‘Don’t turn a blind eye’

The scandal of modern day slavery has hit Ambridge

Readers of uniteEXTRA may wonder if I’ve lost my senses in writing a review of BBC Radio 4’s The Archers. Yet the programme has a public service tradition. A recent and highly compelling story line involved modern slavery. The programme’s producer worked closely with the advocacy team from Hope for Justice drawing from their experience supporting victims. The ‘Ambridge’ slave master is builder Philip Moss, a mild mannered, middle aged bird-watcher. The slaves are three British vulnerable young men with learning or mental health disabilities. Blake, Jordon and Kenzie were homeless when Moss seized the opportunity to enslave them. Referred to by the dehumanising term “the horses” Moss sold the men on to another trafficker, in Blake’s case for £20 as “damaged goods” following a workplace accident.

According to the Global Slavery Index there are up to 136,000 modern slaves in the UK hidden in plain sight. The Archer’s producer is honing in on the Ambridge clients who benefited from ‘mate’s rates’ and charitable pro-bono work. Most are anguished by their complicity yet my guess is we all know of undercutters and some of us are all too aware of those with a fondness for suspiciously cut-price labour. Moss will be brought to justice as a slave master, yet from my own home I see ‘home improvements’ undertaken with no regard to safety by workers who by birth and employment status are almost certain to be vulnerable. We all have a responsibility not to turn a blind eye whether within our own communities or at site level.

Concerns about modern slavery should be reported to a specialist helpline on 0800 121 700.

The Archers is broadcast daily on BBC Radio 4

By Gail Cartmail, Unite AGS