Inquiry launched into scale of modern slavery in county
Councillors working on adult exploitation strategy
Research across the county last year, by University College’s Jill Dando Institute, warned there was potential for exploitation of workers in isolated agricultural jobs, remote factories and in caring for an increasing ageing population.
Researchers identified focal points for Bucks County Council (BCC) to target in the fight against modern slavery, including liaising with public transport providers to watch for victims who might be fleeing from slave masters and asking delivery drivers who visit remote locations to look out for tell-tale signs of exploitation.
Since then, BCC has worked on an adult exploitation strategy, which will be presented to the Safer Stronger Bucks Partnership Board next month.
Members of BCC’s transport, environment and communities select committee heard at a special briefing, on Tuesday September 12, that people’s awareness of the problem is limited and exploitation could be much greater than figures show.
Police recorded 150 Buckinghamshire victims between February 2016 and March 2017, highlighting that females are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation and domestic servitude, whereas males are targeted for labour and forced criminalisation.
The select committee has set the wheels in motion for an inquiry to understand the extent of criminal activity in Buckinghamshire.
It will also explore and test how effective the county council is in training and awareness raising, working with partner agencies and in supporting victims – all responsibilities it has under the Modern Slavery Act.
Select committee chairman David Carroll said: “Exploitation is clearly happening in our communities, particularly among vulnerable people, and there’s a lot we need to learn about just what is going on and how we can respond.
“There is much work go- ing on to help those who are being exploited, and to bring perpetrators to justice, and we want to identify what more we as a county council can do to help tackle this horrendous criminal activity, and how we can work with agencies, such as Thames Valley who are already good work.
“It’s important that we raise awareness among residents, who need to know what concerning signs to look for, how to identify what might be going on and how to report Police, doing it, but it’s very clear to us as a select committee that there’s little point in raising awareness if there is nothing in place to support the victims of exploitation.”
The scope and timing of the inquiry will be set in the next few weeks.