According to official numbers, there are around 10,000 people in slavery in the UK. Though the real number is likely to be much higher.

As a business we’re already recognised as leading the fight against slavery in our own supply chains, and earlier this year Co-op members voted at our AGM for us to campaign for a better future for victims of modern slavery. Part of this campaign is our ground-breaking ‘Bright Future’ programme, which helps survivors of modern slavery get back on their feet – through support and a pathway to paid employment.

Our Co-op is determined to fight against slavery on all fronts. So last week I went to Westminster Hall to take part in the first Advisory Board for Baroness Hornsey’s initiatives to strengthen the Modern Slavery Act.

From there I rushed off to West London to visit a home for trafficked women who’ve been rescued. I had a remarkable afternoon speaking to the women who run the house, and some of the 15 people who live there. What struck me most about the home was the sense of peace, which given the trauma the residents there have been through, is amazing. We discussed how the Co-op could help through fundraising and support to find work.

It was then back to Westminster and the House of Lords, where with Frank Field MP and the Human Trafficking Foundation I helped brief peers on the importance of Lord McColl’s Private Members Bill to extend support for modern slavery victims from 45 days to one year. For us to hold any claim to being a civilised society, this Bill really has to be passed.

By the time I got home I’d been working for 19  hours, but it didn’t matter because it was one of those days where I could look in the mirror and think “well done, you did something good today”.

Since then, Lord McColl’s bill has passed a second reading – the next stage in its progress through Parliament – bringing better victim support a step closer. Our Co-op was held up in the debate as “a shining example of what responsible businesses can do” which should make us all proud.

Paul Gerrard
Group Campaigns Director

Join the conversation! 11 Comments

  1. Thanks for your feedback, Anthony. ^Sophie

  2. I was pleased to learn about “Bright Future”, when I was asked to key two of the first of these “slavery victims” as new starters with the Co-op. All power to the Co-op for helping these unfortunate people, and if this is part of a solution to stopping this vile trade, then I don’t mind if my future pay-rises are a little smaller/delayed.

  3. Great idea but how about supporting all your loyal staff and giving everybody a pay rise over, or inline, with inflation?

    • Our ‘Bright Future’ programme helps survivors of modern slavery to get back on their feet. This has no impact on our colleagues pay but helping those that have gone without for too long. ^Sophie

      • I didn’t say it did – but when most staff have had a real-terms pay-cut, the term charity begins at home rings true. I still think the concept helping those affected is great, I think you missed my point.

  4. This is shocking – there’s a direct connection between the need for this Private Members Bill to extend support for modern slavery victims from 45 days to one year and the actions of people like the Daily Mail and the The Sun in creating a hostile climate for refugees and immigrants.

    For us to hold any claim to being a civilised society, this Bill really has to be passed and we really can’t hold our heads up high if we continue to fund such newspapers. #stopfundinghate

    Great work by Paul on behalf of the victims and kudos to the Co-op for letting him do it.

    • I totally agree, and abhore any “selfish” comments on this topic.

    • got say – I don’t like this comment, not sure what is being said or the motivation, but it feels to me its using a horrendous practice to make a tenuously linked political comment for a personal agenda (its not the first comment on the Comment boards that comments about the Sun & Mail and the Coop supporting them)

      anyway my understanding is…

      The Coop sells the mail and the Sun & I buy/read the Mail

      my inference, you are saying that means we (which includes me for buying the paper) are funding hate – a bit of statement to say the least.

      In order to educate me – Can you share your evidence that supports the claim that “there’s a direct connection between the need for this Private Members Bill to extend support for modern slavery victims from 45 days to one year and the actions of people like the Daily Mail and the The Sun in creating a hostile climate for refugees and immigrants”

      I can then consider the evidence and see if my choice of read is appropriate or not.

      Disclaimer – my views and not representative of the Coop, hopefully I’ve made my comments in a respectful manner

  5. Well done indeed, you definitely did something good. A very worthwhile effort.

  6. GREAT NEWS in this modern day trafficking of human beings makes me sick well done co-op.

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Co-operative movement, Community