Pre-covid, PLASP held an event in Blackburn for anyone working in food banks, soup kitchens or homeless shelters to raise awareness. At the event, the team explored the link between poverty, vulnerability and modern slavery and how food bank users can actually be targeted by criminal gangs when on site. Afterwards, members of PLASP offered to visit food banks around the county to chat further about modern slavery; the signs to look out for and how to protect vulnerable people from potential exploitation.
Sion Hall, chair of the PLASP, explains: “It was really valuable to meet with food bank staff, volunteers and service users to talk about modern slavery. Worryingly many food bank users recognised our descriptions. They would tell me stories of white vans loitering outside food banks or homeless shelters and offering people a day’s work for a small amount of cash. It is understandable why destitute people would accept this sort of casual work but sadly, the offers of work can often be misleading. People can find themselves being threatened or paid very little or working without the correct protection or equipment and getting hurt.”
In recent weeks, PLASP has begun a new awareness-raising programme, writing to every food bank in Lancashire and highlighting the specific risk of modern slavery in food banks. It is also encouraging food banks to consider how they can train volunteers to know the signs to look out for – either by attending bespoke modern slavery training or simply adding a modern slavery element to existing safeguarding training and policies.
The team at PLASP is happy to visit any food bank in the county to chat further about the risk. It is also signposting The Clewer Initiative’s online training and food bank posters.
We believe PLASP’s approach to preventative work - a combination of awareness-raising, training and safeguarding- is brilliant and could be replicated by any anti-slavery partnership or community organisation.