In­quiry launched into scale of mod­ern slav­ery in county

Coun­cil­lors work­ing on adult ex­ploita­tion strat­egy

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS -

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.

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