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LOCAL authorities are turning to the public in their efforts to tackle the rise in modern slavery.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, is urging residents to become familiar with the warning signs, including large groups of people being transported to properties in vans and people seeming to have been deprived of food, water, medical care or sleep.
LGA safer and stronger communities board chairman Simon Blackburn said: “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.”
In 2013, the Home Office estimated that there were between 10,000 and 13,000 victims of modern slavery in Britain — although the anti-slavery commissioner has described the figure as “far too modest.”
The LGA said councils have a key role to play in identifying those who are potentially at risk and making referrals to relevant agencies.
Anti-Slavery International charity spokesman Jakub Sobik told the Star he welcomed the move, pointing out that huge cuts to the police had limited its capacity.
He stated the importance of raising awareness among the public who “rarely connect modern slavery to modern day life, and wouldn’t dream of encountering it.”
“You might talk to people you meet every day and not realise they are being exploited.”
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said that, while she backed the call to raise awareness, “tackling it takes action, which must come from local authorities, from the police and from border security to prevent people-trafficking.
“But the government has cut all of these, with massive cuts to local government funding, 20,000 police officers axed and 1,000 fewer border guards.
“Warm words from the government on tackling modern slavery aren’t enough. It needs to begin to reverse these cuts. Labour in government will.”
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