Hidden in plain sight – spot the signs of modern slavery
As part of anti-slavery week, Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Communities, Cllr Laura Robertson-Collins, explains what is being done to tackle the serious and organised crimes of modern slavery and human trafficking in Liverpool.
Slavery is, sadly, not a subject that just belongs in the history books.
There are slaves in Liverpool today. On the very streets you walk and live. Shocking. But true.
Modern slavery exists in many forms in our society, including trafficking into criminal activities like cannabis farming, sexual exploitation and domestic slavery.
Others are being forced to work in construction, shops, bars, nail bars, car washes, manufacturing and private properties, for no, or little pay. The number of modern slavery victims is increasing significantly.
And here’s a very sobering statistic: there are more people enslaved across the world today than at any other time in history.
And here’s another worrying fact: those most likely to be enslaved in this country are British-born.
Data from Unseen, the second largest modern slavery data set, shows there to have been 64 potential modern slavery victims in the Merseyside police region in 2022 – a 106% increase from the previous year.
Top locations of criminal exploitation cases were cannabis farms, the street and private houses.
So, what can you do?
The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is a framework for identifying and referring potential victims of modern slavery and ensuring they receive the appropriate support. In the UK, more potential victims of modern slavery were referred to the Home Office in 2022 than any other year since the NRM began in 2009.
The best thing you, as a member of the public, can do is to recognise signs to look out for.
A key question to ask yourself is: Do you see people sleeping where they work?
Another is: Does this person have unusual travel arrangements?
Modern slavery is a crime that can affect anyone. Unfortunately exploitation is irrespective of nationality or background.
So, what can the council do?
Liverpool City Council has a duty to respond, to ensure the safety of our residents, which is why a series of internal measures are being implemented across our organisation. Some of the work being done includes the development of a training programme for all staff to complete as well as ensuring processes are in place for victims to get the care and support they need.
Procurement, Environmental Health and Licensing departments are all reviewing how they engage with suppliers, and our modern slavery statement is being updated. This will ensure that staff can identify potential victims, better support victims and be confident that there is no modern slavery or human trafficking in our supply chains.
The work being done will ensure that a whole Council approach is being taken to tackle this crime against humanity, and due to the wide range of services and officers that could come into contact with potential victims, we are complying with national best practice to ensure that all of our staff are equipped to identify and support victims.
This work is in tandem with the development of a Merseyside-wide strategy to tackle modern slavery, led by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. The multi-agency modern slavery network, which Liverpool City Council is a part of, has been developing the strategy, due to launch on Human Trafficking Awareness Day in January 2024.
The network includes members from the public sector and the voluntary sector, and each partner, including Liverpool City Council, will have responsibilities to uphold as part of the strategy.
As a Council we are fully committed in both our statutory and moral duties to work with our partners to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking from our communities.
But you, who live in our communities are key. See something suspicious. Report it to Merseyside Police or call the free, confidential, 24/7 UK national Helpline – run by charity Unseen UK – on 08000 121 700.
You could easily be saving someone from a life of misery.