THERESA MAY’S drive to stamp out modern slavery has been undermined by her shameful track record in tackling child victims of slavery during her tenure as home secretary, Labour said yesterday.
The Prime Minister has pledged a £33 million investment aimed at clamping down on people-trafficking routes and has announced that she will chair a new task force set up to co-ordinate the government’s response to slavery.
The government has also asked Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to assess the police response to modern slavery.
However shadow minister for preventing abuse Sarah Champion, who unresigned from the Labour front bench last week, said she is “not optimistic” given Ms May’s track record as home secretary.
She said the PM “should be ashamed” for not acting on the protection of children in the Modern Slavery Act.
Ms Champion highlighted that last year 60 per cent of the 982 child victims of modern slavery went missing within days of being taken into local authority care.
She said the children are “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 per cent.
“If Theresa May is serious about tackling slavery, she needs to give professionals the resources to stamp it out.”
Britain’s anti-slavery commissioner Kevin Hyland also warned that child people-trafficking cases are not being investigated properly.
“What’s alarming about that is that we do have people reporting to the authorities, but then they are not being properly investigated,” he said.
Mr Hyland said that there were 986 cases involving children last year but only 928 recorded as crimes.
Ministers estimate there are between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims of slavery in Britain.
A review by barrister Caroline Haughey to mark the first anniversary of the Modern Slavery Act found that 289 modern slavery offences were prosecuted in 2015.
She also found a 40 per cent rise in the number of victims referred for support.