Hundreds of potential modern slavery victims were identified in Greater Manchester last year, figures reveal.
The Human Trafficking Foundation has welcomed a rise 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 348 potential victims were recorded by GMP in the 12 months to June: significantly up on the previous 12 months, when just 205 were recorded.
Modern slavery became 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 GMP reflects the trend across England and Wales, where around 7,800 were made in the 12 months to June: a 34 per cent increase on the previous 12 months.
The Home Office says that a small number of cases may be duplicated if a potential victim is referred into the NRM more than once.
A 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.”