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C of E anti-slavery app exposes dirty car washes

09 April 2019


AN APP designed to gather information on modern slavery in hand car-washes has been used to report more than 900 suspected incidents of slave-labour conditions over a five-month period.

The Safe Car Wash app was commissioned by the Church of England’s Clewer Initiative (News, 4 June 2018). It has been downloaded 8225 times since its launch last year.

The app allows users to provide information anonymously on working conditions at hand car-washes, where exploitation is prevalent. Between June and December 2018, there were 2271 completed entries using the app: 41 per cent (930) of these indicated a likelihood of slavery conditions.

The users who submitted these reports were asked to call the Modern Slavery Helpline, and their findings were shared with the police.

Analysis by the Rights Lab of the University of Nottingham, released on Sunday, suggested that nearly half the reports were prompted by seeing workers who did not have access to suitable protective clothing, such as gloves or boots, despite being required to handle potentially harmful chemicals such as hydrochloric acid.

Eighty per cent of respondents said that a car wash had a cash-only policy. Nearly one in ten stated that children were working on site; 17 per cent identified fearful-looking workers; and 14 per cent spotted caravans near by, containers, or mattresses, which suggested that workers were living on site.

The Clewer Initiative is a three-year project to help dioceses tackle modern slavery, in conjunction with the Santa Marta Group, the Roman Catholic Church’s anti-slavery project.

A former Bishop of Derby, Dr Alastair Redfern, who chairs the Clewer Initiative, said: “This research shows that the Safe Car Wash app has made an excellent start towards mapping the extent of labour exploitation in hand car-washes.

“Our conversations with colleagues from law enforcement suggest that the data from the app is providing another piece in the puzzle of how to combat this complex crime. We hope to continue to build on this progress.”

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