New app is launched to end modern slavery at hand car washes

This week has seen the unveiling of an app, launched by the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales, which aims to eradicate modern slavery in hand car washes.

The Safe Car Wash App was launched on Monday 4th June 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 – and can be downloaded for free onto Apple and Android devices.

Estimates suggest that there are more than 18,000 hand car washes in the UK. Many are run as legitimate businesses, but some have been found to exploit, force and threaten their workers, trapping them in modern slavery – and no reliable data currently exists as to the scale of the problem.

The Bishop of Derby and chair of The Clewer Initiative, the Rt Revd Dr Alastair Redfern, says: ‘Police raids across the country have surfaced many instances of forced exploitation, with several car washes shown to be run by criminals that use this industry as a front for money laundering. This is a classic example of modern slavery happening with impunity in plain sight on Britain’s high streets.’The introduction of the Safe Car Wash App aims to find a solution. Users can open the app when they are at a particular car wash and pinpoint their exact location using GPS. They will be then taken through a series of questions

  • Do the workers have access to suitable protective clothing, particularly gloves or boots?
  • Is there evidence of workers living on site? Can you see a caravan or mattresses and bedding?
  • Does anyone appear controlling or intimidating?
  • Does the body language of the workers appear withdrawn or fearful?
  • Do there appear to be minors working at the car wash?
  • Did you pay less than £6.70 for the car wash?
  • Does the car wash only accept cash?
  • Did they offer a receipt?
  • Did you have to pay the manager?

If the answers indicate a high likelihood of modern slavery, users will be directed to the Modern Slavery Helpline (08000 121 700).

Nottingham University’s Rights Lab – the world’s first large-scale research platform for ending slavery – will analyse the data collected from the app over a six-month period, and will report back in early 2019. Data from the app will also be anonymised and shared with the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).

The app is part of The Clewer Initiative’s Safe Car Wash Campaign. The Clewer Initiative was launched in October with the backing of the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who fully supports the campaign. “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,” he says. “Through the Safe Car Wash App we now have a chance to help tackle this scourge which is damaging so many people’s lives.”

The Initiative’s three year programme also aims to help the Church of England’s 42 dioceses support victims of modern slavery, and to identify the signs of exploitation in their local communities. Clergy will also be asked to raise awareness of the campaign in sermons and Sunday School lessons, and to hold events to publicise the app.

NB: If drivers do spot concerns, they are invited to call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700. It is imperative that they do not confront anyone at the hand car wash. They should also make sure they are in a safe place before making the call. If someone is in immediate danger, they should call 999.

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