Volunteers wanted for project supporting victims of modern slavery

7th August 2021

Esther Williams is the new Project Coordinator for Hidden Voices Somerset (HVS), an initiative facilitated by the Diocese of Bath and Wells in partnership with The Clewer Initiative. Her role is to lead a new Victim Support pilot project for victims of modern slavery and those at risk within the Bath and Wells area.

As part of her role Esther is coordinating, supporting, and training volunteers, working to build relationships with local partners in the voluntary and statutory sector and she is the designated point of contact for people who are referring those who have been victims of modern slavery. Esther is working on establishing a bank of volunteers from across the Bath and Wells area who are happy to help provide this care to people who have been exploited. “One of the fundamental parts of my role is volunteering, building a solid base of core volunteers. Those who can offer telephone support to a survivor and those who can provide face to face support.” 

Hidden Voices is one of the first projects of its kind in the country and has the backing of the Home Office and aims to support people who are, or who have been exploited and to provide them, via a volunteer support network, with the help and advice needed to rebuild their lives. It is a local response to Modern Slavery and all forms of exploitation and brings together different agencies and organisations. Its primary focus is building community resilience through grassroots local groups to identify and report modern slavery and exploitation. 

Team Leader, David Maggs, added, "It's great to have Esther as part of the team. This is a pilot project and our learning is already helping us to adapt what we do and has already into national work with other dioceses and agencies. We realise a lot of this work is just about being alongside people as they rebuild their lives."

Figures released in 2020 showed that officially, 62 people from the diocesan area (which Includes North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset (BANES)) entered the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). However, national figures show that probably 90-95 per cent of potential victims do not wish to enter the NRM when offered the opportunity to do so. Which may mean the real number of victims in the Diocese could be nearer 850-900.  

Esther says that very often people are surprised modern slavery is taking place on their doorstep, believing that it is more likely to be in the more urban areas such as Bristol. “The people that operate in this way often hide in plain sight. Even though everything is picturesque and beautiful where you are living, often all is not as it appears to be. These things are often taking place right under your nose.”

If you would like to be part of the project as a volunteer, please email Esther.


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