Multi-agency partnership working is vital at a national and local level to tackle the growing problem of modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK.
That’s the message MPs, Hertfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Police and Shiva Foundation delivered at the Strengthening Partnership Working to Fight Modern Slavery Seminar that took place at the Houses of Commons on Monday, the same week as UK Anti-Slavery Day (Oct 18). I was delighted to be part of this initiative.
The event invited MPs, statutory agencies and local organisations to learn about and engage with their local modern slavery partnerships while highlighting the partnership work taking place in Hertfordshire to address this crime.
In 2017, over 5,000 people were referred to British authorities as potential victims of slavery, including 2,000 children.
The Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership (HMSP) has been working over the last year to coordinate work to tackle these crimes, raise awareness of modern slavery and bring offenders to justice and support victims.
Among other activities, the Partnership has developed training, coordinated multi-agency operations, and is developing a victim pathway so public sector professionals can refer potential victims to the correct channels of support.
Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability Victoria Atkins said:
“It is horrendous that victims of modern slavery have their freedom and fundamental human rights denied, but I am encouraged to see the commitment being made by the Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership to tackling the issue.
“This Government is absolutely determined to do all we can tackle this crime and help potential victims and so far this year, nearly 900 police investigations to disrupt offenders have taken place, compared with 188 in 2016.”
Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden added:
“Modern slavery is a despicable crime that exploits some of the most vulnerable in our society. Tackling it is a major priority for the Government and the Prime Minister personally.
“I support all the good work of the Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership and commend their strong partnership work to date to raise awareness of modern slavery in Hertfordshire.”
Sue Darker, Chair of the Partnership’s Steering Group, said: “I am very proud of the strong partnerships that we have created in Hertfordshire over the last two years. Through the partnership more than 500 local authority, NHS and law enforcement workers in Hertfordshire have been trained on how to spot the signs of human trafficking and modern slavery.
“All agencies have worked tirelessly to educate and train not only their staff, but also the general public via awareness media campaigns and bespoke training sessions.
“The work we have done so far has undoubtedly increased the number of potential victims identified and made Hertfordshire a harder place for criminals to exploit people."
Modern Slavery is where someone’s freedom is taken away in order to exploit or take advantage of them. Modern slavery affects men, women, girls and boys of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities. Criminals can use threats, violence, deception or debts to trap victims into slavery. Even if someone is being paid, it can still be exploitation.
Examples of modern slavery include
Sexual exploitation, such as being forced to have sex with people, maybe in return for gifts or money.
Forced labour, where someone is made to work, often for little or no pay. Jobs or places of work could include construction, nail bars or car washes – but not only these.
Domestic servitude, where someone is forced to perform household or childcare duties for little or no pay.
Criminal exploitation, where someone is forced into criminal activity such as working in cannabis factories.
Anyone with concerns about modern slavery or human trafficking should call police via 101 or the national Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700. In an emergency call 999.
The Beacon hotline 03000 11 55 55 is open from Monday to Friday 8am-8pm and Saturday 9am-5pm or visit the website www.hertfordshirebeacon.org for information and advice to access support.