Exploited by criminal gangs, and recruited primarily into organised drug related crime, child victims of modern slavery are not just residing in our inner cities but further into our suburbs and rural areas – through county lines.

New figures and analysis released this week by the National Crime Agency (NCA) show that the number of UK children in modern slavery has doubled within a year to 1,421 cases.

What are co-operators doing?

Co-operators have consistently led calls to provide more support for survivors of modern slavery. This has included Co-operative parliamentarians calling for an increase in the amount of support provided to survivors from 45 days to a year, building on and improving the existing Modern Slavery Act 2015, and projects in the co-operative movement that seek to provide stability and grounding for survivors – such as the Co-operative Group’s Bright Future programme.

Meanwhile in local government, 85 authorities to date have signed the Co-operative Party’s Charter Against Modern Slavery in supply chains, and many are attempting to support referred child victims despite scarce resources due to depleted funding streams for children’s services.

The Modern Slavery Act is seeing results

We should make it clear that we are seeing more convictions under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 to prosecute drug dealers exploiting children.

In October 2018, Gareth Snell (Labour and Co-operative MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central) highlighted the case of drug dealer Zakaria Mohammed in Parliament as an example of where the Act has been used effectively.

“The fact that the use of exploited children in a servitude role was prosecuted sends a message that we are taking this seriously.”

Gareth Snell MP, HC Deb, 9 October 2018, c70WH

Today we’re renewing calls to provide more support for survivors of modern slavery, to better resource local authorities to support child survivors, and to build on the existing requirements of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 to end modern slavery.