Spotlight on Southwark

23rd March 2023

The Clewer Initiative

Southwark is one of the largest and most diverse Dioceses in the Church of England, covering the energy of the inner city of South London through to the beauty of the Surrey Hills.

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Chris Elliott, the Modern Slavery Advisor for Southwark Diocese, explains how the modern slavery activism in the Diocese emerged: “The Diocese had historically pioneered some brilliant social justice work in South London but I felt that the Southern end of our Diocese, Surrey, was a totally different context with different partners such as Surrey Police, Surrey County Council and the Surrey and Sussex NHS. I could see that it was important we developed a collective approach in Surrey to issues of social justice. At that point, I was mainly thinking about knife crime. I didn’t know much about modern slavery until I met someone at Surrey Police who literally changed the course of my life! She opened my eyes to the issues of modern slavery, that it does happen in Surrey and that there are things we can do that make a difference.”

Chris established the Reigate Archdeaconry Social Justice Focus (RASJF) in 2019 and set the goal of talking to every church in the Archdeaconry about social justice issues. The group wanted to highlight issues surrounding youth violence, county lines, domestic abuse, teenage mental health and modern slavery but it quickly became clear that this was far too ambitious. They decided to prioritise county lines and modern slavery action. Chris joined the Surrey Anti-Slavery Partnership (of which he is now the co-chair) and became the Modern Slavery Advisor to the Diocese.

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Over the last three years, RASJF has

  • Organised a modern slavery forum where Gavin Stephens, Chief Constable of Surrey Police and Caroline Virgo, director of The Clewer Initiative, spoke
  • Produced webinars on modern slavery, county lines and the support available for survivors of slavery
  • Run The Clewer Initiative’s Hidden Voices courses to help communities consider how they can respond in their own context
  • Spoken to churches, food banks and other organisations about modern slavery
  • Spoken at Croydon Episcopal Areas Conference.
  • Produced a “Pledge” for churches to sign committing to actions to prevent the growth of slavery
  • Organised a webinar with Trading Standards to raise awareness among small businesses
  • Attended business exhibitions and county fairs
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Schools Project in Southwark Cathedral

Another recent highlight was the schools project in Southwark Cathedral which was organised in conjunction with The Clewer Initiative. Young people, from a range of backgrounds and aged twelve to fourteen, were given an introduction to modern slavery and then worked with a team from The Glaziers' Company to design a stained-glass panel to help articulate their reflections. The stained-glass panel was unveiled at Southwark Cathedral as part of a two-day modern slavery awareness raising event which was attended by hundreds of school children, clergy, partners, dignitaries and parishioners.

Engaging small businesses

Over the last year, RASJF has been focusing on its Small Business Pledge. The team has approached churches in the Archdeaconry and so far, 25 per cent have signed the pledge, committing to do all they can to make their churches free of modern slavery. The pledge contains a list of potential actions such as training staff on the signs of modern slavery; displaying posters and ensuring they have appropriate recruitment methods with regards to casual or agency staff and choosing suppliers and contractors. The RASJF is now working on promoting the pledge within schools and the wider business community.

This is an excellent example of how to encourage churches and communities to become slavery-free. If you would like to organise a similar pledge, go to https://theclewerinitiative.or...

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