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.
Group Campaigns Director