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Photo by J Williams on Unsplash

Co-operative Police and Crime Commissioners speak with one voice when we say we are proud of the part our police forces pay in tackling the heinous crime of Modern Slavery. As far back as 2017, the Modern Slavery Police Transformation Programme was established to support police forces in England and Wales in their delivery of a consistent and effective response to cases of modern slavery. As a result, more victims have been protected and supported, and forces have a closer collaboration with the Crown Prosecution Service in the planning and development of complex modern slavery investigations.

But Government is dragging its feet. Despite an obligation under Part 4 of the Modern Slavery Act to appoint an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, the Home Secretary has left the post vacant since April 2022. It is dismaying and frustrating that Suella Braverman has refused to appoint to the post, and there seems precious little movement in terms of recruitment. The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s role is an important one. They lead on encouraging good practice in prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of slavery and human trafficking offences, as well as the identification of victims. It is almost as if the Government is backpedalling on its previous ironclad commitment to tackle modern slavery.

The co-operative movement has long campaigned for serious action on modern slavery. More than 100 Councils have now passed our Modern Slavery Charter to help ensure your taxpayer money doesn’t fund exploitation, and at a national level it was our representatives and members that pushed to ensure all public bodies monitored their supply chains for modern slavery.

Our movement is taking on the ground action too: our members have supported schemes like the Co-op Party’s Bright Future Programme, which has now grown into the biggest employment programme for survivors of slavery in the world. Elected representatives like me are tackling the issue locally too: I am re-launching the modern slavery and trafficking network in Merseyside to raise awareness, spot victims and tackle this terrible crime.

That is why all seven Co-operative Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales have written to the Homes Secretary to call on her to fulfil her obligation to appoint the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.