Oxford City Council and Elmore Community Services convene summit on behalf of Oxfordshire Anti-Slavery Network to prevent modern slavery

Published: Tuesday, 22nd March 2022

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 chaired a round table.

Discussion centred on considering the findings and recommendations of a ground-breaking report into the extent and nature of modern slavery in the city.

During the private event on Tuesday 22 March at Said Business School, Oxford, the story of a survivor of modern slavery in the county was shared with attendees. This covered their journey of being identified as a victim, how they accessed support and how services can improve their response to victims and survivors.

Dame Sara Thornton, the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, addressed the summit and The Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom between 2016 and 2019, who oversaw the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 to tackle slavery and trafficking, spoke to delegates by video message.

The summit considered the ground-breaking new report, Researching the extent and nature of modern slavery in Oxford, commissioned by Oxford City Council and delivered by Elmore, into the true extent and nature of modern slavery in Oxford.

The report brought together data from partners across the public and third sector that respond to the issue, and the analysis revealed modern slavery in Oxford may be 200% higher than the level of cases reported to the police.

The summit included representatives of Thames Valley Police, Oxfordshire County Council, Thames Valley Partnership, Oxford Heath NHS Foundation Trust, and the University of Oxford.

The round table was chaired by Tom Hayes, Chief Executive of Elmore and Nicola Bell, the City Council’s first Anti-Slavery Coordinator, both co-chairs of the Oxfordshire Anti-Slavery Network.

The summit is accompanied by the launch of multi-lingual booklets for use by first responders for survivors of modern slavery at the point of identification in Oxfordshire. The booklets were produced by the West Midlands Anti-Slavery Network which has allowed its replication across Oxfordshire.

The first booklet explains the National Reference Mechanism, a system for identifying, supporting, and referring, potential victims of modern slavery, in Polish, Roma, Chinese, Vietnamese, Albanian, English, Slovak, Latvian, Romanian, Lithuanian, and Bulgarian languages.

The second booklet seeks to increase engagement with survivors of modern slavery from Albanian and Vietnamese communities, and support them better, by improving cultural knowledge among frontline practitioners. The booklet focuses on Vietnamese and Albanian culture, because research by Elmore has shown that there may have been 319 and 442 cases of modern slavery in Oxford between 2016 and 2020.

The predominant nationalities of potential victims were, British at 43% (146 cases), Albanians at 16% (54 cases) and then Vietnamese at 6% (21 cases). This is a close reflection of the national situation in 2019 as measured by the number of referrals to the NRM where the most common nationalities of potential victims were British 27%, Albanian 16% and Vietnamese 8%.

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Co-chairs of the Oxfordshire Anti-Slavery Network, Oxford City Council’s Anti-Slavery Coordinator Nicola Bell and Elmore Community Services Chief Executive Tom Hayes, said:

“Modern slavery is happening right here, right now in the city and wider county, and this summit has been an important step forward in the fight against this heinous form of exploitation.

“By bringing together senior figures in locally important organisations, we have been able to think through how we take forward the recommendations and findings of the Elmore report.

“Through hearing a survivor’s personal story, every member of the audience is now better able to understand the importance of taking the fight against modern slavery to the next level.

“This will happen within their organisations and through the Oxfordshire Anti-Slavery Network, which will be implementing the findings and recommendations of research by Elmore Community Services, commissioned by Oxford City Council, which shows that modern slavery in Oxford may be 200% higher than previously thought.”

Dame Sara Thornton, the UK's Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, said:

“I am pleased to join the Oxfordshire Anti-Slavery Network to discuss the scale and nature of modern slavery across the county, and the development of an action plan to take forward the recommendations made in Elmore Community Services’ recent report.

“It is encouraging to see well placed local partnerships, supported by the recently appointed Anti-Slavery Co-ordinator for Oxfordshire, taking a multi-agency approach to tackling this appalling and often hidden crime.”

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Prime Minister from 2016 to 2020, said:

“We know that reported modern slavery figures are the tip of the iceberg, which is why I welcome the work being done by Elmore and the other guests and contributors to strengthen the support for victims of modern slavery.

"I commend the challenging work being done by statutory and third sector organisations in Oxford and across the country, protecting those at risk of modern slavery and supporting survivors.”

Anneliese Dodds, MP for Oxford East, said:

“I am very concerned by new research from Elmore Community Services which shows that slavery may be happening here in Oxford in far greater numbers than we thought.

“We must stamp out modern slavery in Oxford and across the country, and I am pleased to have co-hosted this summit by the Oxfordshire Anti-Slavery Network to discuss how we can work together on this crucial issue.”

Matthew Barber, Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, said:

“We know there are likely to be more victims of modern slavery in Oxford than previously believed following the publication of ground-breaking new research by Elmore Community Services. Indeed, between 2016 and 2020 there may have been as many as 1.5 to 2 times the number of victims than previously thought. 

“It was an honour to co-host this important summit alongside Anneliese Dodds MP and hear from the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. It is important that we continue to raise awareness of the issue to identify victims and effectively tackle this awful crime. There are many misconceptions about modern slavery. Anyone can be a victim and as the evidence has shown in this report, many victims are actually from the UK. 

“It is crucial that the public are aware of what modern slavery is and to be able to spot the signs and I would encourage anyone who suspects that modern slavery is happening to report it to the police or the modern slavery helpline. 

“The commissioning and funding of services to support victims of modern slavery continues to be a priority for me and my office. Victims in the Thames Valley can access support by visiting www.victims-first.org.uk or nationally by calling the National Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.” 

Ending slavery in Oxfordshire

Oxford City Council has supported and led on anti-slavery measures across the city for many years.

The Council has recently appointed Nicola Bell as its first Anti-Slavery Coordinator to manage ‘disruption’ activities in Oxford and across the county, coordinating campaigns, victim support, and multi-agency operations and taking forward the recommendations from the report in partnership.

Ms Bell will co-chair the Oxfordshire Anti-Slavery Network alongside Elmore’s Chief Executive Tom Hayes, and work with local communities to gain insight and develop interventions to address modern slavery.

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.

The research

The Researching the extent and nature of modern slavery in Oxford report was commissioned by Oxford City Council. It was funded by the Controlling Migration Fund of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for the initial 15 months of research, and by Oxford City Council for a six month project extension.

Elmore Community Services was commissioned to carry out the research on the basis of its expertise in supporting survivors of modern slavery.

Read the report: