Do you know what modern slavery looks like? Would you be able to recognise somebody who was enslaved if they walked into your life, or even your church?

Caroline Virgo, who heads up the Clewer Initiative, was in Cornwall on Friday (July 13)  to spread the word about the initiative’s work but also to listen to representatives of the church, the police, local government and other agencies about modern slavery in the county.

The Clewer Initiative is a three-year project to enable Church of England dioceses and wider church networks to develop strategies to detect modern slavery in their communities and help provide victim support and care.

It involves working with churches locally, identifying resources that can be used, developing partnerships with others, and creating a wider network of advocates seeking to end modern slavery together.

Nationally, it involves developing a network of practitioners committed to sharing models of best practice and providing evidenced based data to resource the Church’s national engagement with statutory and non-statutory bodies.

One of its recent innovations was the SafeCarWash app. This is a smartphone app which takes you through a series of basic questions when you are visiting a car wash to determine whether the operatives may themselves be victims of modern slavery.

The app asks you to answer questions such as whether or not the workers have access to suitable clothing, whether there is evidence of workers living on site or nearby, how much you pay, whether they offer a receipt and whether or not you had to pay a manager. Once you have answered the questions, the app will either thank you for the information you have given or, if your answers suggest there is a likelihood that the carwash is using slaves, it will ask you to call the Modern Slavery Helpline to tell someone what you have observed.

Churches offer a unique opportunity to help victims of modern slavery. Some people who are living as slaves will come from countries where telling a friendly local bobby is simply not an option – the police might even represent a part of the problem in some parts of the world. By contrast, churches are often simultaneously viewed as places of sanctuary.

Common places for modern slavery to be in operation include farms, nail bars, restaurants, and brothels. We have all of these in Cornwall, but modern slavery is frequently viewed as an urban issue.

Indicators of modern slavery include:


  • Signs of physical or psychological abuse and untreated injuries.
  • Malnourished, unkempt or appear withdrawn and neglected.
  • Seem under the control of others.
  • Wear the same clothes every day.
  • No safety equipment worn even if their work demands it.



  • Collected/dropped off on a regular basis.
  • Rarely allowed to travel alone.
  • No control of ID documents.
  • Travel in a crowded minibus.



  • Accommodationis dirty, cramped or overcrowded.
  • Live/work at the same address.
  • Unfamiliar with neighbourhood.


Seeking help:

  • Reluctant to seek help and avoid eye contact.
  • Frightened or hesitant to talk.
  • Fear of police, don;t know who to trust or where to get help.
  • Afraid of deportation/risk of violence to themselves or family.


If you believe you might be a witness to modern slavery, you have choices.  In an emergency, call 999. To report non-emergency, suspicious activity, call the local police on 101.

To ask for advice you can call the Modern Slavery helpline on 08000 121 700.

For more information on the Clewer Initiative, see its website.

We have a limited number of flyers at Church House, Truro, about the car wash app, and a small pocket checklist of the signs of modern slavery . If you would like some of these to give to parishioners in your church, email Richard Best on