Shiva Foundation’s Kat Rolle tells us how her role as Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership Coordinator has changed since COVID-19.
Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership: Business as usual
14 August 2020
Like many organisations, Shiva Foundation could not have immediately predicted the impact that COVID-19 would have had on its day-to-day activities. After temporarily having to take a step back as Coordinator of the Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership, I have hit the ground running from July, reengaging with stakeholders, and working to get various projects back on track.
Given how much COVID-19 has shaken up the world, it almost seems odd that despite some months having passed, the same long-standing challenges and issues undermining efforts to tackle modern slavery in Hertfordshire and the UK remain. I cannot claim to be returning to post with a fresh new outlook, but what I can say is that these last few months have simply reinforced how important the modern slavery agenda continues to be.
COVID-19 has not reduced modern slavery, it has just changed the landscape. Losing their value, already vulnerable workers have been kicked out onto the streets, other workers have been transferred into industries less affected by lockdown restrictions such as agriculture and food processing and there have even been stories of hotels being actively targeted by traffickers looking to exploit vulnerable people placed in their care by local authorities. Not to mention the hundreds of people that have simply not been identified due to the lack of any direct contact with any organisation outside the scope of their exploiter’s network.
Pre-COVID-19, it was a tough world for public sector organisations, charities and SMEs alike. Capacity, funding and resource issues are as prevalent as before this crisis began, and these issues have been expounded by COVID-19 rather than reduced.
So, what does this mean for the Partnership going forward? It means that we will be sticking to our key priority of working within the existing infrastructure to embed a sustainable multi-agency approach to tackling this issue. This is not a fight that can be won by a single organisation and it is important that we each play our part by supporting one another and sharing resources. Even though I will be working from home for the foreseeable future, I will do everything I can to facilitate this journey and I look forward to supporting our partners in the year ahead.
Kat Rolle is the Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership Coordinator. To find out more go to www.stopexploitationherts.org.uk.