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How The Big Issue is tackling modern slavery

We have teamed up with charity Transforming Communities Together to co-develop a training programme for vendors which allows them to be the “eyes and ears” to report and tackle the issue

Any vulnerable person on the street is a potential target for traffickers looking for an opportunity to drag people into modern slavery and Big Issue vendors remain a target.

That’s why our Sales and Operation teams in the West Midlands has worked with charity Transforming Communities Together to produce a training programme to protect our vendors – and help them protect other homeless people.

Vendors are in a unique situation where they are out and about and the eyes and ears on the street and they will see a lot of things and, sadly, they are also quite vulnerable because traffickers are on the lookout for any vulnerability

Eight vendors attended the first class just before Christmas to illustrate the scenarios that can lead to modern slavery, with the hour-long session also translated to help breakdown language barriers with vendors from overseas.

“I thought that it would be a really good thing to do with Big Issue vendors from the point of view that it would be very empowering,” says James Henderson, lead development worker at Transforming Communities Together. “They are in a unique situation where they are out and about and the eyes and ears on the street and they will see a lot of things and, sadly, they are also quite vulnerable because traffickers are on the lookout for any vulnerability.”

As well as protecting vendors, advising them how they can share the information police needed to investigate modern slavery was also a crucial part of the programme.

They were trained on using a special intelligence form to feed information directly to West Midlands Police in a bid to build up relations – a key move in preventing people from falling between the cracks.

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“We managed to get some good feedback from the vendors and they seemed really pleased. One of them is a member of a local church group and was really keen for their church to run this kind of training,” says James. “We’ve since had enquiries from colleagues in London and through our partnership with The Clewer Initiative we’ll hopefully be able to spread that far and wide.”

Big Issue Midlands service broker Gabi Sima added: “Slavery these days has just changed its form but still exists and people can be easily trapped in it.

“The session that we delivered was valuable for our vendors not only because it was accessible and easy to understand, in a language that they speak but also because they now know their rights and what support is available if they are experiencing modern slavery.

“The session was a joint effort and I am sure the message was there not only for the Big Issue vendors but reached a whole community who are at risk of being exploited.”

Image: Kumar Sriskandan/Alamy Stock Photo

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