Group reaching out to Cheshire's hidden victims of modern slavery

A Cheshire group say they believe cases of modern slavery uncovered in the county are just the 'tip of the iceberg'.

Nantwich & District Soroptimists, part of a worldwide organisation to improve the lives of women, have been campaigning on the issue for several years.

In recent years, an Anti-Slavery Network was formed in the county to rescue an increasing number of victims. It brings together the likes of Cheshire Police, HM Revenue & Customs, Cheshire East Council, local NHS services, and the Churches Together organisation. 

Soroptimists member Marian Wade said: "The sergeant in charge of the anti-slavery team in Cheshire is saying their cases have escalated enormously since they were formed.

"We have spent years now raising awareness locally that there is such a thing as modern slavery in south Cheshire, and that took some time.

"This year we decided what we wanted to do was to get to the people who are trapped themselves and give them an escape route."

As part of their efforts ahead of Anti-Slavery Day on 18th October, they have today been decorating trees in Crewe's Memorial Square with purple teardrops, which represent the suffering of those who are exploited.

They also have helpline numbers on them, for those who want to report concerns.

They will be on display for the next two weeks.

Marian said: "We hope that people walking by will ask 'why is this tree covered in these things? What is going on'

"We hope it will prompt them to ask questions, and think about the issue."

Their 'craftivism' will then continue in Nantwich on 13th October, with another purple teardrop event.

A coffee morning will be held at St Mary’s Church, with a tombola and gingerbread teardrops for sale.

All donations and profits will go to the Salvation Army, for their work in providing items such as clothes and toiletries for victims rescued from modern slavery. 

The group will also be giving out posters with helpline numbers on, that they are asking people to display in their workplace, on community boards or in charity shops.

The group hope the poster is displayed at venues across the region to reach victims 

On 19th November, an event is talking place to highlight the issue to local businesses.

South Cheshire Chamber of Commerce, Nantwich Council, and Libre Solutions will deliver the awareness event at Nantwich Civic Centre.

It will help employers and staff recognise the signs of those caught up as victims, and the criminals carrying out this abuse.

Marian said: "Some employers do not realise that the person they are employing has been placed there by a trafficker.

"It could even be in a white collar job, where the employee has a bank account.

"At this event they will be asking employers to check that the person does really live at the address they have given, and that the bank account is theirs, and they have a card to get money from it.

"There is at least one case of this happening that we know of."

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