Establishing a Place of Safety

23rd March 2023

The Clewer Initiative

A little while ago, Chris Elliott, the Modern Slavery Advisor for Southwark Diocese, became aware that there was no safe house for victims of modern slavery in Surrey.

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He was shocked by this revelation and wondered if the Diocese could provide something as, like other Dioceses, it has a lot of properties and sometimes these are vacant in between incumbencies.

He spoke to the Diocesan Secretary who agreed that this could be a wonderful opportunity for the Diocese to provide a place of refuge and safety for victims of modern slavery. They reviewed their portfolio and identified a property that was not in regular use.

The Diocese liaised with Surrey and Sussex Police and Justice and Care and agreed to provide a short-term place of safety for victims of modern slavery who are rescued and waiting to enter the National Referral Mechanism. In the last year, the Place of Safety has had 9 overnight guests and 6 daytime guests.

Chris concludes: “The first guest was a Vietnamese Sex Worker. The Police explained that they would normally house a victim such as this in a local Travelodge. Unfortunately, the criminal gangs often know where victims will be and they simply find them, beat them up and re-exploit them. Because of the interim accommodation provided by Southwark Diocese, the Police were able to get the sex worker to safety, where she stayed the night before moving to a different area where she will be looked after properly and not found by the same criminal gang. The Diocesan house literally saved her life.

“All we did, as Reigate Archdeaconry Social Justice Focus, was talk to the right person in the Diocese and highlight how we could make a tangible difference to vulnerable people by sharing the resources that were right under our nose. This is something all Dioceses could do and I would urge anyone in a leadership position to take up the challenge and keep flagging up the need until a solution is found!”

This is a wonderful example of a Diocese providing victim care and support. It is also a good demonstration of the effectiveness of a local partnership approach. Working through the local Anti-Slavery Partnership and alongside Justice and Care and the Surrey and Sussex Police was critical in getting the Place of Safety established.

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