Merseyside is at the forefront of the fight against modern slavery – that’s the message from the region’s Deputy Police Commissioner and five local authorities as they join forces to pledge their commitment to tackling the issue.
To mark National Anti-Slavery Day, Cllr Emily Spurrell has united with representatives from the region’s five local authorities to sign the Charter against Modern Slavery aimed at ensuring that exploitation has no place in council supply chains.
The Global Slavery Index estimated earlier this year that in 2016 there were up to 136,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK. This compares to a figure of 13,000 estimated by the Home Office in 2013.
Collectively, local authorities in England spend more than £40bn per year procuring goods and services on behalf of the communities they serve. The Co-operative Party’s Charter against Modern Slavery goes further than existing law and guidance and commits councils to proactively vet their own supply chain to ensure no instances of modern slavery are taking place. It also encourages councils to ensure they challenge any abnormally low-cost tenders to ensure they do not rely upon a potential contractor practising modern slavery and refer on for investigation any contractors who cause concern.
Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner and Liverpool City Council Cllr Emily Spurrell, who is Chair of Merseyside’s Modern Slavery network and has led Councillors across Merseyside to sign up to the Charter, said: “Slavery was abolished more than 180 years ago in this country. Yet we know it’s still happening today right across the UK and sadly in our own communities, here in Merseyside.
“Slavery’s hidden nature means it can be difficult to ascertain the extent of the problem, but we know the number of identified victims is continuing to rise. We also know it is an issue we all need to face. Local authorities have the ability to implement changes at a community level that can make a real difference. By taking this pledge, the councils in our region are showing just how seriously they take this issue and that they are the forefront of the fight against modern slavery.”
Wirral Council’s Cabinet Member for Law and Order Cllr Paul Stuart said: “I welcome the opportunity to sign up to the Charter against Modern Slavery, and do so with pride.
“Modern Slavery might not always be obvious, but its exploitation of vulnerable people can be happening all around us. I am working with Wirral Council and its partners to ensure modern slavery has no place in Wirral. We will do our best to protect victims and push for the prosecution of those who commit this crime.”
Cllr Trish Hardy, Sefton Council's Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing, said: "It is vitally important that we all work together as a community to identify, raise awareness of the horrors of modern slavery.
Cllr Shelley Powell, Knowsley Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Neighbourhoods, added: “We all have a duty to protect the most vulnerable in our society from these criminals who are willing to exploit them. We must all be vigilant for signs of this happening in our communities and this Charter is an important part of that.”
"It is estimated that there are 13,000 victims and survivors of modern slavery in the UK and there are some tell-tale signs to make it easy to identify. That's why we've launched a dedicated page on our website to help identify these signs and signpost people to the right organisations who can help put an end to modern slavery."
St Helens Council Leader Derek Long said: "By signing this pledge it shows we stand four square against abuse of vulnerable people by unscrupulous profiteers."
Merseyside’s Modern Slavery Network alongside the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit and Merseyside Police is also hosting an exhibition to mark the awareness day. The immersive walk through exhibition, named ‘Journey to Freedom, will see visitors walking through different rooms listening to the stories of three different victims, provided by Lee House Centre for Mission Awareness. All visitors are welcome between 10-16.00 hours to the exhibition that will be in Church Street, Liverpool City Centre.
Anti-Slavery Day was created by the Anti-Slavery Day Act 2010, a Private Members Bill which introduced a national day to raise awareness of the need to eradicate all forms of slavery, human trafficking and exploitation.