Today is Anti-Slavery Day, a national awareness day highlighting modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK. The day aims to encourage government, local authorities, companies, charities and individuals to do what they can to take action against slavery.
Modern slavery and human trafficking in Chelmsford
Modern slavery is everywhere, including Chelmsford. Victims have been found across Chelmsford district in car washes, in nail bars, in the sex trade, and in the construction industry.
It is estimated that 122,000 people are currently being exploited in the UK. In 2022, 16,938 potential victims of modern slavery were referred into the government’s National Referral Mechanism; a 33% increase compared to the preceding year.
In response to these alarming figures, 12 months ago Chelmsford City Council created the Chelmsford Against Slavery Partnership (CASP) to unite organisations across the district and ask them to work together in the fight against modern slavery and human trafficking.
Chelmsford Against Slavery Partnership
CASP currently represents 30 organisations, with 75 individual members. The partnership includes statutory organisations, community groups, representatives from the faith sector, as well as third sector agencies. Their focus is to work together, sharing intelligence, coordinating efforts, and functioning as a network to identify and eradicate modern slavery in Chelmsford.
The work of CASP has strengthened the council’s response to modern slavery and human trafficking and members of the partnership are dedicated to continuing its progress. Councillor Rose Moore, Cabinet Member for a Greener and Safer Chelmsford, says it is important residents are aware that modern slavery operates within our local communities:
“Anti-Slavery Day serves as a reminder to us all that there are people within our own communities right now who have had their freedom stripped from them, and who are being exploited as we go about our daily lives. It also provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the signs we can all look out for, and where to report our concerns and suspicions, potentially transforming the lives of people suffering in silence, including those at risk of slavery.
“The vision of the Chelmsford Against Slavery Partnership is to achieve a slavery-free community in Chelmsford. We believe that we can achieve this by working together to seek out the criminals responsible, and to support the survivors of their crimes. Chelmsford City Council is grateful to every organisation that has joined the partnership and looks forward to continuing to work together to reach our shared goal.”Councillor Rose Moore, Cabinet Member for a Greener and Safer Chelmsford
A collaborative effort to end exploitation
One of the key values of CASP is acting through community partnership. With a focus on community and collaboration, efforts to end exploitation and to support survivors are far more likely to succeed.
CASP recognises the many assets within Chelmsford’s local communities and encourages individuals to listen to and learn from each other, so that together we can tackle the root causes of modern slavery.
Chelmsford City Council’s Community Safety Lead Officer, Karen Buttress, says local residents are a key part of this collaborative approach:
“The sad reality is that modern slavery is all around us. It can happen to anybody at any time, and it is happening in Chelmsford.
“Exploitation doesn’t always look as we expect it to: People aren’t always trafficked into slavery, they are often groomed by an abuser who they build a relationship with over time.
“One of the things that we as residents can do to help people is know how to spot the signs of exploitation. It’s also important to report your concerns to agencies that can help. You can report via Essex Police on 101 or, in an emergency where critical response is needed, call 999. You can also refer anonymously to the Modern Slavery helpline. And if you yourself need help, you can reach out through those same channels.”Karen Buttress, Community Safety Lead Officer, Chelmsford City Council
Spotting the signs of modern slavery and human trafficking
It is important not to assume that your life is completely removed from modern slavery; you could be witnessing exploitation without realising.
Behaviours that could indicate someone is being exploited include:
- Their words seem scripted or rehearsed
- They are distrustful of authorities and reluctant to seek help
- Showing signs of psychological trauma
- Showing signs of substance misuse
- Acting as if instructed by another person
- Not knowing their home or work address
- Not wearing appropriate safety equipment while working
Physical signs to look out for:
- Appearing malnourished
- Lack of hygiene or wearing the same clothes every day
- Untreated injuries/lack of access to medical care
- Expression of fear or anxiety
- Evidence of sleep disturbance
Other indicators to be aware of:
- Being regularly dropped off/picked up, often in a crowded minibus
- Restriction/control of movement (being confined to their workplace or a limited area)
- Offering a service that seems especially cheap
- Having money deducted from their salary, for food or accommodation
- Their passport or documents being held by someone else
How to report your concerns
If you suspect that someone is a victim of modern slavery, it is important you don’t risk your own safety or theirs. If you can, ask any questions sensitively and discreetly and try to remember details including the date, time and location – this will be helpful information for the agency you report to. Descriptions of people and any relevant vehicles are also helpful.
If the person is in immediate danger call the Police on 999; for non-emergencies call the Police on 101. For advice or to report a suspicion, call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700 (reports can be anonymous). And you can reach the Safer Chelmsford Partnership on 01245 606606 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information from Chelmsford Against Slavery Partnership
You can visit the Chelmsford Against Slavery Partnership website at chelmsfordasp.org.uk/
CASP members will be out engaging with the public to raise awareness of modern slavery and human trafficking at High Chelmer on Saturday 21 October. Drop by from 11am to 2:30pm.