Today (18th October) is UK Anti-Slavery Day – a day of action to raise awareness of modern slavery and to highlight what statutory bodies, charities, businesses and individuals can do to tackle this abhorrent crime. This Anti-Slavery Day the South Yorkshire Modern Slavery Partnership is working together to improve the identification of potential victims.
Modern slavery is a hidden crime which according to the Global Slavery Index 2016 affects an estimated 136,000 people across the UK – including here in South Yorkshire. Adults and children in the region are being exploited by others for financial gain using several forms of exploitation including forced labour, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and forced criminality. Those who exploit others use a range of methods to control their victims including threats or actual use of violence, coercion and debt bondage which makes it extremely difficult for a person to leave their situation or for them to be identified.
Last year in South Yorkshire 99 potential victims of modern slavery were identified and entered into the UK government’s system of support – the National Referral Mechanism. However, it is widely agreed the number of actual victims in the region is much higher. This Anti-Slavery Day, to improve the detection of potential victims, the South Yorkshire Modern Slavery Partnership has committed to working with Barnsley MBC, Doncaster MBC, Rotherham MBC and Sheffield City Council to distinguish and train Specific Points of Contact (SPoCs).
These local authority SPoCs will be well placed to ensure potential victims are recognised and receive the support they need. They will be trained by the Partnership in conjunction with its three charity founders: Ashiana, City Hearts and Snowdrop Project.
“We know modern slavery is happening across our region, but that victims are going undetected. Through training Specific Points of Contact in our Councils, we want to increase the understanding and confidence of our frontline teams in identifying and referring potential victims to the appropriate support. We hope this will lead to an increase the number of victims coming forward” Said Bill Hotchkiss, the Partnership’s Chair from Doncaster Council.
The South Yorkshire Modern Slavery Partnership (SYMSP) is a regional multi-agency group funded by the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings and offers a strategic joined up approach to tackle modern slavery in the region.
Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner said: “It was a Yorkshire MP, William Wilberforce, who in the nineteenth century persuaded the British parliament to abolish slavery in this country and throughout the Empire.
“We thought slavery had gone for ever. But it has returned in new and hidden forms.
“People are no longer chained but they are still trafficked, coming unnoticed on planes and through ports, their lives controlled by unscrupulous and ruthless gangs.
“I have funded this Partnership so that we can find and rescue those who are living lives of slavery in our communities now.
“But they need the rest of us to keep our eyes open to spot what may be going on under our noses.”
Established by Ashiana, City Hearts, Snowdrop Project, the South Yorkshire Police and the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, the Partnership has grown since its launch in May to include a number of key organisations including: Barnsley Council, Doncaster Council, Rotherham Council, Sheffield City Council, the Clewer Initiative, NHS, Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, Home Office, National Crime Agency, Refugee Council, Department for Work and Pensions and Sheffield Hallam University.
If you are concerned about someone and need advice or want to report an incident, call the Modern Slavery Helpline anonymously on 08000 121 700 or report it anonymously online at www.modernslaveryhelpline.org/report. If you think someone is in immediate danger, always call the police on 999.
Organisations working to tackle modern slavery across the region who would like to find out more about the Partnership, can email SYMSP@ashianasheffield.org.