A leading anti-slavery charity has welcomed new plans by Hackney Council to tackle the issue in the borough after a report showed slavery in the capital had increased by almost 25 per cent last year.
Hope for Justice told Eastlondonlines that fighting modern slavery was not something that could be left to a single organisation.
Adam Hewitt, a spokesperson for the charity, said: “We are glad to see this cross-cutting strategy being developed in Hackney with so many key organisations and agencies involved. Fighting modern slavery (…) has to be an alliance of the public, private and voluntary sectors working together alongside ordinary members of the public.”
The council’s strategy is the first step in resolving this type of crime, a commitment they made after signing up to The Co-operative Party’s Charter against modern slavery, which aims to target local councils to ensure that they are not exploiting individuals within their supply chains.
The council spends more that £40bn a year on amenities such as car washes, cleaning and constriction work. These businesses have complicated supply chains that may mean that the council is unknowingly employing forced labourers. By signing up to the charter, Hackney Council are pledging to highlight slavery through means such as investigating wok forces with unusually low pay, training staff to recognise slavery, and ensuring all employees and contractors have a thorough knowledge of the 2015 Modern slavery Act.
David Westlake, CEO of International Justice Mission, told EastLondonLines: “There are more people in slavery today than ever before and it’s closer to each of us than we think. Slavery is in the supply chains of many products we buy here in the UK and it’s here on our streets. Through International Justice Mission’s work to stop slavery globally, we have found that the most effective efforts involve strong collaboration between police, local authorities, health service, and NGOs – so it’s great to see Hackney Council taking a partnership approach.”
The strategy has four main aims to tackle modern slavery, firstly though strong leadership and effective partnerships, secondly through raising awareness, then by identifying and supporting victims, and by pursuing perpetrators.
Slavery in London has increased by almost 25% in the last year according to government figures. The number of recoded cases of slavery rose from 1,624 in 2018 to 2,111 in 2019.
Victims are unable to leave their enforcers due to being exploited by means of threat, punishment, violence, coercion or deception. This is against the victims’ human rights to life, freedom and security.
Cllr Caroline Selman, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Policy, and the Voluntary Sector, said: “Modern slavery has a devastating impact on its victims, their families, and our communities as a whole. There are currently 13,000 people suspected to be living in slavery in the UK, and behind each of these statistics is a victim whose life has been impacted by this appalling crime.
“This means that many of us may have unknowingly witnessed modern slavery whilst going about our day-to-day activities, which further reinforces the importance of raising awareness of the key “signs to spot” in our communities.”
The plan explains that in the UK, slavery was more prevalent in more vulnerable sectors of society, such as socially excluded individuals and members of minority groups.
Hewitt added: “If anyone in Hackney would like to educate themselves about modern slavery or learn to spot the signs, search online for Hope for Justice and click ‘Take Action’ on our website. Professionals and organisations can request our award-winning training to improve their response to modern slavery and to ensure a co-ordinated, victim-focused approach.”
The project also shares the signs to look for that suggest someone is being forced into slavery. In adults, these include being unwilling to engage with others, appearing frightened or withdrawn with signs of physical or psychological harm, many people living in a small house, and having few possessions or unsuitable clothing for cold weather and other eventualities.
For children, the effects centre more on alcohol and drug misuse, poor mental health, estrangement from family or absence from school and home, as well as sexually transmitted diseases, injuries caused by sexual activities and pregnancy and terminations.
Westlake added: “Local authorities also have a vital role to play in proving support to survivors of slavery before they enter the National Referral Mechanism and after they leave it – making sure that safeguarding teams are equipped to meet survivors needs and that adequate housing is available. We’re hopeful that Hackney Council’s proactive approach to stopping slavery in the borough will lead to greater support for survivors and fewer people being trapped in the first place.”
The most common country of origin for adult victims of slavery was Albania, which attributed to 19% of cases, however the most common country of origin for children exploited was the UK, where an astonishing 45% of victims were from.
The report also highlighted that of the children found to be exploited in 2018, 72% were male and 23% were female.
Peter Dolby, UK Director of anti-child trafficking and exploitation charity Love 146, told EastLondonLines: “The launch of the Hackney tri-board strategy on Oct 18th 2019 is important day in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery. We are pleased to see that identification and the needs of the survivor placed so prominently as part of the strategy. We know how powerful and effective partnerships can be, Hackney’s multi agency approach is spot on not only making that difference in how trafficking and modern slavery is understood but how togther we ensure vicims are found, surviours needs met and the criminal gangs and networks stopped.”
The plan will be implemented by Hackney’s Community Safety Partnership, which runs between the Council, Police and Health, including City and Hackney Safeguarding Adults Board and City and Hackney Safeguarding Children’s Partnership.
Selman added: “We are committed to working with our partners to ensure that all of our residents are safe, happy, and can live a life free from slavery. By working together we can increase awareness, reporting and early intervention – helping to stamp out modern slavery for good.”
The plan also states the importance of not confronting someone who you think may be involved in slavery, as this can result in worsening his or her position.
Westlake added: “Slavery today is bigger than ever before, it’s as brutal as ever, but it’s also more stoppable than ever. Hackney Council are taking important steps to be part of stopping slavery – but ending slavery in our lifetime requires each of us to become aware of its violent reality and take action.”
If you do suspect slavery, the following organisations can also be contacted:
- For concerns about children under 18: 0208 356 5500 or email@example.com
- For concerns about adults: Information and Assessment team on 0208 356 6262 or the Safeguarding Adults team on 0208 356 5782
- Modern Day Slavery Helpline: 08000 121 700
- Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority: 0800 432 0804 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Crimestoppers: 0800 555 111
- The Salvation Army: 0300 303 8151