Today, June 4th, sees the launch of an app that will help people to identify and report instances of modern slavery connected with car washes. At the London District Safeguarding Conference in March this year we learnt of plans by the Church of England to develop this scheme and they have now combined with the Catholic Church to publish it, urging people to watch out for signs of modern slavery and report their suspicions to the relevant authorities.
At the conference Caroline Virgo from the Clewer Initiative, the Anglican organisation that has focused on this issue, spoke to us about concerns about car washes as well as other settings where different forms of modern slavery can occur. It was a timely reminder of how one person’s moving story can end up in misery and hardship, when the promise of hope and opportunity in a new land was quickly dashed.
Our London District theme of ‘Moving Stories’ is being played out this year in many different ways and places. Even being impacted by train delays and cancellations as a result of timetable changes is a moving, although sometimes stationary, story. In contrast to the experience of those whose labour is being abused, a cancelled train is perhaps only an irritant, but if a pattern of cancellation is sustained it can begin to affect well-being. Spotting a worker in a car wash, inadequately protected against the elements, may be a fleeting observation on our part, but for that person, perhaps also living in sub-standard accommodation and in fear of what might happen if they complain about their conditions, the potential for long term poor health and well-being is startlingly clear.
This new app offers a chance for us to deliver on the opportunity to look beyond our church walls in a safeguarding context, being the eye and ears of our community, and enabling us to make a difference to the lives of exploited people often hidden in very plain sight.