Modern slavery and human trafficking has no place in Stoke-on-Trent and must be eradicated – that’s the pledge of civic leaders who are set to adopt the first statement of its kind to tackle the crime.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s cabinet will next week (19 February) discuss a report that would formally commit the authority to work with partners to continue to refer victims to support, train staff and ensure the authority will not work with any businesses knowingly involved in slavery or human trafficking.
There are thought to be 10-13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK and approximately 43 million victims worldwide. Victims have been identified in all local authority areas in Staffordshire over the past 12 months, with 37 – 53 per cent of all victims – in Stoke-on-Trent.
Deputy council leader Abi Brown said: “Modern slavery and human trafficking can have no place in our communities. Just one case is one too many. We know that there is work to be done to eradicate these horrible crimes. By agreeing this statement, which we will renew annually, we are committing to doing all we can to prevent these crimes and give the right support to victims of it. We will work with partners across the city to safeguard our residents.”
Modern slavery can take a number of different forms including: sexual exploitation; labour exploitation, where people are forced to work for little or no pay; forced criminality; domestic servitude, where people are forced to work in unbearable conditions; and organ harvesting for transplant.
The modern slavery and human trafficking statement covers key areas in the way the council works, including:
- Ensuring it is considered as part of the council’s organisational structure and in formal decision-making processes
- Ensuring that safeguarding, recruitment and whistleblowing policies are all fully compliant with The Modern Slavery Act 2015
- Ensuring that due diligence is followed in eradicating the crime from supply chains and that it is not a part of the council’s workforce
- Raising awareness of the crime among staff and training employees to be able to identify and refer victims of modern slavery.
Councillor Randy Conteh, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for housing, communities and safer city, said: “We are Stoke-on-Trent’s second largest employer; it is right that we take responsibility and have a robust approach to slavery and human trafficking. We also have a duty to notify the Home Office about suspected victims.
“We are committed to preventing slavery and human trafficking in our corporate activities, and that it does not take place in our supply chains. We know that we cannot achieve its eradication on our own, and the number of victims may increase with more awareness and reporting of the crime. But we will continue to work closely with our strategic partners to build a collaborative approach to modern slavery, across Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.”
Ann Grainger, co-ordinator of Voice of Hope, a Stoke-on-Trent charity which raises awareness of modern slavery and human trafficking, said: “It is an appalling fact that while most people consider the slave trade to have ended when slavery was abolished in 1807, there are more slaves in our world today than ever before in human history.
“Thousands of people here in the UK including people in Stoke-on-Trent are being deceived, unknowingly walking through the ‘door of no return’ into unimaginable abuse. Hidden in plain sight; hidden unwittingly in our communities. It is crime that reduces individuals into believing they have no value. It’s a crime that wraps victims in constant fear. To the perpetrators, victims are deemed as worthless, throwaway commodities.
“Voice of Hope, is a local charity based in Stoke on Trent, we started in January 2015 to raise awareness of this serious crime. We were greatly encouraged to hear the news that the council has committed to working towards the eradication of modern slavery here in our city.
“The council has expertise in partnership working in collaborating with schools to protect children or consulting with the housing sector to keep tenants safe, and lead the way in good, diligent and professional teamwork.”