CUMBRIA has received more than 200 reports of ‘modern slavery’ across the county in the last year, a leading councillor has announced.

Patricia Bell, cabinet member for health and care services, set out the scale of the crisis including human-trafficking and forced labour as she spoke to members at a meeting of the county council.

The Safer Cumbria Modern Slavery Partnership received 201 intelligence reports from “internal and external agencies” around criminal, labour and sexual exploitation, she said.

The announcement coincides with National Safeguarding Adults Week, from November 18 to November 24, which is themed this year around raising awareness of modern slavery.

During the ‘week of action’, Cumbria Safeguarding Adults Board will publish a series of briefings on their website.

The bulletins, which will be published on social media, are intended to help people recognise the signs and advise people of how they should respond if they suspect someone has fallen prey to criminal gangs.

The Board continues to receive regular updates from Cumbria Police and Safer Cumbria who now have a modern slavery and human traffic co-ordinator dedicated to tackling the scourge.

Mrs Bell said: “People are being trafficked into the county for sex-working; others are being forced to work in nail bars and car washes.

“There is also an increase in children being trafficked into the county to sell drugs through county lines. This is not just something that happens elsewhere. It’s very much on our own doorstep.”

The continuing multi-agency crackdown comes just over a year after a suspected victim of modern slavery was rescued from a shed north of Carlisle.

Officers from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) were supported by Cumbria Police, the National Crime Agency and housing officers to bring the victim to safety.

Arrests were made an investigations continue in the high-profile case

Mrs Bell urged all councillors to read of the Local Government Association’s guide to tackling modern slavery, which is due to be circulated electronically.

The aim is to encourage councillors to think about the individual role that they can play in combating the issue.