The plight of people affected by modern slavery and human trafficking has been reinforced in a pledge made by South Tyneside Council.
Members of the Council's decision-making Cabinet recently endorsed a commitment to help eradicate modern slavery and prevent violence and exploitation among vulnerable people. The commitment is set to be further supported at a meeting of the full Borough Council next Thursday (18 January).
The new policy sets out the Council's actions to understand all potential modern slavery risks and to ensure it does not exist within its own business or supply chains. It also demonstrates the Council's dedication to make awareness of modern slavery a key part of everyday business and corporate activities and to integrate it into policies and procurement processes.
Councillor Ed Malcolm, Lead Member for Resources and Innovation, said: "Modern day slavery victims of all ages, genders, ethnicities and nationalities, can be found exploited across many different sectors and workplaces, from factories and fields to shops and private properties. It is a very serious crime.
"As a major employer and a business with a key role in protecting vulnerable people within our community, it is important that we remain vigilant and do what we can to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking.
"We are committed to playing our part in stamping out this evil practice by ensuring it does not exist in our corporate activities, in our suppliers and across our communities. This includes raising awareness and training among our community-facing staff, implementing robust recruitment procedures and making sure the organisations it deals with uphold standards in the welfare of its workforce."
The Council's commitment to help eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking has also been supported by Northumbria Police.
Chief Inspector Lisa Hogan said: "Many victims of modern day slavery may not see themselves as victims, or may not have the courage to come forward and talk about. It is really important that we raise awareness of the signs people should look out for and we fully support the work of South Tyneside Council. If anyone suspects modern day slavery is taking place then we would urge them to let us know."
It is estimated there are between 10,000 and 13,000 victims of slavery and trafficking in the UK, including children. Victims, which also include UK nationals, are exploited or forced against their will to work for little or no pay for the benefit of others. They are often abused, threatened or stripped of their rights.
Key indicators of trafficking or modern slavery include:
- People not in possession of their own documents;
- People appearing frightened, withdrawn and anxious, or 'controlled' or 'coached' by someone else;
- Limited freedom of movement with victims often regularly collected early in the morning or dropped off from work late at night;
- Signs of malnourishment, injury or lack of sleep, medical care or other life necessities;
- Limited social interaction with those outside their immediate environment.
Anyone who witnesses any suspicious activity is urged to call the Police in the first instance or 999 in an emergency. Information can also be reported to the Modern Day Slavery helpline on 0800 0121 700 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Anyone who suspects that a child is at risk of harm or abuse or is being trafficked or enslaved in South Tyneside can call South Tyneside's Children's Safeguarding Team on (0191) 424 5010. For concerns relating to an adult call the Adult Safeguarding Team on (0191) 424 6000.
The Borough Council meeting will take place on Thursday 18 January, at 6pm, in the Council Chamber of South Shields Town Hall.