The government’s response to modern slavery in the UK has been woefully lacklustre, despite a recent hard-hitting investigation by Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) into hand car washes (HCWs) which acknowledged the sheer scale of the problem and the lack of enforcement of existing regulations that might help prevent it. The National Police Lead for England has estimated that as many as 20,000 HCWs might be operating in the UK, with most unchecked by regulatory authorities for tax, environmental and employment abuses.
The EAC’s report was followed in May by the Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, presented to Parliament by the Home Secretary. The world-leading Modern Slavery Act, introduced to tackle this scourge, has set an example for other countries by giving law enforcement agencies the tools to tackle modern slavery offences, including a maximum life sentence for perpetrators and enhanced protection for victims. But there are still sadly too few convictions being handed down for the new offences prosecuted under the Act.
An important addition to these measures has been created by The Clewer Initiative, the anti-slavery arm of the Church of England, which seeks to address the severe deficiencies in how data is collected.
A ’Safecarwash’ app was launched last year in conjunction with the Catholic Church, which by geo-locating car washes enables more than 13,000 current users to report the location and any concerns about potential modern slavery at specific HCWs across the country.
Furthermore, the publication of the University of Nottingham’s report on the ’Safecarwash’ app in April prompted media stories on the day across the BBC networks and in The Times.
A further 4,500 users have since downloaded the app, and another 1,963 reports have been filed in the seven weeks since then, providing valuable leads for the regulatory authorities.
Readers are encouraged to download the Safecarwash app and report any non-compliant HCWs.