How a bus is helping to raise awareness of modern slavery in Lancashire

In the latest of our series of interviews with our diocesan project leads, we spoke to Rev Canon Ed Saville, the Social Responsibility Officer for the Diocese of Blackburn and the Director of Together Lancashire. Read on to hear all about how he is helping to raise awareness of modern slavery across the North West.

Hi Ed! It seems like a lot of the work you are doing on modern slavery is happening through the Pan-Lancashire Anti-Slavery partnership. Can you tell us how that came about?

Rev Brian Gregory (L) in Preston station

Rev Brian Gregory (L) in Preston station

We’ve got a retired cleric in the area called Brian Gregory, who set up a charity some years ago working with Romanians. He had come across Romanian people being shipped over here to be exploited. Brian came to see me about it a long time ago, so we were already aware of modern slavery.

Then Lancashire Police decided to set up their Anti-Slavery partnership, and they got Sion Hall, who is a retired DI, to front it. Sion, Brian and I started to develop the faith element of the partnership. We decided we needed a few different sub-groups, including one for training. I had already done The Clewer Initiative modern slavery training at that point, so I went along and said we could handle the voluntary groups.

How has the training developed since then?

I handle all the non-statutory training, using The Clewer Initiative’s materials, and alongside that Lancashire County Council, with the Unitary authorities, have developed statutory training. The first is a one hour lunchtime awareness session for statutory agencies. The idea was we would get one person from each organisation and they would go back and train their colleagues.

There is also a longer one which is half a day, although we have had some feedback that it is too short. But then a full day would be too long! So we’re going to look at that one again.

Bishop of Blackburn (L) and Rev Canon Ed Saville (R) promote the Safe Car Wash App

Bishop of Blackburn (L) and Rev Canon Ed Saville (R) promote the Safe Car Wash App

How are you getting the word out more widely about modern slavery in the area?

Well in October, we started running awareness raising events with a bus. We have had it plastered with all our anti-slavery materials and giving the helpline number. The bus was parked outside the Cathedral and then toured the town. When we ran an awareness day in Blackburn we had several stalls alongside it, and Blackburn council put information on the big screen they have in the town centre too. We also had a Slavery Experience provided by a member of the Roman Catholic Church, which invites people to walk through the experience of being exploited. That was on the Saturday, and the following day we had a service in the cathedral.

We replicated that at the Christmas light switch on in Preston. We had stalls in Preston station and two or three other venues where there was a high footfall. Preston were playing Blackburn at Preston North End football club, so we took the bus down to the ground to catch people there too.

How do people react to the awareness raising? Are they surprised?

The Freedom Bus is a school bus most of the time

The Freedom Bus is a school bus most of the time

It’s quite interesting, some will just walk past and say it’s got nothing to do with them, they’re too busy. Others will actually stand and engage.

The advantage of the bus is most of the time it’s used as a school bus. So it travels all over Lancashire with the signs of modern slavery and the helpline number plastered on the side of it.

When we ran it in Blackburn we drove round the areas where we thought it was likely that modern slavery might be happening. Then if potential victims saw it, and they could make a phone call, they would know who to contact. Anyone can call the helpline, to raise a concern, or to ask for help.

What are you hoping will be the next phase of the work?

What we’re talking of doing is taking the bus up to Blackpool and to Lancaster, and to the major towns. But there are a lot of places that are small, where we’re concerned there could be a lot going on, especially in the more rural areas. It would be great to get more activity in the parishes.

We have recently published our first newsletter with a report of what we have been up to so far, as a way to share what’s happening and encourage people to join in! Find the newsletter here.

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