Press Release: Safe Car Wash App indicates exploitation could be happening at a third of reported hand car washes

10th June 2022 | Hand Car Wash

The Clewer Initiative

UK motorists urged to use groundbreaking app, which has already been downloaded 31,000 times, to help fight exploitation at hand car washes

The Clewer Initiative is urging the nation’s 33 million car drivers to download the Safe Car Wash App and play their part in eradicating modern slavery and exploitation from hand car washes around the country.

The newly improved Safe Car Wash App is at the forefront of tackling modern slavery and exploitation in the hand car wash sector, and is providing statutory organisations with crucial data to help identify and shut down exploitative businesses. A key improvement to the app gives users the power to automatically report concerns to the Modern Slavery Helpline at the touch of a button.

While labour exploitation can be present in businesses of all types and sizes, the hand car wash sector has consistently been identified as an industry where workers are at risk. In some car washes, staff are under-age, live onsite in poor conditions, are paid very low wages, have little or no personal protective equipment, and face a variety of other unsafe, unfair, and controlling practices on a daily basis.

The Clewer Initiative’s Safe Car Wash App enables anyone who uses hand car washes to take part in a UK wide community intelligence gathering exercise. It helps collect information on the location of individual hand car washes and the working conditions at each. This intelligence is vital in building a clear picture of the hand car wash sector - how many there are, where they are, when new ones pop up and where there is the most likely risk of modern slavery. Since its launch, there have been 7,800 reports submitted to the app and alarmingly a third have reached a threshold of concern indicating potential labour exploitation.

Caroline Virgo, Director of The Clewer Initiative, explains: “While many hand car wash businesses treat and pay their staff fairly, some are run by unscrupulous people, determined to make as much money as possible, regardless of how their workers are treated or whether they are following the law. It is therefore vital we educate consumers on the importance of choosing responsible car washes that look after their workers, protect the environment, care for their customers and trade legally. The Safe Car Wash app is good news because it will help pinpoint and eliminate businesses that are exploiting workers.

“The Safe Car Wash app is easy to use – it asks a series of questions related to signs of modern slavery and if it reaches a threshold that suggests workers are not being treated appropriately, it will invite the user to send a report through to the Modern Slavery Helpline for further investigation. We would urge car owners and drivers to download the new version of the app today and help us identify and shut down exploitative businesses.”

Since June 2018, The Clewer Initiative’s Safe Car Wash app has been helping statutory organisations and law enforcement agencies identify hand car washes around the country which might not be treating their staff fairly.

Darryl Dixon, who has led on the GLAA’s project work on the hand car wash sector said “We welcome The Clewer Initiative’s innovative solution to driving out modern slavery and exploitation in the car wash sector. The app helps consumers identify potential signs of exploitation and modern slavery and this anonymous information is then helpfully packaged for statutories, like ourselves, to access. The improvements in the app improve our ability to know where hand car washes are, which helps to build the UK picture of the size of the industry. The data provided, informs our intelligence, so that we can undertake investigations where appropriate.”

The redeveloped Safe Car Wash app is live across all major app stores now. New features include:

  • An improved user interface, so it is easier to submit a report
  • No requirement to submit any personal information before filing a report
  • All new location functions, meaning you can pinpoint the exact location of the car wash on a map and confirm the precise street address and postcode
  • The ability to send an anonymous report straight to the Modern Slavery Helpline at the click of a button if your report scores above the threshold of concern for modern slavery and exploitation – no need to call
  • Updated questions and content, so the data is more accurate than ever
  • A new and easy to use back-end data website that data partners can log into and easily download the information, helping them respond to car washes of concern.

These enhancements will help users to more easily report exploitative and non-compliant car washes, identify potential victims of modern slavery, and give partner organisations the information and data required to address criminal activity.

Teresa Sayers, managing director of the Responsible Car Wash Scheme, concludes: “The Responsible Car Wash Scheme was founded in 2018 to raise standards and promote compliance at hand car washes across the country. The Safe Car Wash App is a really useful and easy tool, enabling members of the public to act on concerns over car washes they visit. It is already making a tangible difference in identifying businesses with poor working conditions.”

The Safe Car Wash App update has been developed and funded by The Clewer Initiative. It is being supported and promoted by the National Crime Agency, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), the Responsible Car Wash Scheme and the Car Wash Association.


For all media enquiries, contact Francesca Geach or on 07738 883712.

Notes to Editors

About the Safe Car Wash App

In 2018, the Safe Car Wash App was commissioned by The Clewer Initiative and the Santa Marta Group, in partnership with the National Crime Agency, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner and the National Police Chief’s Council. Funded by the CCLA, the app was also supported by the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab and the Modern Slavery Helpline.

About The Clewer Initiative

The Clewer Initiative was launched in 2016 as the Church of England’s response to modern slavery. The Clewer Initiative exists to mobilise the Church and communities to take action against exploitation and modern slavery.

The Clewer Initiative works in varying ways with the Church of England’s 42 dioceses. It shares learning and knowledge through its network and helps support community-based projects.

The Clewer Initiative is funded by the Clewer Sisters, an Anglican order of Augustinian nuns founded in 1852 to help marginalised, young women who found themselves homeless and drawn into the sex trade.

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