More than 100 potential slavery victims were referred to police in West Mercia last year.

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.

Home Office data shows 133 potential cases of modern slavery were flagged to West Mercia Police throughout the year, and at least 90 (68%) of all referrals involved child victims.

Where a form of exploitation was recorded, the figures show 20 referrals were linked to labour-related exploitation, five sexual and 27 criminal, such as "county lines" activity.

Overall, the number of referrals decreased by 15%, from 157 in 2020.

Across the UK, more than 12,000 potential victims were referred to police last year, which registered as an increase of 20% from 10,600 in 2020.

This was 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.

Chief constable Shaun Sawyer, The National Police Chiefs' Council lead for modern slavery, linked increased referrals nationally to greater awareness, understanding and reporting of the issue.

He said thousands of officers were trained to investigate the issue, adding that forces worked with national and local authorities and specialist organisations to support victims and bring offenders to justice.

Anti-slavery charity, Unseen, say the figures vastly underestimate the problem and called for more to be done to disrupt growing demand for the exploitative practice.

The charity's CEO Andrew Wallis said the impact of modern slavery – whether financial, sexual or criminal – can leave victims with life-long trauma, horrific physical injuries and a long journey to recovery.

He said: "Modern slavery does not care who or what nationality you are, if exploiters can make money out of you, they will."

He also warned that the Government's proposed Nationality and Borders Bill – which would see victims viewed as less credible if they miss the deadline for giving information about their experiences – could prevent some victims from coming forward.