Working together to tackle Modern Slavery

As part of the East Midlands Police and Crime Research and Development Plan (EMPCRD see:  http://www.empac.org.uk/east-midlands-police-crime-research-development/), there is groundbreaking work taking place to tackle modern day slavery. Hosted at the University of Nottingham’s ‘Rights Lab’, police, partner representatives and universities from across the region, and beyond, are coming together to align public need to research commissioning. As with other EMPCRD thematic research worksteams – of which there are over a dozen – the joint approach operates to deliver better public service delivery in policing by drawing on world class research. This joint working is based on a win / win between law enforcement and academia – better for public service delivery but also a high return on research impact and application (contributing towards the Research Excellence Framework), through extensive knowledge exchange (which contributes to the Knowledge Exchange Framework) and even to the growing field of policing researcher practitioner teaching (which contributes to the Teaching Excellence Framework).

This particular workstream, on modern slavery, has brought together a myriad of different academic disciplines, across multiple universities, to coordinate effort in tune with the national strategic plan to combat slavery. A national task force, chaired by the Prime Minister links to a National Police Chief’s portfolio, led by Chief Constable Shawn Sawyer, and in turn regional leads – which for the East Midlands is Deputy Chief Constable Chris Haward.

Importantly, also directly involved in the EMPAC group are the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), who hold a wide remit that focuses on  labour abuse and protecting workers rights, and that in some cases can mean modern day slavery. The GLAA was created in 2005 after the tragic events of drowned cockle pickers at Morecembe Bay, Lancashire, on February 25th 2004. The current Chief Executive, Roger Bannister explains, “The GLAA is a small organisation with a huge remit nationally within an international context. We have, in many ways, to punch well above our weight. To do that we need the very best, targeted research to help inform what and how we do things. I am committed to working in partnerships such as EMPAC, to bring together a really joined up approach to a pressing national and international issue, particularly in innovating approaches in the prevention of modern day slavery.”

The EMPAC group is chaired by Detective Inspector Harry Dick, who works as a regional coordinator as part of the Police Transformation Fund, based at the East Midlands Special Operations Unit. Harry’s role is to help coordinate joint effort to support the regional lead (DCC Haward) in making the region a beacon of excellence in preventing and supporting more victims of modern slavery and bringing more offenders to justice. DCC Haward said, “The East Midlands carefully priorities policing and partnership working to address risk, threat and harm in the most efficient and effective way to protect the public. Modern slavery is a high priority for us and we are working hard to align everyone’s effort to protect vulnerable victims and bring offenders to justice. For us, that includes the important work of Detective Inspector Harry Dick in coordinating research to ensure it’s targeted on the important issues. It’s vital that research is targeted and of high impact to help us in our fight against modern slavery.”

The research needs around modern slavery are huge and diverse. Professor Dave Walsh of De Montfort University, for example, has been leading on work to alert business to the signs of modern slavery and what businesses need to do to ensure their duties are met. Professor Walsh said Home Office statistics suggested thousands of people are being exploited in the UK but many small businesses were still largely unaware of the issue. The Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply indicate 61% of small businesses are unaware of the Modern Slavery Act, with 67% having done nothing to ensure their business was compliant with the law.

Assistant Professor Alison Gardner from the Rights Lab said, “We are fortunate to have here a world class research beacon, where we can bring academics together with our partner colleagues, all rooted in the operational context of professional practice, by working closely with the GLAA and policing, to ensure what we focus on is not only grounded in theoretical credibility but is of high impact – that means making a positive difference to peoples’ lives”.

So what of next steps? The next regional meeting, chaired by Detective Inspector Harry Dick is 21st November 2018 – see the EMPCRD plan link above for more information EMPCRD Plan Sept 2018. There is a current drive to find ways of enabling more doctoral researchers to address the priority operational needs and to inform prevention – to effectively put modern slavery back in the history books!

To find out more about this workstream and others contact: john.coxhead@empac.org.uk. To see more about the beacon for modern slavery see: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/news/pressreleases/2018/april/using-research-to-end-modern-slavery.aspx. To see more about the GLAA see: http://www.gla.govuk/who-we-are/modern-slavery/

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