Fresh pledge to protect people from modern slavery in South Tyneside - and telltale signs someone is suffering

A pledge to protect people from modern slavery and human trafficking in South Tyneside is set to be reinforced when council bosses meet next week.

South Shields town hall
South Shields town hall

It is estimated that there are thousands affected by slavery and trafficking in the UK, including children, with victims often abused, threatened, stripped of their rights and forced to work for little or no pay.

Every year, South Tyneside Council updates and publishes its Modern Slavery Statement, which builds on existing work while identifying further actions to help eliminate the risks of slavery within the authority, its supply chains and in the wider community.

Town hall chiefs will be asked to endorse an updated Modern Slavery Statement for 2019/20, reinforcing the council’s commitment to preventing violence and the exploitation of vulnerable people.

Cllr Ed Malcolm, lead member for resources and innovation, said: “It is horrifying and hard to believe that slavery exists in modern day Britain.

“While the true extent of modern slavery is unknown, it is estimated that there are up to 13,000 victims of slavery and trafficking currently in the UK.

“These victims, including children, are forced against their will to work for little or no pay for the benefit of others. They are often abused or threatened and stripped of their rights. These crimes are being committed all over the country and intelligence suggests that includes right here in South Tyneside.

“We’re committed to doing all we can to reduce the risks of slavery within our organisation and our supply chains, from awareness raising and training among staff to ensuring we have robust recruitment policies and responsible procurement procedures in place.

“However, as well as being a major employer, we have first responder and community safety roles, which is why we have gone even further with the development of a comprehensive Modern Slavery Strategy.

“It is essential that we work with our neighbours, police and other partners to eradicate slavery, with the strategy setting out how we strengthen these roles, respond to and prevent these incidents, increase awareness among businesses and communities and identify and support victims.

“While we have made substantial progress, we are not resting on our laurels and will always look to do more. This form of exploitation can affect victims of any gender, age, ethnicity or national origin.

“This statement, along with our strategy, sends out a clear message that there is no place for slavery in our business, supply chains or our community.”

The statement sits alongside the Modern Slavery Strategy, which reinforces and builds upon policies and partnerships which are already in place.

This includes extra checks around procurement, staff awareness training on identifying the signs of modern slavery and a whistleblowing policy which supports council employees, contractors and partners in coming forward with concerns.

During 2019/20, the council also worked with partners, including the police, to strengthen local response processes through a ‘simulation exercise’, with learning used to help inform local plans.

The 2019/20 Modern Slavery Statement will be discussed on Wednesday, August 12 at 4pm.

Proposed updates will ensure the council’s continued compliance with section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

The council meeting will be held via videolink and broadcast on YouTube in line with social distancing guidelines.

The key signs of trafficking or modern slavery include:

:: People not in possession of their own documents

:: People appearing frightened, withdrawn and anxious, or ‘controlled’ or ‘coached’ by someone else

:: Limited freedom of movement with victims collected early in the morning or dropped off from work late at night

:: Signs of malnourishment, injury or lack of sleep, medical care or other life necessities

:: Limited social interaction with those outside their immediate environment

Anyone who witnesses any suspicious activity is urged to call police in the first instance or 999 in an emergency.

Information can also be reported to the Modern Day Slavery helpline on 0800 0121 700 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Anyone who suspects that a child is at risk of harm or abuse or is being trafficked or enslaved in South Tyneside, can call the council’s Children’s Safeguarding Team on (0191) 424 5010 (or 456 2093 outside normal office hours).

For concerns relating to an adult, call the Adult Safeguarding Team on (0191) 424 6000 (or 456 2093 outside normal office hours).

A message from the editor

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to the Shields Gazette website and enjoy unlimited access to local news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.shieldsgazette.com/subscriptions to sign up.

You can subscribe to the newspaper with 20% off here: https://www.localsubsplus.co.uk/.

Thank you.