Hertfordshire collaboration to support authorities in tackling modern slavery

Shiva Foundation, Hertfordshire Constabulary, Hertfordshire County Council, and the Police Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire will bring together national anti-trafficking experts in a collaborative effort to prevent and address modern slavery in the region. 

Starting with a multi-agency conference in Hertfordshire on 29th March, the aim is to:

  • Promote knowledge sharing and a united approach to help proactively prevent crimes such as forced labour, servitude and sexual exploitation, and support potential victims
  • Ensure frontline staff from statutory organisations – including the police, local authorities, the NHS and the emergency services – are clear on how to report and respond to concerns
  • Establish and test referral pathways to best support those affected, which will link into the existing National Referral Mechanism
  • Create a network between key stakeholders to help accelerate best practice

The conference is part of increased efforts across the UK to tackle modern slavery, and those involved in the Hertfordshire partnership intend to share their learnings with other areas to support and strengthen the wide range of ongoing work. This sharing of best practice is crucial to help accelerate the most effective prevention and support methods.

The Hertfordshire event, which is supported by Oliver Dowden, Conservative MP for Hertsmere, will include input from:

  • Tatiana Gren-Jardan, the Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s Victim Support and Partnership Advisor
  • Sir John Randall, Vice-Chair of Human Trafficking Foundation
  • David Lloyd, Hertfordshire Police Crime Commissioner
  • Dave Wheatley, Head of Hertfordshire’s Serious and Organised Crime Command
  • Meenal Sachdev, Director of Shiva Foundation and Councillor for Hertsmere

While there is no evidence to show Hertfordshire is particularly affected by modern slavery, there have been previous reported incidents of forced labour and sexual exploitation in the region. The fact that 13,000 people are estimated to live in modern slavery in the UK highlights how widespread the issue is and the need for preventative action.

The National Referral Mechanism, the existing framework for identifying and supporting victims of human trafficking or modern slavery, received 3,266 referrals in 2015. The disparity between this and the number of estimated victims in the UK underlines the importance of being able to recognise and report suspicions, which is one of the key areas the Hertfordshire conference will address.

Kevin Hyland OBE, the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, said:

“Modern slavery is a growing crime, a grave abuse and a gross injustice. One of my core priorities in tackling it is to encourage partnerships, and I welcome this Hertfordshire collaboration, which will help ensure that victims are identified and referred for appropriate support. In tandem, it will help bring about prosecutions and convictions wherever these cruel crimes exist. The fact that the Hertfordshire working group will share their learnings to help support and strengthen the wide range of efforts in other areas of the UK is vital, for by working together, we can combat modern slavery.”

Meenal Sachdev, Director of Shiva Foundation and Councillor for Hertsmere, said:

“Modern slavery is an urgent but often hidden issue that affects thousands of people across the UK. By sharing knowledge and expertise though this Hertfordshire collaboration, we can ensure the statutory groups on the frontline are best equipped to take action against criminals and protect those who may be at risk. Combatting modern slavery, which is a complex and multi-faceted problem, requires a coordinated and united approach. By partnering with key groups on a local level we can help drive real change.”

As part of Shiva Foundation’s commitment to driving collective action at a local level, it is also partnering with the Human Trafficking Foundation and ECPAT UK to host a London conference on 10th May to help ensure local London authorities can best tackle modern slavery through dedicated resources.

Cllr Colette Wyatt-Lowe, Cabinet Member for Health and Community Services, said:

“Hertfordshire County Council works closely with our partners at the Police and Crime Commissioners office, Hertfordshire Constabulary and more recently the Shiva Foundation, to safeguard all members of our community. Adult abuse can include physical, emotional or financial abuse. Any abuse is wrong; everyone has the right to live their life free from violence, fear and abuse.”

“The Modern Slavery Conference which is aimed at senior managers and front line staff from Hertfordshire County Council and all of our partner organisations is a great opportunity to share knowledge and expertise, to showcase our great working relationships and to promote Hertfordshire as a county that is forward thinking it’s its approach to protecting and caring for those who may have been exploited or are currently at risk of being abused or neglected.”

David Lloyd, Police Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, said:

“Since the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act, prosecuting perpetrators of this terrible crime has rightly become an increasing priority for police forces across the UK. Hertfordshire police is dedicated to reducing crime and keeping local communities safe, and this collaboration will help us proactively address a vital issue. Coming together to share insights and expertise means we can ensure the most targeted and effective action on modern slavery, and ultimately best serve the community.”

Detective Superintendent Dave Wheatley, Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Strategic Lead for Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, said:

“While Hertfordshire has not seen a large number of modern slavery cases, there is no reason to be complacent. Secrecy and coercion often surrounds this kind of crime, and so by its nature it can be difficult to identify and investigate. As a Force we are rapidly developing our response to modern slavery so that victims of this appalling crime are protected and offenders brought to justice. This conference will be a key step on that journey as almost all modern slavery crimes require a multi-agency response at some level.”

To help combat modern slavery, members of the public are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the possible indicators of trafficking and forced labour: http://www.gla.gov.uk/who-we-are/modern-slavery/who-we-are-modern-slavery-spot-the-signs/ Anyone wishing to report concerns about possible instances of modern slavery should call the UK modern slavery helpline and resource centre on 08000 121 700.