Clewer Initiative launches app designed to eradicate labour exploitation on British farms

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A new app designed to help tackle labour exploitation and modern slavery in the farming, horticulture and food production sectors is being launched today by the Church of England’s modern slavery initiative.

The Farm Work Welfare App, developed by The Clewer Initiative, will provide information on employment rights in eight languages and is aimed at the thousands of workers who come every year to help with the harvest of fruit and vegetables on UK farms.

The Clewer Initiative was launched in 2017, funded by the Clewer Sisters, an Anglican order now based in Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire.

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.

The app will 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. It follows The Safe Car Wash App which has been downloaded more around 20,000 times since its launch by the Clewer Initiative and the Catholic Church in England and Wales in May 2018.

The new app has been drawn up 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.

Bishop Alastair Redfern, who chairs The Clewer Initiative, 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 the Farm Work Welfare 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.”

Loretta Minghella, First Church Estates Commissioner, said: “We are delighted to support The Clewer Initiative in the creation of the Farm Work Welfare App which we hope will lead to greater safety for those working in this sector. As an ethical investor, the Church Commissioners for England are committed to supporting the eradication of modern slavery and labour exploitation, which has no place in society. We welcome and actively encourage the use of this app by those working or employing in this sector, across our rural portfolio and beyond.”

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.”

Frank Hanson, head of prevention and partnerships at the GLAA, said: “It is more important than ever that we educate workers, employers and consumers about what labour exploitation looks like, and the part we all have to play in tackling it. This app will help do that alongside making it easier to report any concerns or suspicions people have.”

Detective Superintendent Sheon Sturland, Unit Commander, at the National Police Chiefs’ Council Modern Slavery & Organised Immigration Crime Unit, said “Modern Slavery is a crime often hidden in plain sight, it is vital we continue to work with partners, such as The Clewer initiative, to both raise awareness of Modern Slavery within our communities and provide advice and support to those who may need it. This app is a valuable tool that will help workers understand their rights and employers to find licensed labour providers, which together should help prevent exploitation. The app is available in eight languages and provides another way for people to report any concerns they may have”.