At The Clewer Initiative we are firm believers that we can only end modern slavery by working together. So it’s a good job that our project lead in the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham is all about partnership – it’s even in his job title!
We caught up with Revd Liam O'Boyle, the Diocesan Partnerships Officer with a brief especially around tackling poverty and homelessness, to see what he has been doing in the diocese so far.
So what have you been up to in Nottingham?
I’m involved in two different things: across the city centre there’s an Anti-Slavery Partnership which is a strategic thing. But also we’ve got a modern slavery forum which is frontline charities and outreach centres - about what is happening on the ground. Those two things seem to work nicely together.
On Anti-Slavery Day in October we made a pledge to make the city and county a slavery free community. We had a follow up meeting after the workshop, where we asked questions about how do we get this wider, and make something more of it. So there’s different seeds being sown, and we’re seeing how they develop, how they grow.
We also recently put on a faith and freedom workshop, where we got different faith communities and social justice projects - foodbanks, night shelters - together, just to explore, with a lot of Clewer resources, what modern slavery is and how we come into contact with it. Because there’s a possibility we’ve come into contact with it but not realised it.
Did you get a sense of people’s preconceptions about slavery from that event?
It was interesting actually. There was one comment around not actually doing anything, about our hesitancy about reporting something. But this might be the only opportunity a victim has got of getting out of that situation, and we miss it at our peril. I think general awareness raising is important, because faith communities are in all neighbourhoods, especially the Church of England. It’s incumbent upon us to make sure we can recognise the signs and do something about it.
Do you know what kinds of modern slavery are going on in Nottingham?
There’s been quite a few headlines recently of different forms emerging. The most recent prosecution has been when someone was keeping an Eastern European migrant in an attic. He was using him for all sorts of work. And then we have had a case where in one area of Nottingham there was a house that had a scruffy caravan on the driveway. There was a police raid and there were five Eastern European migrants living in it who were victims of modern slavery.
The interesting thing is when the police did the house to house afterwards, asking local residents what they had seen, it showed a culture of indifference. The police officer asked one house ‘well did you not think anything was strange?’ And the lady said, ‘well they’re Poles aren’t they? It’s nothing to do with us’. So the policeman challenged her and said ‘what would you have done if there was an animal in that state?’ and she said ‘well I would have called you or the RSPCA.’ So you’ve got those kind of attitudes.
What else do you do as well as your modern slavery work?
As part of my role as Diocesan Partnerships Officer with the poverty and homelessness brief I set up and facilitate something called FAN (Faith Action Nottingham). It’s a network/forum made up of over 20 Christian projects, including Nottingham Winter Shelter which I have a hands on role with.
My diocesan role means that I’m a Faith Advocate on different policy and implementation groups with local authority, health, and charity sector partners in housing and homelessness and in a multi-agency refugee and asylum seeker forum. I’m also the Diocese’s Near Neighbours Link Officer and I support Nottingham’s Faith Leaders network.
On top of that I work for a football club in the city, a day and a half a week I’m a chaplain at Notts County. And then I’m an associate minister. We’re just coming out of an interregnum, which I’m happy about!
Do you have a personal passion for football?
Yeah I used to play, and then I had to give up when I was 21. I mean it just made sense when I was asked to do [the chaplaincy]. It joined different dots together, so I was able to combine faith and football which is just a God-send really. I enjoy it!
I’m there for non-playing staff as well as playing staff, and anyone associated with the club, directors, supporters. It leads to lots of interesting stuff. We managed to support a football refugee project with Football in the Community which is going from strength to strength. The football club were very keen to do something, and as part of my brief for the Diocese I’m involved in a multi-agency forum that works with all the different charities and local authorities in terms of numbers of refugees and asylum seekers coming in. And I’m also linked in with a frontline project in the city. So it was a case of making those links with people, and encouraging stuff to come out of that.
What’s the aim of the project?
Well if you’re a refugee or an asylum seeker, you can’t work. And there’s lots of young men not allowed to do anything, sitting at home, who have got different issues and traumas that they’re dealing with. Exercise and well-being is all part of a holistic approach to support, and it helps with socialisation. We’ve introduced conversational English into the sessions as well. I think the different charities in the city recognise the need and support it, but the main thing is the guests really enjoy it and get a lot out of it.
QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS
Coffee or tea? I like both!
Cat or dog? That’s an interesting one. We’ve got a cat and we’re about to get a puppy so I will let you know.
What did you want to be when you grew up? A footballer. I love football so I will go see live football wherever.
Dream holiday destination? Italy or Ireland. Maybe Ireland with Italian weather.
We'll be sharing more from the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham as their work develops, but in the meantime you can see which other dioceses are involved in our work on our Dioceses page.