Modern slavery can take many forms including the trafficking of people, forced labour, servitude and slavery. Warwickshire County Council is committed to preventing slavery and human trafficking in all corporate activities and supply chain management.
Warwickshire County Council has approved the updated Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking statement for the financial year 2022/23. The Statement re-states its commitment to using its powers, influence and responsibilities to prevent and act against modern slavery.
The purpose of the Statement is to report on the Council’s actions to identify, assess risk and take mitigating steps to prevent the occurrence of modern slavery, human trafficking and other human rights abuses in its supply chains and procurement activity, and key corporate policies. The current Statement gives an overview of actions taken in 2022 to 2023 and highlights priority actions for 2023 to 2024.
The full Statement is a legal requirement under Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 which requires organisations which supply goods or services and have a total turnover of not less than £36m to develop a slavery and human trafficking statement each year. The Statement was approved by Cabinet in July.
Modern slavery is the illegal exploitation of people for personal or commercial gain. It’s often a hidden crime, where people are tricked, coerced or forced and lose their freedom. It’s sometimes known as contemporary slavery. Modern slavery is always a serious violation of a person’s human rights. Even if a victim consents and is willing to be moved, trafficking could still be taking place. It involves either the threat of harm or actual harm to the person themselves or their family.
Modern slavery can take many forms, including:
- Domestic exploitation
- Human trafficking
- Labour exploitation/forced labour
- Debt bondage/bonded labour
- Descent-based slavery
- Slavery of children
- Sexual exploitation
- Forced and early marriage
- Illegal adoption
- Criminal exploitation – forced begging, forced benefit fraud, and county lines
Nearly 50 million people live in modern slavery across the world today. There is no typical victim of slavery; they can be individuals of any age, gender, ethnicity or nationality. However, it’s normally more prevalent among those who may be particularly vulnerable or belong to minority or marginalised groups. Signs of various types of slavery and exploitation are often hidden, making it hard to recognise potential victims.
Although the County Council assesses the likelihood of slavery and human trafficking as low, given the nature of its operations, it remains alert to potential risks. The Council, through its procurement policy, strategy, and guidelines, maintains high expectations for its supply chains.
The County Council is involved in a range of activity and collaborative work to tackle modern slavery. Key actions include:
The Warwickshire Exploitation Strategy 2020-23: The Warwickshire Exploitation Strategy 2020-2023 ensures that Warwickshire County Council relevant staff and partners have an understanding of exploitation, the impact it has on children, young people, adults with care and support needs, and the wider community. It exists to improve the lives of those who are at risk. It is overseen by the Warwickshire Safeguarding Partnership.
Devolved Decision Making: Warwickshire County Council is participating in a Home Office pilot to devolve decision making for child victims of Modern Slavery. Since February 2023, all National Referral Mechanism (NRM) referrals completed by professionals for Warwickshire children are referred to a local multi-agency NRM Panel which is set up for the purpose of making decisions whether the children are victims of Modern Slavery. This helps to bring more effective and timely decision making by agencies known to the child, and connecting them to local safeguarding and support.
Partnerships: The Council works in partnership with a wide range of partners and agencies to prevent abuse and neglect, to detect and report occurrences and to support victims. This includes district and borough Councils, Warwickshire Police, Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Barnardo’s, and the Local Safeguarding Boards.
Training: Training on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking is available to all staff through a package of e-learning modules, with a particular focus on awareness-raising among social care employees. More training is currently under development, alongside a review of whistleblowing training. These will be included in the Statement for 2023/24.
Relevant policies: The County Council regularly reviews policies and procedures considered to be relevant to modern slavery, to ensure they remain fit for purpose. These include policies in relation to safeguarding, whistleblowing, recruitment, bullying and harassment, and use of agency workers.
Supply chains: The Council is committed to ensuring that its suppliers adhere to the highest standards of ethics. Suppliers are required to demonstrate that they provide safe working conditions where necessary, treat workers with respect and dignity and act ethically and within the law in workforce matters. The Council undertakes due diligence when considering taking on new suppliers and regularly reviews its existing suppliers.
Homes for Ukraine, Asylum Seekers, and UK Resettlement schemes: these schemes offer housing and support for refugees and asylum seekers, and provide some level of risk as vulnerable people are being placed with members of the public, or in local housing. Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS) checks and home inspections are carried out for every member of a sponsor family, and a dedicated housing officer liaises with families to mitigate this risk.
Warwickshire Recovery Investment Fund: part of the council's COVID19 Recovery Plan to stimulate Warwickshire’s economy, create jobs, support local businesses, and bring investment into the county, the lending activity associated with this scheme has meant that the Council has strengthened its anti-money laundering policy and procedure to comply with additional rules in relation to the prevention of money laundering, and to safeguard Council resources.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council said: “I speak on behalf of Warwickshire County Council when I say that we condemn any form of modern slavery and human trafficking in our organisation and Warwickshire, as a whole. We work to our Council's priority to be a County where all individuals are supported to live safely, healthily, happily and independently. It's for this reason that we will continue our work with our partners throughout the county to ensure we hold perpetrators accountable for their actions and ensure victims-survivors of these heinous crimes are celebrated within our diverse communities."
Read the Statement here: https://api.warwickshire.gov.uk/documents/WCCC-970487194-326