Drivers are being encouraged to join an unprecedented national information-gathering campaign launched by the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales aimed at eradicating modern slavery in hand car washes.

As has been stated by The Clewer Initiativethe Church of England’s campaign against modern slavery, many hand car washes are legitimate businesses, but some of them are not. Now, anti-slavery campaigners and other key agencies, including the police and councils, are backing the Safe Car Wash App, which has been launched by The Clewer Initiative and the Santa Marta Group, the Catholic Church’s anti-slavery project.

From Monday, 4th June 2018, the Safe Car Wash app can be downloaded for free onto Apple and Android devices. Users can open the app when they are at the car wash and pinpoint their exact location using GPS.

They will be then taken through a series of indicators of modern slavery. They range from practical details – such as whether workers have suitable protective clothing – to behavioural clues, such as whether they appear withdrawn. If the answers indicate a high likelihood, users will be directed to the Modern Slavery Helpline.

Data from the app will be anonymised and shared with the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has said: “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.

“Through the Safe Car Wash App we now have a chance to help tackle this scourge which is damaging so many people’s lives.”

Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said: “I welcome this very helpful and timely initiative in an area of real exploitation. As we learn to see this example of forced labour and modern slavery in our midst, we will also become more aware of the presence of this evil scourge in other sectors in our neighbourhood.”

Will Kerr, Director of Vulnerabilities for the National Crime Agency (NCA), has said: “This App will help to engage the public in identifying car washes, where slavery is suspected, and will also help law enforcement identify those people who may be at risk, as well as those criminals who are exploiting the vulnerable.”

Professor Zoe Trodd, Director of the Rights Lab, a University of Nottingham Beacon of Excellence, has said: “Car washes are completely unregulated territory and we don’t know how big the sector is, how many hand car washes operate or how many persons are registered to work in them. This citizen engagement in data collection is a powerful technique with potential for mapping other vulnerable services such as nail bars.”

The App is also endorsed by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the Local Government Association and the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.