Published on: 1 March 2017
In a bid to tackle what Prime Minister Theresa May has described as the great human rights issue of our time, the Co-op will provide jobs for known victims and raise awareness of modern slavery amongst its four million members.
The food to funerals mutual has teamed up with the charity City Hearts, which offers support and accommodation to vulnerable people, to provide 30 survivors of modern slavery paid work experience in its food business and, if suitable, a guaranteed job.
Under the scheme, known as the Bright Future programme, the Co-op provides survivors with a four-week paid work placement followed by a non-competitive interview. If this is successful and there is a position vacant, the candidate will be offered a job. The first beneficiary of the scheme is already working in a Co-op store in the North west.
Speaking on his first day as Chief Executive of the Co-op, Steve Murrells said: “Having heard our new colleague’s harrowing story I am proud that our Co-op has teamed up with City Hearts to offer real practical help to survivors of this evil crime.
“It is clear to me that victims need to be supported while they rebuild their lives and central to that is the dignity that paid, freely chosen employment provides. Without this, there is a real chance that they could fall back into the hands of those who have exploited them and for the terrible, unspeakable cycle of enslavement to begin again.”
“Modern slavery will only be stopped by Government, businesses and society working together to ensure supply chains are transparent, so giving this shocking crime no shadow to hide in.”
The Minister for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism, Sarah Newton MP, said: “I am pleased that Co-op are launching this initiative today. The Government included a transparency in supply chains provision in the world-leading Modern Slavery Act 2015 to encourage businesses to do more to tackle modern slavery. The private sector has a vital role to play in eradicating this barbaric crime and I hope that this positive project will inspire other businesses to take action in the future.”
Kevin Hyland, the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, said: “We need more companies to respond to modern slavery like the Co-op. This pioneering approach to victim support will provide long-term care, boost opportunities for the future and, most importantly of all, prevent the risk of re-trafficking.
“This unique initiative marks the first time victims have been directly offered work placements and employment opportunities. In doing so, the Co-op has empowered victims of modern slavery and human trafficking to live a bright future, and I am pleased to see that this initiative opens the door for that to become a reality.”
In addition, the Co-op will be highlighting the issue, which in 2013 the Home Office estimated had between 10,000 - 13,000 potential victims in the UK, to its four million members. Already several key Co-op suppliers including: Tulip; Greencore and 2Sisters have signed up to support Bright Future in 2017 and will provide employment opportunities to victims of modern slavery.
City Hearts helps victims of human trafficking in the UK and operates a number of safe houses for victims.
The Government provides direct support in terms of housing and financial support to victims for a 45 day period while their claim to be a victim of modern slavery is considered.
City Hearts then continues to work with individuals who have been confirmed as victims after this 45 day period, offering a range of practical support to help individuals and their families to rebuild their lives.