How can we bring light to the darkness? How will we challenge the demand for goods and services provided by modern slavery? How can we lead on this issue and not follow the crowd? These were some of the difficult questions which Bishop Alastair Redfern, our chair, brought to the table in the first session of our third national networking day.
After his session, Caroline Virgo, our project officer, spoke about our last two years of activity. She reflected on how far we have come since our first national network event, how we have delivered on the challenges set before us at that day in 2017, and on some of the surprises that she has been confronted with in doing this work.
Justine Currell from the Modern Slavery Helpline then joined us to give a perspective on the current picture of modern slavery in the UK. In their annual report released a few weeks ago, the Modern Slavery Helpline named recruitment from places of worship as one of the key emerging trends they are seeing. She shared that in 2018 the Helpline dealt with 19 cases where the place of worship was the site of exploitation and eight where the place of worship was assisting the victim.
It was important to us to leave space for hearing from projects around the network. First up was Helen Styles, Training and Development Officer for the Diocese of Bristol’s Safeguarding team. She spoke about her role in helping to draw up our safeguarding resources, and how she will be bringing more depth to the modern slavery and safeguarding agenda, including by holding a training in Bristol on 5th June.
Revd Dr Dan Pratt from the Baptist Church then gave an overview of a collection of joint events we hosted last year in East Anglia, which are still bearing fruit through relationships and connections. Partnership working was the key theme, and he finished with a request to get in touch if anyone from around the network wanted to work with local Baptist partners.
Finally we heard from David Maggs, our project lead in the Diocese of Bath & Wells. He spoke about his experiences with Hidden Voices, our Church and Community Mobilisation course which he has so far used in three areas – Bridgwater, Minehead, and Bristol. It was inspiring to hear about the lessons he has already learnt, and how the work might develop locally.
Following the short presentations we asked each table to think about one particular topic area (which we had assigned) and answer several questions about what their approach would be. We will be reflecting on the notes from the discussions as we plan our next phase of work.
As we had named the event a ‘network day’, we felt it would be appropriate to give lots of space for discussion and interaction between our guests. We have a wide network, and there is varied and interesting work going on in many corners of it, so we gave half an hour after lunch to a time of structured networking. We mixed up the groups and provided them with a series of questions to reflect on and talk about together.
It was encouraging to see each group talking animatedly and forming new relationships. We hope and pray that those discussions planted seeds of new ideas and new ways of working, and that we will witness the growth of those seeds over the next few months!
Finally in our feedback forms we asked whether our participants would want to come again, if we continue to hold annual events. Encouragingly the answer was a resounding yes! Thank you to everyone who joined us, hopefully we will see you again next year.