Rise in modern slavery reports in North Somerset
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More than 150 potential victims of modern slavery were referred to police in North Somerset last year, according to Home Office figures.
Across the whole UK, the number of modern slavery victims reached a record high, with more than 10,000 potential victims.
Each case qualified as a potential victim of trafficking, slavery or forced labour.
The Human Trafficking Foundation has suggested the increase in the number of identified potential cases could have resulted from a better awareness of the problem.
However, the foundation warned the UK figure could be a ‘serious underestimate’.
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The Modern Slavery Act was introduced in 2015 covering incidents involving domestic servitude, forced sex work or labour exploitation.
In total, data taken from the Home Office show 177 cases in North Somerset were reported to Avon and Somerset Constabulary, a dramatic rise on the previous year’s figure of 84.
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However, of the 177 referrals, just seven per cent received a ‘conclusive grounds’ decision.
This decision is given when the referrals are positively identified as modern slavery victims, which enables victims to access to specialist services and support.
In a report accompanying the data, the Home Office said: “This is a result of the current length of time taken to make conclusive grounds decisions.”
Though, Human Trafficking Foundation spokesman, Tamara Barnett stated there is ‘no adequate excuse’.
Tamara said: “This has to change. Not only does it cost the state a huge amount, but survivors are left in limbo during this time, usually not allowed to work and unable to plan for their futures, with some, we know, becoming suicidal as a result.”
Suspected victims of modern slavery can be flagged to the Home Office by organisations such as the police service, council or government agencies.
After this, the referrals are put through the National Referral Mechanism before an assessment is made to determine what support they are given moving forward.
During the coronavirus lockdown, the National Referral Mechanism is continuing to take referrals and the Home Office has confirmed support workers will deliver services remotely where possible.