help tackle and prevent abuse, Labour has warned.
Prime minister Theresa May has announced she will set up the first ever government task force on modern slavery, following an independent review of the Modern Slavery Act.
Since the Act came into force a year ago, there has been a 40% increase in the number of victims identified and 289 modern slavery offences prosecuted in 2015.
However, the review found improvements are still needed in raising awareness of the crimes, improving training for those in the criminal justice system and strengthening support for victims.
In an article for a national newspaper, Ms May wrote: ‘This is the great human rights issue of our time, and as prime minister I am determined that we will make it a national and international mission to rid our world of this barbaric evil.’
However, shadow minister for preventing abuse, Sarah Champion, said professionals need more resources if they are to stamp out modern slavery.
She said: ‘The new prime minister should be ashamed that she hasn’t acted on the protection for children in the Modern Slavery Act. Last year, 982 children were identified as victims of modern slavery and taken into local authority care. Within days, 60% of those children went missing, presumed to be back with their traffickers, where they would continue to be exploited and abused. This is simply not good enough.
‘Modern slavery is on the increase but under Theresa May’s watch, the Police and Border Force have been cut and her Government cut local authorities by over 40%. If Theresa May is serious about tackling slavery, she needs to give professionals the resources to stamp it out.’