Churches unveil new app to target car wash slave drivers

THE CHURCH of England is helping people tackle modern slavery with a Safe Car Wash App.

Launched by The Clewer Initiative (the Church of England’s campaign against modern slavery) and the Santa Marta Group (the Catholic Church’s anti-slavery project), users can open the app when they are at the car wash and pinpoint their exact location using GPS.

The app will then take users through a series of indicators of modern slavery, with questions such as ‘is there evidence of workers living on-site? Can you see a caravan or mattresses and bedding? Do there appear to be minors working at the car wash? Or did you pay less than £6.70 for the car wash? If the answers indicate a high likelihood, users will be directed to the Modern Slavery Helpline.

There are believed to be 18,000 car washes on Britain’s high streets, at the sides of motorways and on abandoned garage forecourts. While many are run as legitimate businesses, some exploit, force and threaten their workers, trapping them in modern slavery.

Data from the app will be anonymised and shared with the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).

Clergy will also be asked to raise awareness of the campaign in sermons and Sunday school lessons and hold events to publicise the app.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “Over the last few years we have learnt more about the evil of modern slavery and we have begun to understand how it is perpetrated in our communities in plain sight.

“Through the Safe Car Wash App we now have a chance to help tackle this scourge which is damaging so many people’s lives,” he added.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, said: “I welcome this very helpful and timely initiative in an area of real exploitation.

“As we learn to see this example of forced labour and modern slavery in our midst, we will also become more aware of the presence of this evil scourge in other sectors in our neighbourhood.”

Professor Zoe Trodd, Director of the Rights Lab, a University of Nottingham Beacon of Excellence, commented this week: “Car washes are completely unregulated territory and we don’t know how big the sector is, how many hand car washes operate or how many persons are registered to work in them.

“This citizen engagement in data collection is a powerful technique with potential for mapping other vulnerable services, such as nail bars.”

The Church of England emphasise not to confront anyone at the hand car wash.