University supports local business to tackle modern slavery

News Page 24th September 2019

It is estimated that there are tens of thousands of victims of modern slavery in the UK. Sadly, modern slavery is a growing issue and we know it is happening in Northamptonshire. Businesses from across the county recently came together to debate the issue at a specialist workshop run in partnership by the University of Northampton Industry Led Forum, ACS Recruitment and the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner. The clear message from local business, they won’t tolerate the exploitation of vulnerable people.

Modern Slavery is where someone is held in position of slavery, servitude forced or compulsory labour, or trafficking through facilitating their travel with the intention of exploiting them.

Paul Fell, Director of Delivery for the Office of the Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner said: “It is hard to believe that people are being trafficked and made to work for others as modern-day slaves in this county – but they are, Northamptonshire Police and the Commissioner’s office is committed to raising awareness of this dreadful crime with our business community, and working together we can help to prevent and disrupt the activities of the criminal gangs involved.”

Jessica Ritchie, Lecturer in Criminology & Criminal Justice Studies, who attended the event said: “There are a number of indicators which recruiters and employers can watch to help identity protentional victims. Often victims have only recently arrived in the UK, and are struggling with language barriers – typically these potential victims may have a third party ‘assisting’ them with completion of forms for work, or someone else providing their identity documents, or you’ll find your HR functions is provided with document which might not match their identification/listed age.

“Victims may not know police can assist them and may and not know their employment rights. Recruiters and employers need to take a proactive role in assisting people with understanding their employment contract, terms and conditions, and rights to help in the potential identification of victims. It is important to keep in mind that victims can be any age, gender, nationality, ethnicity and may be subject to more than one form of slavery or exploitation – and they cannot consent to be a victim of slavery, exploitation, or trafficking.”

Charlotte Patrick, Key Sector and Knowledge Transfer Manager at the University of Northampton’s Research and Innovation Funding Support team, who organised the event said: “The Northamptonshire Business Community is very active and the Forums hosted by the University are a great place to tap into sector knowledge and best practice, it’s also a place where business can creatively problem solve together.

“Joining together with Northamptonshire Police and ACS Recruitment to help businesses understand modern slavery, and how best they can use their business practices to help identify people at risk and support police to tackle such practices was a valuable exercise, one which our Forum members were pleased to have had the opportunity to take part in. The University and the Forum members are committed to making our country an inhospitable place for criminals who think they can take advantage of vulnerable people.”

If you’re concerned that someone might be being exploited, assistance can be obtained for employers, victims, the public through the Modern Slavery Helpline: 0800 121 700 or by calling Crimestoppers: 0800 555 111.

The Northamptonshire Industry Led Forums, which are powered by the University of Northampton’s Research and Innovation Funding Support team, brings together Northamptonshire business to debate and share best practice when it comes to doing business, and doing it well. If you’re a business based in Northamptonshire, and are interested in ways to and protect against emerging crime trends, then register for the upcoming CyberCrime event on 18 October.

For more details of the Forum, how to join or future events, please email charlotte.patrick@northampton.ac.uk

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