Modern slavery victim support pilot to launch
A support service to help victims of modern slavery and human trafficking will be piloted in Buckinghamshire.
A six-month project, to assess the need and demand, will be set up by the County Council's Community Safety Team with funding from Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner.
It comes after a two-month inquiry by the County Council's Transport Environment and Communities Select Committee into what more the County Council could do to protect vulnerable people from becoming victim to modern slave masters, and to help those who have suffered at the hands of unscrupulous exploiters.
The pilot will be run by the Rahab project, a Reading charity that has years of experience in raising awareness and supporting people who have become victims of exploitation, and which gave evidence to the Select Committee's inquiry.
Inquiry Chairman Steve Lambert, who laid the inquiry findings before the Select Committee yesterday (Tuesday, January 23) said he was delighted the pilot would be starting in March.
"The inquiry was concerned that while there are an estimated 2,500 victims in the Thames Valley, there's no understanding of how bad the problem is in Buckinghamshire," said Steve. "The pilot project will not only help victims of exploitation, but also provide a window on to the scale of the problem here."
The project will raise awareness, offer support, and help those affected by exploitation, or thought to be at risk, to regain control of their lives.
Steve said the inquiry group would reconvene later this year to review the project and recommend how the County Council could develop the work based on the needs identified by the pilot.
As well as the Rahab Project, the inquiry heard evidence from Thames Valley Police, community safety and safeguarding officers, County Council executive directors and the Cabinet Member for Community Engagement.
It will make recommendations to County Council's Cabinet about training and awareness across the organisation, recording victim referrals and alerting the Home Office, identifying modern slavery risks in forward plans, and publishing an anti-slavery statement on the council's website.
"Our commitment is to safeguard our vulnerable, and that includes protecting slavery victims," said Steve. "We want to make sure our people are trained well in identifying victims, supporting them, and providing intelligence to the police to tackle the perpetrators as part of a multi-agency approach."
Select Committee Chairman David Carroll said: "This is an evil crime that affects adults and children, and we have a key role and responsibility to work with agencies to root it out and protect the innocent victims."
IN THE PICTURE: Steven Lambert: Chairman of the Modern Slavery Inquiry