MORE than a dozen potential slavery victims were referred to police in Cumbria last year – and 11 referrals involved children, figures show.

Modern slavery cases soared nationally last year, with the identification of thousands of potential victims meaning referrals for support in 2021 were the highest on record.

But police chiefs said the data is unlikely to show the true scale of modern slavery and trafficking in the UK and that there is "more to be done" to tackle the issue.

Home Office data shows 17 potential cases of modern slavery were flagged to Cumbria Constabulary last year.

Where a form of exploitation was recorded, the figures show six referrals were linked to labour related exploitation and six criminal, such as "county lines" activity.

Overall, the number of referrals increased from 12 in 2020.

Across the UK, more than 12,000 potential victims were referred to police last year – up 20% from 10,600 in 2020 and the highest number recorded since the Government's National Referral Mechanism was introduced in 2009.

Nationally, labour exploitation was most common among adult victims while criminal exploitation, including an increase in "county lines" cases, led to most child-related referrals.