A new approach to tackling modern slavery in Gravesham

A new approach to tackling modern slavery in Gravesham

 Published: 14-Oct-2020

A new strategy to tackle modern slavery in Gravesham has been launched.

Unhidden: Addressing Modern Slavery in Gravesham, has been produced by Gravesham Borough Council, working with its partners Kent Police and Porchlight, Kent’s largest charity working on behalf of homeless and vulnerable people.

It sets out the council’s approach to tackling modern slavery and human trafficking by being proactive in identifying and referring victims for help; safeguarding children and adults by helping to address their support needs; working with partners to disrupt perpetrators and bring them to justice; and ensuring that supply chains linked to council services are free from modern slavery.

The true scale of modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK is unknown. The complexity of the crime type and the vulnerability and circumstances of those exploited mean that victims are frequently reluctant to report their experience, particularly to the police.

Recorded figures are heavily affected by under-reporting. However, potential victims identified in the UK through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) increased by 45% between January and September 2019 to 7,273 victims, compared to the same period in 2018.

Trends in Kent mirror the national picture and it is very likely that Gravesham will share the same modern slavery and human trafficking issues, trends and intelligence gaps.

Figures are provided at Kent Police Divisional level and Gravesham falls within North Division together with Dartford, Swale and Medway.

The latest figures for North Division show:

· 77 modern slavery and human trafficking investigations were carried out in the 12 months ending July 2020;

· 199 NRM and MS1 (Modern Slavery notifications) were referred in the 12 months ending July 2020;

· 11 NRM referrals were made by Local Authorities in April-June 2020;

· The most prevalent forms of exploitation in North Division (in order) are forced criminality, labour and sexual exploitation. However, when forced criminality linked to county lines is removed from these statistics (as there are separate and dedicated teams tackling this issue), labour and sexual exploitation are the predominant types of exploitation;

· In North Division, the top five nationalities of victims (in order) are: British, Albanian, Romanian, Polish and Vietnamese.

Launching the strategy, Cllr Shane Mochrie-Cox, Gravesham Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Community and Leisure, said: “This demonstrates the council’s real commitment to work with our partner agencies to provide the best support possible to potential victims who come to our attention.

“We recognise that, sadly, slavery, trafficking and exploitation are not issues of the past but very present in areas across the country including our own Borough. The scale of this largely hidden crime is significant and that is why we need an approach that raises the awareness of it across the board.”

He added that by working closely with partners, the council will continue to develop a programme of targeted action to encourage potential victims to report their experiences and get the help they need whilst also sending a clear message to offenders that these crimes will not be tolerated in Gravesham.

“The council will have no hesitation in using its powers and encouraging its partners to use theirs to do this,” said Cllr Mochrie-Cox.

“Gravesham Borough Council as well as Gravesham as a community, has a responsibility to ensure that its children, young people and adults are offered the best protection possible from exploitation of this kind which has devastating long-term effects on its victims, their families and the wider community.”

Paul Withrington, who manages Porchlight’s homelessness outreach services in the area, said: “As a homelessness charity, we sadly encounter many victims of modern slavery. Some have been cast onto the streets by organised crime groups who can no longer profit from them. Others have fled their captors and have nowhere to stay.

“Porchlight staff are trained to spot the signs and get specialist support in place for survivors of slavery. We’ve shared our knowledge with Gravesham Borough Council, and we are glad to be working alongside the council and Kent Police to help everyone we can.

“Modern slavery is an issue across the county, but by working together we can encourage people to come forward to share their stories and experiences and stop the exploitation of vulnerable people.”

Detective Inspector Kris Eberlein of Kent Police’s Serious Organised Crime Department, said: “Human trafficking and modern day slavery have no place in our society and we are committed to pursuing those who are responsible for the exploitation of others.

“In recent years, we have worked closely with our partners and our combined resources have helped identify and protect vulnerable people.

“We have also achieved meaningful results for victims in the courts but recognise offending of this nature is likely to be underreported.

“No one should have to endure working in servitude and we will continue to work with our partners to identify and target the perpetrators of such offending.

“I would also encourage the public to familiarise themselves with the potential signs of modern day slavery and, where necessary, make a report.”

Unhidden: Addressing Modern Slavery in Gravesham can be downloaded via https://www.gravesham.gov.uk/msht-strategy

Someone who is in slavery might:

  • Appear to be under the control of someone else and reluctant to interact with others;
  • Not have any personal identification;
  • Have few personal belongings or wear the same clothes every day;
  • Not be able to move around freely;
  • Appear reluctant to talk to strangers or the authorities;
  • Appear frightened or withdrawn;
  • Be dropped off and collected for work always in the same way, especially at unusual times of the day or night.

How to report offences:

  • Call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121700 or complete an online form;
  • Visit www.kent.police.uk/report or call 101;
  • You can also contact a number of other organisations including Crimestoppers, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and Anti-Slavery International.

 Last updated: 03-Nov-2020