Former Strictly Come Dancing Judge Arlene Phillips has joined forces with Causeway, a modern slavery and criminal justice support charity based in Sheffield, backing their ‘Rewriting Christmas’ fundraising campaign, which calls upon the public for support.
In a campaign video posted on social media by Causeway, Phillips says in reference to modern slavery that she is “shocked in this day and age that this is going on” and, what’s more, “taking place in towns and cities all across the UK”.
Also backing the campaign are Reggae Reggae Sauce founder Levi Roots, and celebrity impressionist Jan Ravens. In her campaign video, the former Strictly Come Dancing contestant brings home to us the depressing fact that “modern slavery is increasing year on year”.
Modern slavery on the rise
As reported by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), official figures show that there has been a five-times increase of modern slavery victims in the UK since 2015, with figures rising from 3,264 victims in that year to 17,000 potential victims in 2022. But this is certainly an underestimate; research by the CSJ suggests that in 2020 there were possibly as many as 100,000 victims. A further distressing fact is that of a record high number of British potential victims of slavery in 2022, one in five were children. The worldwide total of victims is estimated to be around 50 million.
Modern slavery can take different forms, such as human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage, criminal exploitation, sexual exploitation, forced marriage and organ harvesting. What these all have in common is the exploitation of people, which commonly involves individuals working for free or low, insufficient wages. And, as Roots says in his campaign video, “modern slavery doesn’t discriminate … anybody could find themselves a victim of it”.
Hearing survivors’ stories
Causeway, which has existed since 2005, now works with over 1,200 service users each year. As part of its Rewriting Christmas campaign, the charity has shared the stories of survivors of modern slavery on its website, in order to show the benefits that 12 months of support can bring.
We read the story of Marta and Paul, for example – a couple who had fallen into financial difficulties. Having been tricked by a Polish criminal gang, they were locked in a cellar, had their passports taken away, and were made to work to pay off the thousands of pounds they were told they now owed. Escaping into the cold, they slept on benches for two weeks until they were helped by authorities and referred to Causeway’s family safe house, which gave them a safe place to stay. Thanks to Causeway’s support, Marta says they now have a future again together.
Having famous names associated with the campaign is an important means of raising public awareness of the experiences of people such as Marta and Paul, says Helen Ball, Causeway’s CEO:
“The voices and experiences of modern slavery survivors are often not heard. Causeway are very grateful to have the support of Arlene, Jan and Levi to help shine a light on the situations that many people will be facing this Christmas who are trapped in modern slavery and exploitation.”
A Christmas appeal
Causway’s CEO goes on to explain the thinking behind ‘Rewriting Christmas’: “Christmas can be a particularly scary and isolating time for survivors. Not only for those who are currently experiencing modern slavery, but also those rescued who are struggling to readjust into society and deal with the trauma of what they’ve been through.” She expresses gratitude to anybody in a position to donate to the campaign.
As does Ravens: “Causeway supports modern slavery survivors every single day who have been through heartbreaking situations. However, they rely on the kindness and generosity of the general public to do this. That’s why I’m proud to be supporting Causeway’s Rewriting Christmas campaign, and if you’re in a position to dig deep and donate to them this Christmas, we would all be super grateful!”
Information about the campaign is on the Causeway website and there is a link to donate if you would like to do so.