The Police are currently investigating a record number of modern slavery cases involving children, according to a new report released today.
Under the Modern Slavery Act, the number of ‘live’ police investigations involving children has surged alarmingly from 53 in 2017 to 475 this year – an increase of 796%.
The vast majority are being exploited by criminal gangs and forced into county lines which run drugs from urban centres to more rural towns. Children are also being sexually exploited by paedophile rings.
These latest figures now mean that more than a third of the 1,370 existing modern slavery investigations involve children, up from 18% two years ago.
The Modern Slavery Act, introduced in 2015 consolidated existing laws on human trafficking into one place, gave the police more powers to intervene and introduced tougher penalties for those found guilty.
Responding to the report, anti-trafficking charity CARE, who worked with MPs and Peers on the modern slavery legislation called the latest figures ‘shocking’.
CARE’s Senior Policy Officer – Human Trafficking, Louise Gleich said:
“This surge in the number of modern slavery investigations involving children is truly shocking.
“It is surely a reminder that the tragic and awful reality of modern slavery here in the UK is all too real.
“The thought of young people being trapped in modern slavery, forced to run county lines transporting drugs for gangs or being sexually exploited is horrendous.
“It’s now four years since the Modern Slavery Act was introduced and since then, the police have got better at identifying possible victims.
“This helps to explain, in part, why there’s been such a dramatic surge in the number of modern slavery investigations involving children.
“What is clear is that when it comes to tackling modern slavery and bringing perpetrators to justice, there is much more that still needs to be done.”