The Co-op Group is extending its programme to offer jobs to victims of modern slavery to create a nationwide scheme.
This builds on the Group’s pioneering job creation programme in the north-west of England, which offered permanent employment to survivors of modern slavery. The next step is a national scheme which will enable other enlightened employers throughout the country to do the same.
The Group is working with City Hearts, a northern-based charity dedicated to supporting modern slavery victims, to create a national matching system that will enable other companies to work with other local charities to create jobs.
Under the Bright Future programme, the Group gives survivors a four-week paid work placement leading to a non-competitive interview. If this is successful and there is a position available, the candidate will be offered a job within the retailer’s Food business.
Already, 15 vulnerable survivors have secured employment and a chance to rebuild their lives and there are a further 19 at various stages within the scheme.
Modern slavery is a major social and economic issue in the UK today, with at least 13,000 people estimated by the government to be victims of forced labour, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude – with police warning that this figure is only the tip of the iceberg.
A wide range of businesses, including BP, Tesco and Body Shop, came together this week at a parliamentary event organised by the Group to learn how they could join the Bright Future programme and introduce job creation measures to help victims integrate into communities.
They learnt how the Group has adopted a flexible approach in its recruitment process, via the support of City Hearts, to accommodate vulnerable victims who may not have the references and other paperwork usually provided by people seeking a job. This flexibility has provided the gateway for lives to be dramatically rebuilt, for pride to be restored and for potential crime to be averted within communities.
But the Group also pointed out that its blueprint is not the only way of creating jobs for victims of modern slavery.
Pippa Wicks, the Group’s deputy CEO, said: “This heinous crime will only be stopped by government, businesses and society working together. By creating employment opportunities we can ensure victims stay out of the evil clutches of their captors.
“Working with City Hearts we are creating a matching scheme that will put charities, in any part of the UK, in touch with employers that are willing to support victims of modern slavery find the dignity that paid, freely chosen employment provides.
“We appreciate our approach, which has been successful in our Food business, is not the only way to create jobs for those rescued and I am sure with determination, joint working and innovative thinking, we can find further solutions that work across other sectors.”
The Parliamentary round-table was introduced by Frank Field, MP, who said: “Modern slavery is the biggest injustice in the world today. Now that the Modern Slavery Act is on the statute book, the Co-op has set the pace on helping victims of slavery to begin to rebuild their lives through work. These efforts by the Co-op must not be underestimated and hopefully will quickly become industry policy.”