Debbie Heritage

Working with schools and young people

“At the heart of our plans for Anti-Slavery Day is an art exhibition for primary and secondary school aged children."

"I have recently written to all the schools in the Diocese inviting them to submit entries. I have provided background information on modern slavery and on county lines in particular, and I am hoping that as part of the schools’ PHSE or art lessons many children will be encouraged to reflect on the horrors of modern slavery through art or sculpture.

"I have received a warm response from schools and teachers so I am hopeful we will have lots of submissions to choose from. We are also opening the exhibition to other youth organisations in the area, such as the Guides and Scouts. At 5pm on Friday 15th October, The Right Reverend Karen Gorham, Bishop of Sherborne, will launch the art exhibition at Salisbury Cathedral. The exhibition will be in the Cloister area of the Cathedral and will then move to a different location within the diocese so more people can benefit and learn from it."

Are you doing anything else to raise awareness of modern slavery amongst young people?

"I feel particularly troubled by the growth in county lines exploitation across the two counties. County lines is rife in Wiltshire and Dorset, probably because of our mix of large towns and rural communities and our relative proximity to London and the Midlands. Because of this, we recently ran three Breaking County Lines courses across the diocese. They were extremely well attended with approximately 60 participants including many teachers and people from the church.

"On Anti-Slavery Day itself, we have teamed up with Escapeline, a charity committed to the prevention of child exploitation across the south west of England, to offer virtual seminars on county lines for Y7 – Y11 pupils. I am excited that this will enable us to raise the issue of county lines with hundreds of schoolchildren and get them talking about the temptations they face and the danger of getting involved with gangs. We are also developing a resource pack for schools, using material from The Clewer Initiative and other organisations, so children and teachers know where to go for help and more information."

Are there any events suitable for adults?

"From 15-25 October, we have organised a series of virtual guest speaker events for people in the Diocese of Salisbury. We hope to explore the various sides of modern slavery, including county lines and exploitation in rural and farming communities, and therefore appeal to different audiences. We are also providing some training for Foodbank volunteers as we are aware that this is a place where potential victims might surface."

Is there a danger that this flurry of activity won’t make a real difference?

"I believe that many people don’t really understand what modern slavery is and that it is happening right here, in our communities in Wiltshire and Dorset. I hope that the more we talk about it through the different events and schools project, the more people will be on the lookout for it.

We need to raise awareness in general but also think about how we can work together in our contexts to eliminate modern slavery. We need to think more radically about what we can do as communities to help our young people and protect them from county lines gangs.

The Anti-Slavery Day activity is just the start and I am already liaising with community hub leads to begin thinking about how we can develop the work further into more localised community projects."

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