DOZENS of potential modern slavery victims were identified in Wiltshire last year, figures reveal.

The Human Trafficking Foundation has welcomed an increase in the identification of potential victims nationally, but claims some are dropping off the radar after government support schemes come to an end.

Home Office data shows that 49 potential victims were recorded by Wiltshire Police in the 12 months to June.

This was significantly up on the previous 12 months, when 37 were recorded.

Modern slavery was introduced as an offence under the 2015 Modern Slavery Act, and can involve domestic servitude, forced sex work, or labour exploitation.

Suspected victims can be flagged to the Home Office via the National Referral Mechanism by government agencies, police forces, councils and other organisations.

They are then assessed and can receive support including accommodation, legal aid and counselling.

An individual police force records the referrals where the exploitation is suspected to have happened in its area, or if it identified a potential victim in the first place.

It also records cases if the alleged victim was exploited abroad, and their address or that of the referring organisation was in the force area.

The rise in referrals to Wiltshire Police reflects the trend across England and Wales, where around 7,800 were made in the 12 months to June, up a third on the previous 12 months.

Detective Superintendent Jeremy Carter, Force Lead for Modern Slavery, said: “Tackling modern slavery is a top priority for Wiltshire Police. The increase in reports of modern slavery is down to the public, local authorities and our own officers and staff having an increased awareness of modern slavery – including signs and symptoms to look out for."

“I would urge the public to be aware of the potential signs of exploitation and use that information to not only report their concerns, but also to think of the human cost of the services they use so that informed decisions can be made.

“To report your concerns, please call us on 101. If you or someone else is in immediate danger call 999 straight away. You can also report anonymously via the National Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700, Or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111”.

Signs of modern slavery can be found here:

Tamara Barnett, head of the Human Trafficking Foundation, said the rise is welcome news, as it reflects an increased willingness and ability of authorities and the public to identify slavery victims.

But the proportion of people entering the NRM who are then recognised as having been trafficked has remained stagnant, she said.

“We also know only about 7 per cent of cases investigated go to the Crown Prosecution Service, and only about 1 per cent receive compensation," she added.

"Perhaps most shockingly of all, the Government has no idea what happens to these thousands of victims when they exit the NRM.

“This is a terrifying oversight. These are the areas we would really welcome the new Prime Minister and other parties to consider in their policies and manifestos going forward.”

A Home Office spokesman said more potential victims are being identified and protected due to greater awareness and improved understanding of modern slavery.

He added: “Modern slavery and human trafficking are barbaric crimes and we remain committed to stamping it out and supporting victims.

“We have provided additional investment to the police, which is improving the service victims receive.”