Human trafficking is happening in Calderdale and awareness is the key to helping prevent it, councillors heard.
It was often a crime hiding in plain sight, members of Calderdale Council’s Place Scrutiny Board were told, with nail bars and car washes the types of businesses which were particularly of concern.
Councillors heard tackling modern slavery was intelligence-led and using a multi-agency approach with which the council would work with organisations ranging from the Border Agency to the police.
Although the problem was not as serious as in Bradford or Leeds, for example, it was present and the more intelligence which could be gathered on potential cases the better, they were told by three anti-trafficking officers and campaigners who spoke to them.
Calderdale is preparing a Modern Slavery and Anti-Trafficking policy following a request from full council to do so last year, with the scrutiny board adding its input.
Councillors back then heard that nationally to the UK the economic and social costs to the country of the very human tragedy were around £4.3 billion a year.
The briefing paper to councillors on the board said Modern Day Slavery is almost certainly under-reported in Calderdale, taking into account national figures, population changes and business types emerging.
In the last quarter of 2018 – between October and December – the council made two reports to the National Referral Mechanism, both cases involving minors.
Vulnerable people from Vietnam and Albania were particularly at risk of trafficking currently.
Staff received regular safeguarding training, the board heard, with front line staff, professionals, Customer First staff and social workers all included.
Councillors themselves had a role to play as they too often came into contact with the public and by learning to recognise signs trafficking or exploitation might be taking place could help provide intelligence to the authorities so they could act – awareness was the key.
In a lot of cases exploitation was certainly an issue but people were not always victims of modern slavery, there was a difference.
Board chair Coun Steven Leigh (Con, Ryburn) said the issue was one which resonated with all councillors.
Coun Roger Taylor (Con, Northowram and Shelf) and Coun Helen Rivron (Lab, Ovenden) asked what councillors and the public could do and the guidance given was to know what the signs of trafficking and modern slavery were and share these with friends, constituents and political groups so more and more people would share the knowledge.
Coun Leigh summarised recommendations the board will make to Cabinet as including member training and the need to raise awareness of the issue throughout the borough.
The developing policy sets out Calderdale’s actions to understand all potential modern slavery risks related to its business and put in place steps to ensure there is no slavery or human trafficking in its own businesses and supply chains.