National recognition for Sandwell's anti-slavery work

Action to combat slavery and human trafficking in Sandwell is receiving national recognition.

Successful operations to rescue victims and arrest criminals, as well as ongoing investigations, put Sandwell at the forefront of national and regional efforts to stamp out slavery.

Partnership work has helped identify and tackle forced labour, child trafficking, domestic servitude and criminal and sexual exploitation.

Last night’s BBC One Panorama programme The Hunt for Britain’s Slave Gangs was a stark reminder of the terrible experiences of people being exploited in the UK.

The programme showed the detailed work by partners, including West Midlands Police and Hope for Justice, that went into an investigation and trial of slave gang members who were convicted and jailed for enslaving people in the West Midlands, including in West Bromwich and Smethwick.

Meanwhile Sandwell's Slavery and Human Trafficking Operational Partnership (SHOP), which brings together a wide range of organisations, has this week been shortlisted for a national award.

SHOP is shortlisted in the Anti-Slavery Day Outstanding Contribution to the Fight Against Slavery Award 2019 in the Reducing Vulnerabilities category.

The awards are run by the Human Trafficking Foundation and winners will be announced on 16 October ahead of Anti-Slavery Day on 18 October.

Sandwell was also a finalist for Best Collaborative Working Initiative at last year's Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) awards. Earlier this summer, Sandwell Council Leader Councillor Yvonne Davies and Chief Executive David Stevens signed a charter pledging to do all they can to make Sandwell a slavery-free community. More than 1,000 council employees, foster carers and partner agency staff have been trained in how to spot and respond to modern slavery.

Councillor Davies said: "Modern slavery is an appalling crime that targets the most vulnerable people and traps them in the most awful situations. "It's so important that the council, police and a wide range of partner organisations are working together with the community to combat modern slavery and human trafficking and identify and support victims and survivors. "I would like to thank everyone who is working together towards making Sandwell a slavery-free community. "I am very proud of the ongoing partnership work in Sandwell to tackle these issues.

The more we can all play a part in spotting the signs of slavery and reporting it to the authorities, the more victims we will be able to rescue from such horrific exploitation." Call the confidential Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 if you think you may be a victim of modern slavery, need help to seek safe accommodation and support or have seen something suspicious.

People can also report through the Unseen app, which is available to download.

Visit www.sandwell.gov.uk/spotslavery to find more information on signs of slavery and human trafficking to look out for and www.sandwell.gov.uk/reportslavery for advice on reporting.

SHOP includes a range of agencies who are able to work together to protect victims, pursue offenders and disrupt modern slavery locations.

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