Modern slavery strategy to help council root out criminals

New five-year strategy agreed by councillors amid rising number of modern slavery cases, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

A woman stands by a window
credit Diego San via Unsplash

Councillors in Enfield are calling for a crackdown on modern slavery following the publication of a new strategy.

Enfield Council is aiming to eradicate modern slavery in the borough, where transport links are being used to aid county lines and criminal exploitation taking place across London.

The civic centre’s new five-year modern slavery strategy provides information on its main types, what the council aims to do, who has been affected and what can be done to put a stop to the crime. It sets out plans to raise awareness of the issue, work with partners to stop exploitation, enhance information sharing and provide support for survivors.

According to a council report, there were 106 referrals made to the borough’s modern slavery team in the twelve months between 1st April 2021 and 31st March 2022. The strategy itself reveals the council referred 68 potential victims to the Home Office during this period.

The new strategy was presented to a meeting of the full council on Wednesday (25th). Alev Cazimoglu, cabinet member for health and social care, said it was “ambitious” and set out a “vision of partnership-working with our police colleagues to help tackle this horrendous crime”.

While both Labour and the Conservatives broadly welcomed the strategy and praised the work of the modern slavery team, some councillors called for improvements.

Conservative Andrew Milne said he thought it would be useful if the strategy stated that any of the council’s contractors or subcontractors found using modern slavery “should never, ever, ever work for this authority again”. He added that the handling of cases by separate adults’ and children’s services teams meant there was a risk of some victims “falling through the gaps”.

Cllr Milne said the number of modern slavery cases seemed to be increasing, which could be explained by a rising awareness of the issue. He called for “clear metrics” on how the modern slavery team was performing.

His Conservative colleague Andrew Thorp also called for a further report detailing “specific measurables” and “actions and performance measures to go along with the strategy”. He said the data in the strategy was “limited”, making it difficult to spot trends.

There were also calls to ensure more perpetrators of modern slavery are brought to justice and to provide information on how many prosecutions had been made by the police.

Council leader Nesil Caliskan said the council’s “award-winning” modern slavery team had provided a “blueprint for how tackling modern slavery should work”. Acknowledging there was still a problem to address, the leader said prosecutions were “very, very low” – partly because modern slavery is a “complicated picture” that requires “long-term commitment from a number of different agencies”.

The leader defended the strategy and said there were other committees that would “interrogate the effectiveness of our approach”. She added that there was also a need for more funding to tackle modern slavery.

Cllr Cazimoglu said the council had signed up to an anti-slavery charter and ensured it “followed through” with suppliers and subcontractors. Although the prosecutions and outcomes were a “police matter”, she added that the council could look at presenting those statistics.

Both Labour and Conservative councillors voted unanimously to approve the new strategy.

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