A commitment to help protect people from modern slavery and human trafficking is set to be strengthened when South Tyneside Council's Cabinet meets next Wednesday (1 December).
In May 2019, South Tyneside Council became one of the first in the country to develop a comprehensive Modern Slavery Strategy, outlining how it will identify, prevent and tackle the issue of modern slavery, human trafficking and exploitation in the Borough.
However, each year, the Council is legally required to update and publish its Modern Slavery Statement. This builds on work already carried out within the Council and identifies what more can be done to eliminate the risks of slavery in the organisation, its supply chains and in the community.
Cabinet members will be asked to agree an updated Modern Slavery Statement for 2020/21, reinforcing the Council's commitment to preventing violence and exploitation of vulnerable people.
Councillor Joanne Bell, Lead Member for Resources and Innovation, said: "It is difficult to believe that slavery exists in modern day Britain. It can affect victims of all genders, ages, ethnicities or nationalities, with exploitation occurring across many different sectors, from factories and shops to private properties.
"While the true extent of modern slavery is unknown, it is estimated that there are up to 13,000 victims of slavery and trafficking in the UK. Victims, including children, are forced against their will to work for little or no pay for the benefit of others. They are often abused or threatened and stripped of their rights.
"We are committed to doing all we can to reduce the risks of slavery within our organisation and our supply chains, from awareness raising and training among staff to ensuring we have robust recruitment policies and responsible procurement procedures in place.
"It is also vital that we work with our partners to eradicate slavery in society, with our comprehensive Modern Slavery Strategy setting out how we strengthen our community safety and first responder roles, prevent incidents, increase awareness among businesses and residents and identify and support victims.
"Modern Slavery is a very serious crime. The Modern Slavery Statement gives a commitment that we will always look to do more where we can and sends out a clear message that there is no place for slavery in our business, supply chains or our community."
The annual Statement aligns with the Strategy, which is also being refreshed and reinforces and builds upon policies and partnerships which are already in place. This includes due diligence around procurement, staff awareness training on identifying the signs of modern slavery and a whistleblowing policy, which supports Council employees, contractors and partners to come forward with any concerns.
Work during 2020/21 has included the offer of e-learning for all staff and councillors, multi-agency training and a virtual roadshow involving key speakers and experts in the field.
The Council also created an exploitation champions network across children's social care teams, appointed a dedicated officer to lead on complex abuse cases, marked key awareness days, strengthened awareness raising among staff and carried out engagement with residents.
The Modern Slavery Statement 2020/21 is set to be considered by Cabinet members on Wednesday 1 December. The proposed updates will ensure the Council's continued compliance with section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
NOTES TO EDITORS
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 (or 456 2093 outside normal office hours). For concerns relating to an adult, call the Adult Safeguarding Team on (0191) 424 6000 (or 456 2093 outside normal office hours).