Last week Christian churches came together to do a rather remarkable thing. Under the Clewer initiative, the Church of England and Catholic Church launched an app, for the public to report concerns about modern day slavery at Hand Car Washes.
Through the Safe Car Wash App, drivers enter a location, then consider a series of indicators if they suspect modern slavery, such as whether the car wash only accepts cash, evidence of workers living on site, or whether workers seem fearful. If the answers indicate a higher likelihood of slavery, users are directed to a helpline. This is a powerful practical move by the Churches, and I encourage readers to consider downloading the app.
Hand Car Washes are receiving more scrutiny, thanks in part to the inquiry launched by the Environmental Audit Committee, following my pressure in Parliament. Although our focus will primarily be environmental, we will also consider issues around exploitation and people trafficking.
Here in South Shropshire, it can be easy to think modern day slavery does not affect our community. But in reality, there are people across this country that are victims of this heinous crime – including at hand car washes, nail salons, or working in intensive agriculture.
So I am pleased the Government is taking action to stamp it out for good. Since the world-leading Modern Slavery Act 2015 was introduced, more victims and survivors are being rescued and supported than ever before, more perpetrators are being brought to justice, and thousands of businesses have published slavery and human trafficking statements.
The Home Office set up a £33.5 million Modern Slavery Fund to support victims from those countries from where trafficked people regularly enter the UK. The criminals behind modern slavery are also being tackled, as police and enforcement agencies have new powers provided by the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
We are also taking action around the world, to tackle human trafficking at source. Aid spending on modern slavery has been doubled to £150 million to help drive progress around the world, including a Global Fund - seed funded by the UK and the US - to reduce the prevalence of slavery, support victims and reduce vulnerability to slavery across the globe.
Slavery is the gravest human rights abuse of our time, and we must do everything we can to stamp it out. I am proud of the action the UK is taking, but there is always more to do. If you have concerns about modern day slavery in our community, you can report it via 0800 0121 700 or online at www.modernslaveryhelpline.org.