A phone app to combat modern slavery at hand car washes has been backed by a Teesside authority.

The “Safe Car Wash” app is designed to offer motorists a checklist to fill in when they use a hand car wash – offering a number to call if warning signs are flagged up.

Its use has been encouraged by Stockton Council in the wake of several instances of exploitation on Teesside.

The phone app flags up warning signs – such as whether car wash staff are using strong chemicals, using suitable clothing and the cost of a wash given the number of employees cleaning a given vehicle.

Other signals include whether workers are living on site – with evidence of caravans or mattresses nearby, whether staff have withdrawn body language of there are “intimidating” staff members on forecourts and whether car washes take cash only.

Stockton Town Hall
Stockton Town Hall (Image: Handout)

Cllr Steve Nelson, Stockton Council cabinet member for community safety, said the phone programme was a “really useful tool” because it helped law enforcement agencies get a “fuller picture” of the problem.

He added: “We should not tolerate forced labour or exploitation so if you are using a hand car wash and feel uneasy about the conditions staff are working in, the low price, or the way in which people are being treated I’d urge you to use the app which will allow national agencies to tackle this problem and protect more victims.”

App users are given a page where they can call the Modern Slavery Helpline – if a certain number of warning signs are flagged up.

Information gathered by the app is also looked at by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority to aid investigations.

No fewer than six organisations have helped create the app – led by “The Clewer Initiative”, a Church of England drive to tackle modern day slavery.

Cleveland Anti-Slavery Network has also backed both the Safe Car Wash app and another free app “Unseen”.

Spot checks were carried out at hand car washes by officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA), Cleveland, Durham and Northumbria Police in February in an effort to disrupt suspected people smuggling gangs.

There were 21 arrests as a result.

Cllr Jim Beall sung the praises of the app at the latest Stockton adult health and well-being commissioning group.

Reporting back form the LGA’s (Local Government Association) safer and stronger communities board, Cllr Beall said: “We’re not saying every car wash in the country is like that but it’s one of the labour intensive and low skills areas where workers who don’t often originate from this country are exploited.

“It helps raise the question of what signals to look for.”

© 2018 Tees Info

or

Log in with your credentials

or    

Forgot your details?

or

Create Account