Building community resilience

What is community resilience and how does it help with modern slavery?

"There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about."

This powerful quote by Margaret Wheatley can be echoed by community development workers around the world through stories of communities transformed, having realised they have the resources to deal with their issues themselves.

Too often communities only discover what they care about after a tragedy or crisis. But, building community resilience is not about responding to a crisis; it is about creating a way of living that will prevent crises occurring or reduce their impact. It relies on a common ownership of the issues that threaten and the use of local resources to address them.

How does this translate to the context of modern slavery?

There are three main pillars in using community resilience to tackle modern slavery:

  • strengthening modern slavery awareness across the whole community
  • developing pathways for victim identification and support
  • slavery proofing businesses and community projects.

The Clewer Initiative is founded on a community resilience approach - based on the belief that slavery can only be eliminated at a community level where relationships are strong and where individuals are looking out for their neighbours' welfare.

A common understanding of how modern slavery can be present in specific situations enables individuals to be protected and prevents them from falling into modern slavery by supporting them when they are at their most vulnerable.

Building community cohesion

Who is vulnerable and how do we protect them?

There are three key groups who are particularly at risk of exploitation and modern slavery:

  • Children and young people - often vulnerable because of circumstances surrounding their growing up.
  • Adults - those who are homeless, have insufficient regular income and who have no status to be in the UK are just some of the groups at risk.
  • Vulnerable adults - such as adults with learning difficulties, who, as well as other types of modern slavery, may also be exploited through cuckooing.

To ensure these vulnerable people are protected they need wraparound support from statutory organisations and from their community. They also need to be empowered by being aware of their rights and knowing what to do and who to turn to if confronted with an exploitative situation.

Projects and provision such as foodbanks, youth services, toddler groups, debt support, drug and alcohol clinics, after school homework clubs, mental health support and holiday clubs can all provide preventative interventions and help bring fragmented communities together.

Exploiters prey on and target the marginalised and excluded, so a strong community, where vulnerable people are supported, offers less opportunity for exploitation.

The role of the church

The Church of England has (at the last count) 33,000 social action projects operating from its churches and halls. They are at the front line of caring for the vulnerable. Churches are present in all communities and at the heart of many - they are ideally placed to reach out and educate and engage communities in building resilience and supporting those who are vulnerable.

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