The Diocese of Blackburn covers most of Lancashire, including Morecambe Bay, where the Cockle Picker tragedy occurred in 2004. On 5th February 21 people lost their lives on the sands of Morecambe Bay, as the tide rushed in and they were stranded.
The tragedy ushered in a new wave of understanding in the UK as the authorities began to realise how many workers were being exploited below the surface of the UK labour market. In time, this led to the founding of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (now the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority).
The Diocese of Blackburn are founding members of the Pan-Lancashire Anti-Slavery Partnership, supporting training and awareness raising initiatives – including a Freedom Bus. Their hope for the diocese is to encourage parishes to get involved in raising awareness and identifying the victims.
Service in the Cathedral as part of the Northern Prayer House (Together Lancashire initiative) based on setting people free
Awareness raising amongst the homeless with local police
Launch of the Pan-Lancashire Anti-Slavery Partnership, to create opportunities for partnership working
Multi Agency table top exercise aimed at identifying gaps in service with the Anti-Slavery Partnership
Awareness raising event in Blackburn with the Pan-Lancashire Anti-Slavery Partnership
Awareness raising event in Preston with the Pan-Lancashire Anti-Slavery Partnership
driven by partnership
The Pan-Lancashire Anti-Slavery Partnership contains a huge amount of statutory agencies, faith groups, charities and law enforcement bodies. They are divided into subgroups on Training, Policies and Procedures, Faith, Victim Support and Publicity. They aim to work collectively and in harmony, and towards action. They develop materials and protocols, including safeguarding guidance, and they seek to spread a consistent message across the county.
The partnership has developed statutory training, using a lunch and learn model, and encouraging one person from each agency to come and the report back to their department. This sits alongside a longer in-depth training, which gives trainees more detail about modern slavery. All of the training has been contextualised for Lancashire. They use The Clewer Initiative training for the voluntary sector.
Diocesan Vision Prayer
we embrace Your call for us to make disciples, to be witnesses and to grow leaders.
Give us eyes to see Your vision, ears to hear the prompting of Your Spirit and courage to follow in the footsteps of your Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Tackling the issues
According to police intelligence, the biggest areas of trafficking in Lancashire (which the Diocese of Blackburn covers almost all of) are sexual exploitation, forced labour and cannabis factories. The partnership shares widely what the signs are to look out for, and has recently started a regular newsletter to keep people up to date with what is going on, and encourage them to join in. They are reaping dividends as numbers of people reporting are on the up.