Part of my role as Project Manager of Adavu entails me attending regional and national meetings to keep informed about, and contribute to, evolving policy and responses to the agenda of modern slavery in the UK. One such meeting I regularly attend is the excellent Human Trafficking Foundation Forum in London.
Last week we met at Westminster to hear from Frank Field MP and others on the their review of the Modern Slavery Act. A few things struck me deeply upon hearing very senior and influential politicians, civil servants and a QC speak about their findings and responses to the review.
Firstly, the driving force behind the proposed changes to the Modern Slavery Act is to put the victim (or survivor as we call them) centre-stage over the perpetrator and the penal system. It is so important not to lose sight of the utter lack of humanity and evil that modern slavery entails, and to reinstate the dignity of the victim.
Secondly, modern slavery is a global, massively-profitable industry that is run often by organised crime groups. However, this industry is fuelled by demand and we as consumers have our part to play in this. How often do we question the labour that produces our cut-price clothes or car wash or our newly-crafted nails? Would we be willing to pay more to ensure we are not complicit in this demand? The demand for sexual services does not diminish either.
Thirdly, the Police identify thousands of potential victims of modern slavery every year, yet the numbers of victims identified by Local Authorities (who also have a statutory obligation to respond to potential cases) are extremely low.
The UK is also seen as a global leader in its response to tackling modern slavery and many other countries are looking to us to show them how to do it, but we still have a long way to go.
Finally, and perhaps the most striking thing I took away, was the plea, from one of the most senior professionals in the criminal justice system for society, to simply “be more kind to one another”.
Frank Field MP summed this up as, “unless we get people to love other people, all will be lost”.
I will leave this blog on that note…