Nearly 1,000 cases of potential modern slavery have been logged by the Clewer Initiative’s Safe Car Wash app, which was launched last June to help raise awareness of modern slavery in hand car washes.

The Safe Car Wash app is designed to be used by a driver going to get their car washed. At the hand car wash they can open the app, logging the location of the hand car wash. They will then be taken through a series of indicators of modern slavery, for example are the workers wearing protective clothing, and are there signs that they are living on site? When they finish the questions, the answers are sent to a database which can be accessed by law enforcement investigating modern slavery.

The results from June to December 2018 have been collated and analysed by the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab. The app was used over 2,000 times and their analysis has shown that in nearly half (48%) of reports, workers did not have access to suitable protective clothing such as gloves or boots, despite many hand car washes typically requiring their workers to use potentially harmful chemicals such as hydrochloric acid.

A large majority of responses, 80%, said that the car wash had a cash only policy. Nearly one in 10, or 8%, of reports logged that minors were working on site, and 17% of users identified fearful workers.

The app asked drivers to look out for nearby caravans, containers, mattresses and bedding as evidence of workers living on site. A total of 14% of reports indicate that users saw those signs as they reported that workers were living on the car wash site.

The app was launched in Lambeth Palace by the Bishop of Derby last year in conjunction with the Catholic Church.

Brian Madderson, chairman of the Car Wash Association (CWA) said: “Modern slavery and human trafficking are serious issues in the hand car wash (HCW) sector and so we warmly welcome the great efforts being made by the Church of England and the Catholic Church to help tackle it.

“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 into HCWs which acknowledged the sheer scale of the problem and the lack of enforcement of existing regulations that might help prevent it.”

He said the National Police Lead for England has estimated that there could be as many as 20,000 HCWs operating in the UK, with most unchecked by regulatory authorities for tax, environmental and employment abuses.

Madderson continued: “With such scant support from Government, it has fallen to the Church and civil society to step forward to meet this challenge. We urge everyone to report any HCWs they are concerned about by using this easy and effective app.”

The app is available for download for mobile on iOS from Apple’s App Store and for Android from Google Play.