Safe Car Wash App helps tackle exploitation

11th July 2023 | Hand Car Wash

The Clewer Initiative

New data from The Clewer Initiative’s Safe Car Wash App reveals the scale of exploitation in UK hand car wash businesses.

In the first two quarters of 2023, a third of all reports submitted through the app scored over the threshold of concern for modern slavery and exploitation. This means that consumers observed enough potential signs of exploitation that the app invited them to refer their report to the Modern Slavery Helpline (MSH). These signs included a lack of PPE; workers living on site; paying under £10 and workers under the age of 16.

From January to June 2023:

  • 283 reports were submitted through the app
  • 92 reports scored over the threshold of concern for modern slavery and exploitation (i.e. 33% of reports – it is consistently true that one third of all reports meet or exceed the threshold)
  • Users referred 61 of these reports to the MSH, who then triaged the information and referred to relevant authorities. This represents a 127% increase in the number of high-scoring reports which users referred to MSH compared to the previous 6-month period
  • All reports submitted through the app were also available to a pool of 60 police officers and police data analysts from across the country, who used the data to inform their enforcement operations.
App Screens Grouped

When The Clewer Initiative scrutinised the last 18 months of Safe Car Wash App data, we found some alarming statistics in response to the key indicators of modern slavery and exploitation. Of the hand car washes that consumers visited and reported on:

  • Nearly a half (47%) of workers had no PPE at all
  • One in five appeared to have workers living on site
  • 16% had an intimidating manager
  • 18% had workers who looked fearful or withdrawn
  • 45% required a manager to be paid
  • 74% did not accept payment by card
  • 85% did not give a receipt for payment
  • 34% had workers who could not speak English
  • 42% paid less than £10
  • 82 reports state that there appeared to be under 18s working onsite
  • 24 reports state that there appeared to be under 16s working onsite.
5 signs grouped

Myles Dunnett, Programme Development Manager for The Clewer Initiative and Safe Car Wash App lead, comments: “We always knew that modern slavery and exploitation was widespread within UK hand car wash businesses, but now we have the data to back it up. We urge all users of hand car washes to download and use the Safe Car Wash App every time they visit a business, whether or not they think there is a risk of modern slavery or exploitation at the location. The data is actively used by the Modern Slavery Helpline, GLAA, and national, regional, and local law enforcement agencies across the country, as they identify, inspect, and shut down hand car washes that are exploiting and abusing workers. A single report can save lives.”

Watch this shocking portrayal of life in a hand car wash

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