The primary social justice initiative support by the Diocese of Bath and Wells is Hidden Voices Somerset. Hidden Voices Somerset (HVS) is facilitated by the Diocese of Bath and Wells in partnership with The Clewer Initiative, it is a local response to Modern Slavery and all forms of exploitation.
The primary focus of Hidden Voices is building community resilience to modern slavery and exploitation through enabling grassroots local groups. There are already groups established in Sedgemoor, Minehead and Chard and they are now training new church and community groups, businesses and schools using clear and consistent Apps, tools and resources provided by The Clewer Initiative, to identify and report modern slavery and exploitation. The hope is that every church in the diocese will, in time, have members who have completed the Hidden Voices course so together we can make an impact across our diocese.
The project has two key elements, the provision of victim support and building of an effective, self-sustaining anti-slavery network across Somerset.
Bishop Alistair, Honorary Assistant Bishop of Bath and Wells, is Chair of the Clewer Initiative. He has shared his thoughts on how the church should face this modern challenge.
Hidden Voices Somerset explained
Official figures show 62 victims across Somerset applied for statutory support through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) in the year to March 2020. Analysis of National figures indicate that 90-95 per cent of victims do not wish to enter the NRM when offered the opportunity to do so, indicating a potential existence of 900 current victims across Somerset.
HVS has developed relationships with voluntary and statutory organisations, and after cross-agency consultation are running a six month pilot (1st October 2020 – 31st March 2021) Victim Support project for victims and those at risk. The project will be carried out in partnership with The Clewer Initiative (the national Church of England’s anti-slavery programme) and the National Victim Support Helpline.
How the support process works
Referrals can be made 24/7 by anyone to the National Victim Support Helpline – initial contact point, and onward referral mechanism will be the HVS Project Co-ordinator.
A team of two core volunteers will be assigned to each referred victim, and will initiate the services required. Where appropriate they will contact specialist local organisations for support e.g. addiction issues, and will have access to a range of national specialists via Clewer networks.
The aim is for each individual to be given an initial supported space following their referral. The longer term engagement with them will depend on their legal status. Where possible, we hope they will become integrated within, and supported by, the local community to enable a consistent and secure recovery with a safety net, with the ambition of eventually being able to determine their own future, securing safe employment and housing.
Who to contact
Charlie Peer, Acting Archdeacon of Wells