DRIVERS have been using an app which Oxfordshire nuns helped to create to report more than 900 potential cases of modern slavery in hand car washes.

The Safe Car Wash app, which allows drivers to respond to a checklist of key factors that may suggest modern slavery or labour exploitation in hand car washes, has been downloaded 8,225 times since its launch by the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales in June.

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Drivers have used the app to report 930 potential cases countrywide over a five-month period.

Between June and December 2018 there were 2,271 completed entries using the app, with 41 per cent, or 930 reports, where after responding to a number of questions, users were told there was a likelihood of modern slavery at the hand car wash.

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They were then asked to call the Modern Slavery Helpline and their anonymised findings were shared in real time with police and the Gangmasters’ and Labour Abuse Authority.

The app was launched last year 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, with support from anti-slavery campaigners and other key agencies, including the police and councils. The Clewer Initiative is named after the Clewer Sisters, a group of nuns based in the grounds of Ripon College, Cuddesdon, in the Oxford Diocese who have historic links with the fight against slavery and helping women out of prostitution.

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Sister Anne Proudley, one of the Clewer Sisters, said: “I hope that churches will take the Clewer Initiative on and it will be rolled out into the parishes so that the general public can be made aware that this is a much bigger issue than the cases we read about in the newspapers.

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“The best way you can help is with your ears and eyes. Look out for people at the car wash or supermarket. Notice their demeanour and speak to them if you can.”

Alison Webster, the diocesan social responsibility adviser, said: “Many churches are already involved with homeless people, lonely people, and hungry people, all of whom are particularly vulnerable to those who exploit people with slavery. That’s why it’s important for churches to be aware of what modern day slavery is and how it’s impacting our communities.”

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The app asks drivers to look out for nearby caravans, containers, mattresses and bedding as evidence of workers living on site. A total of 14 per cent of reports suggested that workers were living on the car wash site. The app was launched after Thames Valley Police launched its Hidden Harm campaign, which encourages people to keep an eye out for the signs of modern day slavery.