Sion became the chair of the newly formed Pan Lancashire Anti-Slavery Partnership (PLASP) and quickly began drawing in other statutory agencies, NGOs, charities and faith groups to work together. As a committed Catholic, he felt strongly about the importance of the church being closely involved with the Partnership.
PLASP meets monthly and focuses on raising awareness amongst frontline agencies, churches and community groups and the wider public, providing training and encouraging victim identification and support.
As part of a wider strategy, the PLASP was keen to look at ensuring that training was free, consistent and to a National standard across all agencies and groups. In the early days, Sion found that many of those who expressed interest had already received some sort of training on modern slavery but this varied in content, length and style. As a result, PLASP designed a number of awareness and training packages, utilising resources from the Police, GLAA and The Clewer Initiative.
One of the most exciting elements of the Partnership’s work is its roadshows. It approached a local bus company and asked if it could rebrand one of its buses with Anti-Slavery signs and the Modern Slavery Helpline number. Renamed ‘The Freedom Bus’, it continues to be a school bus during the week and then PLASP hires it for events and roadshows at the weekends. Sion explains: “A brilliant spin-off is that The Freedom Bus is used every week by local schools and we find that, as a result, the children who take the bus to school are often talking about slavery. The bus travels all over the county and all sorts of people notice it and observe the signage.”
At weekends, PLASP organises roadshows in different towns across Lancashire. It usually parks The Freedom Bus in a town centre location in the morning, handing out information to the public. In the afternoon, it drives through potential modern slavery hot spots, in the hope that victims of modern slavery or members of the public who suspect something untoward, see the bus and are prompted to call the Modern Slavery Helpline. PLASP has also organised for the bus to attend business events and recently worked in collaboration with Morrisons to host an event in its car park.
This summer, The Freedom Bus is hitting the roads once more. In May, it travelled to the Anglican Cathedral and the Slavery Museum on Albert Docks in Liverpool – an event organised in collaboration with the Merseyside Anti-Slavery Partnership. The volunteers found that because of its situation by the Slavery Museum in particular, people were really engaged with the issue and they had lots of meaningful conversations about modern slavery. In July, it went to Burnley, in August it is due in Cheshire (in collaboration with the Cheshire Anti-Slavery Partnership) and in September, it is heading to Manchester with the Greater Manchester Anti-Slavery Partnership.