London News & Search
Nurses, social workers and police officers are being trained to identify and help the victims of human trafficking and modern slavery.
Some 180 frontline public sector staff in London have attended training sessions over the past two months designed to show them how to pick up clues.
They will be expected to return to their organisations and train colleagues — including A&E receptionists and police first responders.
There are common health concerns experienced by trafficked people, in particular in maternity units, yet staff reported feeling ill-equipped to help.
Theresa May made tackling human trafficking a flagship issue while home secretary, establishing protections for victims via the Modern Slavery Act.
About 1,000 cases of suspected modern slavery were referred to the Metropolitan Police last year. The number is expected to rise in 2017.
More than half of the referrals, 53 per cent, were about cases of suspected sexual exploitation.
Thirty-two per cent were about labour exploitation and nine per cent were of suspected domestic servitude.
It is estimated that there are between 10,000 and 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK. Almost half of these are found in London and the Home Counties.
MPs have called on the public sector to step up its response, saying frontline staff were often “totally unprepared” and needed proper training.
The Commons work and pensions committee said victims often faced a “lackadaisical” response to their “unimaginable” suffering which could leave them destitute while their abusers went free.
Victims needed “basic minimum safeguards” to help rebuild their lives, to receive enough support to testify against their abusers and be protected from being re-trafficked.
The NHS, Met and London Association of Directors of Adult Social Services co-ordinated the training. Kevin Davis, health spokesman for London Councils, said: “Giving frontline staff across the public sector the skills to recognise signs of modern slavery and human trafficking and take appropriate action will make it harder for these crimes to go undetected as well as providing victims with the help they need to move on with their lives.”
London News & Search