Tackling slave labour at the car wash

Published: 8th June 2018

The Bishop of Lichfield rolled his sleeves up in a campaign to crack down on the exploitation of workers at car washes through a new Safe Car Wash App.

Drivers across the Midlands are being encouraged to join an unprecedented national information-gathering campaign launched by the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales aimed at stamping out modern slavery in hand car washes.

Anti-slavery campaigners and other key agencies, including police and councils, are backing the Safe Car Wash App, launched by The Clewer Initiative, the Church of Englands campaign against modern slavery, and the Santa Marta Group, the Catholic Churchs anti-slavery project. The Diocese of Lichfield is working directly with The Clewer Initiative with churches in Wolverhampton and the Black Country already engaged in the fight against modern slavery.

The Safe Car Wash app can be downloaded free onto Apple and Android devices. Users can open the app when they are at the car wash and pinpoint their exact location using GPS.

They will be then taken through a series of indicators of modern slavery. They range from practical details - such as whether workers have suitable protective clothing - to behavioural clues, such as whether they appear withdrawn.

If the answers indicate a high likelihood, users will be directed to the Modern Slavery Helpline. Data will also be anonymised and shared with the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).

The Bishop of Lichfield, the Right Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, launched the campaign in Lichfield Diocese with a car wash outside Lichfield Cathedral, joined by the cathedrals Canon Precentor, the Revd Canon Andrew Stead (both pictured above).

Bishop Michael said: The evil of modern slavery is coming into sharp focus as we start to grasp how it is hidden in our communities in plain sight. We are talking about real people trapped in exploitation, often with nowhere to turn. As followers of Jesus we cannot turn away from our neighbour who may be in need. The Safe Car Wash App is a practical way to make a difference in our communities and bring change for those who are vulnerable.

Canon Andrew added: Lichfield Cathedral stands as testimony to the universal love, truth and justice of God, and is a place where everyone is welcome. Hospitality is shown to all people from all faiths and all walks of life regardless of ethnicity, colour or gender - and so we are proud to stand beside Bishop Michael in this initiative to promote justice and respect for those most vulnerable members of our society."

Will Kerr, Director of the National Crime Agency (NCA) said: This App will help to engage the public in identifying car washes, where slavery is suspected, and will also help law enforcement identify those people who may be at risk, as well as those criminals who are exploiting the vulnerable.

Kevin Hyland, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner said: The value of this app is that in addition to immeasurably improving the lives of victims of modern slavery being cruelly exploited in car washes today, it also empowers a community to act.

Professor Zoe Trodd, Director of the Rights Lab, a University of Nottingham Beacon of Excellence, said: Car washes are completely unregulated territory and we dont know how big the sector is, how many hand car washes operate or how many persons are registered to work in them. This citizen engagement in data collection is a powerful technique with potential for mapping other vulnerable services such as nail bars.

The App is also endorsed by the National Police Chiefs Council, the Local Government Association and the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioners.

A decade ago there were few hand car washes in the UK, but estimates now suggest that there are more than 18,000 in Britains high streets, at the sides of motorways, and on abandoned garage forecourts. Many are run as legitimate businesses, but some exploit, force and threaten workers, trapping them in modern slavery.

The indicators of slavery are:

  • Do the workers have access to suitable protective clothing? Look out for gloves and boots.
  • Is there evidence of workers living on site? Can you see a caravan or mattresses and bedding?
  • Does anyone appear controlling or intimidating?
  • Does the body language of the workers appear withdrawn or fearful?
  • Do there appear to be minors working at the car wash?
  • Did you pay less than 6.70 for the car wash?
  • Does the car wash only accept cash?
  • Did they offer a receipt?
  • Did you have to pay the manager?

Page last updated: Friday 8th June 2018 7:13 AM
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