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Strong support for new Farm Work Welfare App

by Michael Ford last modified 17 Jul, 2020 05:02 PM

Bishop Nicholas has welcomed a new phone app designed to help tackle labour exploitation and modern slavery in the farming, horticulture and food production sectors that is being launched by the Church of England’s modern slavery initiative.

Speaking as the app was launched, he said:

“I am adding my support to this new Farm Work Welfare App to go alongside the Safe Car Wash App that was launched in 2018.

“Casual and migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to modern day slavery. As large parts of the Diocese of Salisbury are rural, I want us to be vigilant neighbours and to encourage the use of this app.

“Our Mother's Union has been working closely with the Clewer Initiative highlighting all forms of modern slavery and this app will make it much easier to report any exploitation among the workers who come every year to help with the harvest on our farms.

“We all have a part to play in tackling this issue, so it very important that we find ways to highlight what modern slavery can look like.”

The Farm Work Welfare App has been developed by the Clewer Initiative, who work to help the Church of England's 42 dioceses support victims of modern slavery and identify the signs of exploitation in their local communities.

Bishop Nicholas also pointed out the strong links this Diocese has with the Initiative:

“The Clewer Initiative is chaired by Bishop Alastair Redfern who is now an Assistant Bishop in this Diocese and chairs the Council of Sarum College.” he said.

Speaking about the Farm Work Welfare App, Bishop Alastair said:

“Victims of modern slavery are often kept by highly-organised, ruthless criminal gangs in remote locations. These gangs pose as legitimate labour providers offering a ready supply of workers to farmers and growers who may not always spot the signs of exploitation.

“That is why we have developed this app - we want to provide a resource for both farm businesses and workers to help them navigate the challenges of seasonal worker recruitment and thwart the criminal networks.

“The app is easy to use and will help farmers and growers avoid unwittingly using unlicensed and criminal labour providers. For pickers who may not be familiar with UK worker rights, it will provide vital information, in eight languages, on what they can expect.”

The Reverend Richard Kirlew, Rural Officer for Dorset and Agricultural Chaplain also wholeheartedly welcomed the launch of the new Farm Work Welfare App:

“I travel around Dorset, talking to both farmers and farm staff. Modern day slavery has absolutely no place in society, let alone in the progressive, modern agricultural industry of today, which is now focussed on providing food for the whole nation. The illegal gangmasters and their methods of working must be eliminated. This new app will go a long way in achieving this.”

In a sector which often uses recruitment agencies or third-party labour providers, the app will also give guidance to farmers and growers on how to prevent labour exploitation. Farmers will be able to access practical information on licensed labour providers, document verification and the rights of workers.

It will also allow both farmers and workers to flag up concerns about labour exploitation or modern slavery and seek help, with the information processed by the Modern Slavery Helpline.

The app has been drawn up in partnership with the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), the National Crime Agency, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), the Church Commissioners for England and fresh produce supplier the Fresca Group as well as the Modern Slavery Helpline.

It comes after the Clewer Initiative and the Catholic Church in England and Wales launched the Safe Car Wash App in 2018 encouraging motorists to report concerns they may have over labour exploitation and modern slavery in the hand car wash industry.

Rob Richardson, Head of Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking at the National Crime Agency, said:

“Tackling modern slavery is one of our highest priorities, and we are determined to work with partners like the Clewer Initiative to pursue offenders and protect victims.

“The public are the eyes and ears the NCA needs to bring justice to offenders, and we believe the FWWA will be key in combatting modern slavery in rural areas.

“Firstly, it will help farmers, growers and workers know what ‘good’ looks like and will promote worker welfare and well-being. Secondly, it will help users report any concerns at the touch of a button. People don’t have to be certain that abuse or exploitation is happening, they can simply report anything they may have noticed that is not quite right or makes them feel unsure about someone’s safety.”

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