Modern slavery is hidden in plain sight on our high streets. The National Crime Agency thinks there are tens of thousands of people being exploited in the UK, forced to work long hours, for little or no pay, and under threat of violence.

Some of those people are being exploited in hand car washes, which in recent years have sprung up across the country in their thousands. Many of those hand car washes are legitimate businesses, but some of them are not. Police raids in hand car washes in towns and cities up and down the country have unearthed victims living in horrendous conditions.

the problem

Although law enforcement and the government are clear that this problem exists, there is no reliable data on just how widespread it is. This lack of information means that victims could be falling through the net, becoming more enmeshed in the cycle of exploitation.

We have spoken to the police, the National Crime Agency and the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority about how the church can help them solve this and bring these hidden victims into the light.


The Safe Car Wash app has been developed to allow the general public to engage with the problem, it is a new tool that will enable the largest community intelligence gathering exercise ever attempted in the United Kingdom.

Download the free app onto your smartphone and then when you are using a hand car wash, simply open the app and complete a short survey about the working conditions of the car wash.

The Experience

The app will ask a series of questions related to the indicators of modern slavery and if there is a high likelihood that modern slavery is occurring in the hand car wash, you will be asked to report your concerns to the Modern Slavery Helpline.

The data

The data the app collects will be anonymised and shared with the National Crime Agency and the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority, two law enforcement agencies who are leading on efforts to stamp out modern slavery across the UK.


It’s tempting to ignore this problem, leave it to the police to deal with. But the reality is we are talking about real people who are trapped in exploitation, perhaps living under the threat of violence, with nowhere to turn. We cannot be indifferent to the suffering around us, in our own communities, and as the Church we cannot turn away from our neighbour who may be in need. Instead we must turn to them and say ‘we see you’. That’s why we need you to help make sure hand car washes in England are safe for everyone.

How can I get involved?

There is a network of events going on around the country throughout the summer to make sure as many people know about the app as possible.

Why not talk to your church or community about whether you could host an event to promote the campaign? For example you could host a community car wash to raise awareness of the issue or dedicate your church service to learning about modern slavery. We've designed a series of free resources to help get you started.




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The Safe Car Wash app will help to engage the public in identifying car washes where slavery is suspected, and will also help law enforcement identify those people who may be at risk.
— Will Kerr, National Crime Agency
The Safe Car Wash App is a great way of utilising the technology available.
— Roger Bannister, Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority
This citizen engagement in data collection is a powerful technique with potential for mapping other vulnerable services
— Zoe Trodd, Rights Lab