British police are increasingly investigating a record number of modern slavery cases involving children, according to a government-commissioned report.
The 151-page Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act: Final Report found that, under the 2015 Modern Slavery Act, the number of live police investigations involving children has surged from 53 in 2017 to 475 this year. This marks an alarming increase of 796 percent.
These latest figures now mean more than a third of the 1,370 existing modern slavery investigations involve children, up from 18 percent two years ago.
According to the report, 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.
The Modern Slavery Act, which was introduced four years ago, consolidated existing laws on human trafficking into one place, gave the police more powers to intervene and introduced tougher penalties for those found guilty.
Louise Gleich, senior policy officer for human trafficking, at advocacy organisation CARE, said, ‘This surge in the number of modern slavery investigations involving children is truly shocking.
‘It is surely a reminder of 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’.
Ms Gleich added, ‘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’.