With­out proper fund­ing it feels a bit like Dad's Army with broom­sticks, picks and shov­els, to tackle an im­por­tant is­sue that de­mands an ar­se­nal of pro­fes­sional weaponry

– Cab­i­net mem­ber for com­mu­nity en­gage­ment and pub­lic health, Martin Phillips

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS - by Camilla Good­man camilla.good­man@trin­i­tymir­ror.com Twit­ter: @Camil­la_Good­man

A CAM­PAIGN aimed at help­ing Buck­ing­hamshire to fight mod­ern slav­ery has won the sup­port of Buck­ing­hamshire County Coun­cil’s Trans­port En­vi­ron­ment and Com­mu­ni­ties Se­lect Com­mit­tee.

De­scribed as a hid­den crime, mod­ern slav­ery traps vul­ner­a­ble vic­tims in forced labour, sex­ual ex­ploita­tion, do­mes­tic servi­tude and child traf­fick­ing.

Not only does it rob peo­ple of hu­man rights, and risk their health and well­be­ing, it also gen­er­ates big money for or­gan­ised crime, Se­lect Com­mit­tee mem­bers were told re­cently.

But only a very small pro­por­tion of the likely num­ber of vic­tims is ever re­ported: eight in the Thames Val­ley Po­lice area dur­ing the last quar­ter of 2014, com­pared with an es­ti­mated 100 vic­tims in Buck­ing­hamshire alone.

The emerg­ing aware­ness cam­paign, in re­sponse to leg­is­la­tion aimed at sup­port­ing vic­tims and catch­ing the ex­ploiters, ma­jors on help­ing peo­ple spot the signs of mod­ern slav­ery and know how and where to re­port it.

The Safer and Stronger Bucks Part­ner­ship Board – of which Bucks County Coun­cil is a mem­ber – has com­mis­sioned re­search from the Jill Dando In­sti­tute to help un­der­stand the ex­tent of mod­ern slav­ery lo­cally, what is known about of­fend­ers, vic­tims and lo­ca­tions, and how agen­cies can re­spond.

But the Se­lect Com­mit­tee was told that while the 2015 Gov­ern­ment leg­is­la­tion gives coun­cils a statu­tory duty to re­port po­ten­tial vic­tims of mod­ern slav­ery to the Home Of­fice and sup­port them, there’s no fi­nan­cial sup­port from White­hall.

And pres­sure on Bucks County Coun­cil’s bud­get means ei­ther di­vert­ing money from other pro­grammes, or go­ing through a lengthy bid­ding process for part­ner­ship fund­ing, which has no guar­an­tee of suc­cess.

Com­mu­nity safety co­or­di­na­tor Martha Ed­wards told the Se­lect Com­mit­tee the hid­den and un­known na­ture of the crimes was the big­gest chal­lenge fac­ing agen­cies want­ing to help peo­ple.

Cab­i­net mem­ber for com­mu­nity en­gage­ment and pub­lic health Martin Phillips said: “Clearly slav­ery didn’t die with the coura­geous ef­forts of 19th cen­tury cam­paign­ers like Wil­liam Wil­ber­force and Buck­ing­hamshire’s own John New­ton. We have a 21st cen­tury fight on our hands to pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble vic­tims of or­gan­ised crime.

“The first move to­wards catch­ing the crooks who ex­ploit vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple in such an evil con­trol­ling way, is to help peo­ple recog­nise the signs and make it easy to re­port. That’s just what we’re plan­ning with our cam­paign.”

Mr Phillips added: ‘With­out proper fund­ing, it feels a bit like a Dad’s Army ex­er­cise, with broom­sticks, picks and shov­els, to tackle an im­por­tant is­sue that de­mands an ar­se­nal of pro­fes­sional weaponry.”

Se­lect Com­mit­tee chair­man David Car­roll said this was a mat­ter of crit­i­cal im­por­tance that won the com­mit­tee’s ut­most sup­port, and urged a let­ter from the cab­i­net mem­ber to Po­lice and Crime Com­mis­sioner An­thony Stans­feld.

He said: “We need this on the PCC’s agenda and make the part­ner­ship be­tween Bucks County Coun­cil and Thames Val­ley Po­lice re­ally work hard for the pro­tec­tion of the vic­tims of this ap­palling crime in our com­mu­ni­ties.”

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