Ahead of Anti-Slavery Day, the City Council and the Oxfordshire mental health service Elmore Community Services, co-hosted a roundtable event that sought to strengthen modern slavery victims’ support.
On behalf of the Oxfordshire Anti-Slavery Network—a grouping of Oxfordshire agencies working to end modern slavery in the county—Oxford City Council and Elmore hosted a discussion which sought to answer the question: “How can we ensure every potential victim is identified and given the opportunity to be safeguarded?”
During the private roundtable event, which took place on Tuesday 15 October, survivors of modern slavery in the county shared their experiences of their journey of being identified, accessing effective support with agencies and discussed how services can improve their response.
The roundtable included representatives of Thames Valley Police, Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire, Vale of the White Horse, and Cherwell District Councils, the Willow Project, Thames Valley Partnership, Migrant Help, Turning Point, and Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust.
The roundtable was chaired by Tom Hayes, Chief Executive of Elmore, and co-chair and CEO of the Oxfordshire Anti-Slavery Network, and Linda Ludlow, Strategic Lead for Human Exploitation and co-chair of the Oxfordshire Anti-Slavery Network. As well as Councillor Nigel Chapman, Cabinet Member for Safer Communities and Customer Focused Services at Oxford City Council, Matthew Barber, Thames Valley’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, a Chief Immigration Officer of Immigration Enforcement (a division of the Home Office), and a Senior District Crown Prosecutor from the Crown Prosecution Service were in attendance. The roundtable was also attended by Emma Crates, Private Sector Lead from the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
To further mark Anti-Slavery Day to highlight the issue of modern slavery, the City Council has commissioned local artist, Tommy Watkins to create a piece of street art on a ‘free wall’.
Throughout the week, he will be working on the artwork which will be located on the City Council hoardings that surround the old Murco Garage site in Between Towns Road.
The final artwork will be revealed on Friday 18 October.
Ending slavery in Oxfordshire
Oxford City Council has supported and lead on anti-slavery measures across the city for many years.
In 2016, the City Council supported Thames Valley Police in setting up Hotel Watch, which trains hoteliers in how to spot the signs of exploitation, including child sexual exploitation and modern slavery, and what to do if they believe something suspicious is happening on their premises.
Hotel Watch has brought together 65 hoteliers across the city, and established formal links between them, Thames Valley Police and the City Council to discuss issues and raise concerns.
Oxford City Council has also introduced mandatory safeguarding training for all taxi drivers that it licences to operate in Oxford, and worked with neighbouring districts to roll this training out to all taxi drivers across Oxfordshire.
“Slavery isn’t something that happens outside the UK; it is happening here in Oxfordshire. The ‘Modern Slavery is closer than you’ campaign aims to raise awareness of Modern Slavery and Exploitation across the world and we need to support this work in Oxfordshire. Surprising to many, the majority of identified victims of modern slavery and exploitation in Oxford, and across the UK, are UK nationals. Oxford City Council and partners are tackling this issue by identifying and offering support to victims. We welcome our partners’ to the Oxfordshire Anti-Slavery Network’s event on the 15th October where we will discuss “How can we ensure every potential victim is identified and given the opportunity to be safeguarded?”
Throughout the city and beyond people will be able to access information about, and spot the signs of, modern slavery and exploitation. There will be poster and social media campaigns, and Oxford City Council has commissioned a local street artist, Tommy Watkins, to illustrate ‘Modern Slavery is closer than you think’ in the Cowley area.
Working together with our partners across the county we aim to raise awareness of these horrendous crimes against the most vulnerable in our communities. By working together we can say ‘Yes’ we see you, let us help!’”
Cllr Nigel Chapman, Cabinet Member for Safer Communities and Customer Focused Services
“Many people may think slavery is an evil from a distant past, something outlawed centuries ago. Many may think that slavery only happens to faraway people in faraway places. But the truth is that modern-day slavery is happening right here, right now, and Elmore Community Services is helping to identify and support victims across Oxfordshire.
Slavery isn’t something so secret that it can’t be detected. Often it takes place in plain sight, with vulnerable people working excessively long shifts, obviously undernourished, perhaps in situations that just look wrong. Elmore wants this modern slavery roundtable to focus on how we can all stop slavery in its tracks and share our needs with the UK’s Anti-Slavery Commissioner.”
Tom Hayes, Chief Executive of Elmore Community Services and co-chair and CEO of the Oxfordshire Anti-Slavery Network
“Modern slavery is global crisis and still needs so much more attention brought to it to. Raising awareness is the key in combating this tragic crime and I hope my small contribution can play a part in this wider conversation. Being a part of such important work is an honour and I was very happy to be asked by the City Council to contribute.”
Tommy Watkins, Artist