One of those leading the drive to make Cheshire a hostile environment for those intent on using vulnerable people as slave labour, is Cheshire Police and Crime Commissioner David Keane.
Mr Keane said: “We’re only beginning to see across the country the scale of what is known as modern slavery. Since January, the Constabulary has recorded eight such cases affecting a dozen or so people – and the Constabulary is convinced that there are many more.
“Having spoken to the Chief Constable, I know that this is a challenging issue. Vulnerable people from different backgrounds are being exploited – some from overseas, many from this country – and in some cases those who are being exploited don’t realise that they’re a victim of what is a crime.
“Together all agencies in Cheshire want to do more to raise awareness of this issue in the county, and to encourage the public to speak to us when they suspect that someone may be a victim of modern slavery.”
Today (Tuesday 6 September) Halton Borough Council and Safer Halton Partnership is hosting Modern Slavery – The Victim’s Journey at Selecta Stadium in Widnes. The event is for practioners across the county who are on the frontline ensuring communities are safe and the vulnerable are protected.
The aim of the conference is to raise awareness of the network of agencies in Cheshire designed to tackle the issue.
Those present will find out what support there is for potential victims of modern slavery and how best to safeguard sometimes extremely vulnerable victims who often don’t realise they are a victim of crime – and if they do can feel too scared or intimidated to seek help.
There will be talks by leading experts in the field, case studies and the chance to ask the experts questions. The Commissioner and Halton Borough Council will also be speaking of their commitment in tackling an issue which has in the past been an unspoken crime kept behind closed doors.
Speaking at the event, Halton Borough Council Leader, Cllr Rob Polhill, said: "We are proud to host such an event and hope it gets the message across that this kind of barbaric practice has no place in Halton, Cheshire, or anywhere in the modern world."
Robin Brierley, Chair of the Cheshire Anti Slavery Network, said “Events like today are very important in raising awareness of this complex and often hidden crime. Following today’s discussions, we would like to see a regional Modern Slavery Strategy linking to the National Strategy and promoting the Trafficking Survivor Care Standards produced by the Human Trafficking Foundation. We will be discussing this and other issues with the agencies present.
Mr Keane added: “This, and a number of other ‘hidden crimes’, will be included in my draft Police & Crime Plan. I want to make sure the issue stays well and truly in the public eye.
“We want to reassure those victims, however they hear this message, that support is available to them. Cheshire CARES, a service for victims which I commission, has the skills necessary to help the people, and to get them the support from local authorities and the voluntary sector who can help them break free from their exploitation.“Only by hearing from Cheshire residents and business owners will we understand the true challenge we face. I believe that our communities have valuable information which will help us, and I call on anyone with information, or suspicions, to contact the police on 101 or anonymously via Crimestoppers. The public can also contact the Modern Slavery helpline on free phone 0800 0121 700.”