The Diocese of Bath and Wells has an ongoing commitment to modern slavery and all forms of exploitation. A key part of the diocese’s response to modern slavery is the Hidden Voices methodology, which consists of a number of grassroots ecumenical church groups in places like Bridgwater, Minehead, and Chard, who work to address modern slavery through a community resilience approach. Projects like HV Bridgwater are producing positive and ongoing results, and have built a significant profile across the diocese. The diocese is also a member of the Avon and Somerset Anti-Slavery Partnership.
The Bath and Wells Story
The predominantly rural Diocese of Bath and Wells may not be the most obvious place to look for modern slavery, but it is clear that no area is immune.
A rural diocese
The Diocese of Bath and Wells is a large and predominantly rural diocese. Its location and geography bring its own set of challenges when it comes to mitigating against exploitation and modern slavery. Food processing is a significant part of the economy which attracts a large number of transient workers, big infrastructure projects bring in more, and the prevalence of poverty in rural villages and communities can lead to the exploitation of vulnerable people.
Turning training into action with Hidden Voices Somerset
The Hidden Voices Somerset groups have been a true success story for the diocese, and for The Clewer Initiative’s Hidden Voices approach itself. The groups deliver training, run events, and identify and support victims of modern slavery. The key to success has been translating the Hidden Voices community resilience model into action, with committed volunteers behind the groups to carry the work forward. In 2021, HV Bridgwater, @HiddenVoicesBr1, moved into a new area – County Lines. They have already engaged around 800 people either physically or online, and several victims of County Lines have already been identified, referred, and supported appropriately..
Supporting victims of modern slavery
Bath and Wells are running a pilot victim support project in partnership with The Clewer Initiative. The diocese believes that a holistic approach is needed towards the victims of modern slavery, where they are seen and treated as whole people. The aim of the pilot is to offer immediate emergency support to those trapped in modern slavery, particularly those who do not wish to enter the National Referral Mechanism and exploitation.
Living the story
The diocese’s vision is that “in response to God’s immense love for us we seek to be God’s people living and telling the story of Jesus.” Their vision informs their work and directs them in their response to serving the different communities of the diocese. The vision and diocesan strategy that is emerging speaks of the story of Jesus; his life, teaching and work, his death and resurrection; the story is the context of their faith and the content of their message. They seek to both live this story as disciples of Jesus Christ in the world and to tell it by sharing the good news, and by the way in which their lives speak about Him.
Stories from Bath and Wells
Iconic buildings turn red to say STOP to modern slavery
See the spectacular photos
Combatting modern slavery in Somerset
David Maggs, modern slavery lead in Diocese of Bath and Wells, on his vision for Somerset