Sussex partners working to combat modern slavery are reflecting on a year of progress.
In October 2020, Chief Constable Jo Shiner, Chief Executive of East and West Sussex County Councils, Becky Shaw, and Brighton and Hove City Council Chief Executive Geoff Raw marked Anti-Slavery Day with a UN Sustainable Goals pledge from their respective organisations to become a slavery free community in Sussex.
The pledge outlined how partners would work proactively with national and local government, law enforcement agencies, businesses, the voluntary and community sector, faith bodies and local communities.
On behalf of all Sussex partners, Detective Chief Inspector Kris Ottery of Sussex Police said: "Monday 18 October is Anti-Slavery Day this year, so we reflect on the achievements of the last year and our ongoing collective effort through the Sussex Anti-Slavery Network, which includes a wide range of partners across the county.
"Working with the University of Sussex we have successfully enhanced the work of the Network by introducing an online platform for its activities, included a series of informative webinars and podcasts to engage wider businesses and communities.
"The Network and other modern slavery partnerships across Sussex have adapted to the challenges of the pandemic including how exploiters may evolve to exploit resulting vulnerability, supporting a number of initiatives and intensification periods to respond to local concerns."
The UNSG pledge included removing slave-based labour from the supply chain. Much work has been done to develop Modern Slavery Transparency Statements over the last 12 months. This is an important area of work for the business and supply chain sector, and this is being progressed by Sussex local authorities and police. This is part of wider work outlined in the Pledge, and demonstrates the commitment to understanding all potential Modern Slavery risks related to our activities. It puts in place steps to eliminate and eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking within business, supply chains, sub-contractors and partners by adopting a zero tolerance policy.
In the last 12 months Sussex Police have recorded 195 crimes of Modern Slavery, which includes trafficking. This is a reduction of a third on the previous year, but takes into account the impact of the pandemic. Over half of Modern Slavery crimes in Sussex relate to criminal exploitation with most relating to gangs and County Drug Lines; followed by labour exploitation, sexual exploitation and a small number of reports of domestic servitude and forced marriage. Almost half of victims were children.
The partnership has worked tirelessly to disrupt those who seek to exploit others, and this operational activity has resulted in 48 arrests of suspected perpetrators of Modern Slavery in the last year, and prohibition and enforcement notices issued by a range of partners in relation to living, working and environmental conditions. A recent example is a multi-agency operation at a car wash in West Sussex where a number of partners took enforcement action and recently were able to secure a Slavery and Trafficking Risk Order at Court as a longer term prevention measure.
In addition to the Pan Sussex Network, there are partnerships in each local authority area, such as the Brighton and Hove Anti-Slavery Network; Discovery in East Sussex; and the Serious and Organised Crime Local Partnership Groups in West Sussex.
Over the last 12 months these groups have worked together to protect communities and make them more resilient to modern slavery, with prevention activity to reduce the risk of persons becoming involved in exploitation, in particular ensuring that with support from other organisations we safeguard and recognise the individual needs of children.
West Sussex County Council now have their Corporate Modern Slavery Statement on the Home Office Registry and you can view the commitment here: WSCC Modern Slavery Pledge and Transparency Statement
Duncan Crow, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Community Support, Fire & Rescue said: “Last year was the 10th anniversary of UK Anti-Slavery Day and to mark such a monumental occasion we, alongside our partners across Sussex, signed a pledge to help eradicate slavery and exploitation and become a Slavery Free Community by 2030. This pledge is something we keep in the forefront of our minds and is strengthened by our corporate Modern Slavery Transparency Statement.
“Over the last year our Community Safety and Wellbeing Team and Procurement and Contract Management Team have worked hard to build our resilience to this threat, both in terms of raising awareness to professionals and companies we work with and also in relation to implementing due diligence in our Supply Chains.
“We are proud to be part of the Sussex Anti-Slavery Network and look forward to continuing our fight against modern slavery and exploitation across Sussex.”
Councillor Carl Maynard, lead member for Adult Social Care and Health at East Sussex County Council said: “When we signed the pledge to mark the 10th anniversary of UK Anti-Slavery Day in 2020, we confirmed our commitment to becoming a slavery free community.
“Over the last year the council has continued to work closely with our partners as part of the Sussex Anti-Slavery Network to raise awareness of the plight of those affected by modern day slavery.
“As evidence of our commitment to partnership working, East and West Sussex County Councils and Brighton and Hove City Council are delighted to welcome Dr Akilah Jardine as our Modern Slavery Senior Policy Lead, a jointly funded role which will address modern slavery in our supply chains.
Cllr Maynard added: “We can all help ensure the workers providing our goods and services are safe and being treated correctly by continuing to be alert to signs of modern slavery and human trafficking and reporting anything suspicious.”
Councillor Lizzie Deane, Brighton & Hove City Council’s lead councillor for modern slavery, said: “The exploitation of vulnerable people through modern slavery is a hidden crime. Brighton & Hove rightly has a reputation for embracing and thriving on difference and for celebrating the diversity of its residents.
“However, we face the same growing issues as everywhere else in the UK and will continue to work to be a safe and welcoming city to all who come here.
“We’re asking everyone to be alert to signs of modern slavery and human trafficking and to report anything they think is suspicious.
“If you notice anyone with an unusual change in behaviour or mood, strange relationships or with unexplained access to money, please take action.”
Training in partnership provides the best possible response in line with continuously evolving best practice and legislation. The partnership has worked tirelessly to disrupt those who seek to exploit others, and this operational activity has resulted in a number of arrests of suspected perpetrators of Modern Slavery and prohibition and enforcement notices in relation to living, working and environmental conditions.
In the last 12 months there were also 141 referrals into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) where modern slavery or trafficking was reported to have taken place in Sussex. The NRM is a framework for identifying and referring potential victims of modern slavery and ensuring they receive the appropriate support. It is used by a wide range of first responders including police when they encounter potential victims of modern slavery.
Most NRM referrals related to exploitation by gangs and County Drug Lines, followed by labour exploitation and sexual exploitation. Almost half of potential victims were aged 16 or 17.
Looking forward, the Network is working on a Pan Sussex Modern Slavery Profile using a range of partnership information to inform the response and ensure continuous improvement in the effort to become a slavery-free community. As a result of positive feedback, there will be a continued offer of webinars and podcasts through an online platform, and there have been workshops to consider how the group can continue to build on the activities of the Anti-Slavery Network.
If you think you have information that might identify or locate a potential victim or suspect for modern slavery, or someone you know is a victim of modern slavery, or even a location where you think exploitation might be happening, please report it onlIine or call the police on 101 (always call 999 in an emergency).
You can also contact the national Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or the Salvation Army Modern Slavery helpline on 0300 303 8151, or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymousy on 0800 555 111.