Modern slavery and transparency in supply chains statement 2022/23
This statement sets out the steps taken during 2022/23 by Kent and Medway Fire and Rescue Authority and is published in in line with section 54(1) of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (Transparency in Supply Chains) Regulations 2015
What is Modern Slavery?
Modern slavery is a serious crime being committed across the UK in which victims are exploited for someone else’s gain. It can take many forms including trafficking of people, forced labour and servitude. It is a very real and present threat to our society and is sadly all around us, but often hidden from sight and difficult to spot. Many victims also do not identify that way. We share the actions we have taken so far in this statement
Since the Modern Slavery Act became law live police operations have increased significantly.
The number of referrals is increasing. 2021 saw the highest number in the UK since records began, with nearly half the cases being children.
12,727 potential victims were referred to the Home Office in 2021.1
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), globally, 49.6 million people lived in modern slavery in 2021. 27.6 million in forced labour. 2
10 million innocent people were moved out of their homes overnight as a result of the crisis in Ukraine. Despite global humanitarian support, it is thought that many may have fallen victim to traffickers on border crossings.
Changes in personal circumstances here in the UK because of the cost-of-living crisis sadly could also lead to an increase in victims of this crime. Households that have been pushed into poverty are more susceptible to being exploited.
Measuring the true impact may not be possible as victims fear homelessness, deportation, or starvation if they speak out.
Protection and prevention are central to everything we do at Kent and Medway Fire and Rescue Authority (the authority). Together with our partners and suppliers we take our responsibility seriously. Driving the change that we all want to see happen. Every member of our organisation can act on any concerns they identify. Together we are working towards a world that is free of slavery, persecution, and exploitation.
This statement shares what we have done so far. It also details our commitment on what we will do to help combat this offence. We are focussed on where we can make a difference and we are proud that we have made a good start. We know that there is still much to do, and it will take time to stamp out modern slavery.
1 Modern Slavery: National Referral Mechanism and Duty to Notify statistics UK, end of year summary, 2021 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Who are we?
Every minute of every day, we are here to save lives and make our county even safer. We are a forward thinking, modern fire and rescue service with a long and proud history. Together with our customers we are creating a safer future for Kent and Medway.
Helping to keep people safe in their homes, where they work and in places of education. We are there for our customers when needed – whether it is a fire, a road crash, or a water rescue.
The service is formed of over 1,447 members of our team. We have 55 fire stations, a training centre, control centre and service headquarters all within Kent and Medway. We also have around 50 volunteers available to support customers.
Prevention from harm is a big part of what we do. We have 21 Safe and Well officers who give a reassuring service to both the public and any member of our teams who may have encountered someone identified either through operational incidents or home fire safety visits as being 'at risk.' The team works closely with other agencies such as social services, mental health teams, local authorities, housing associations and the police. Together they put high risk intervention measures in place, often at very short notice.
11,228 safe and well visits and 7,588 home fire safety visits were made in Kent and Medway throughout 22/23.
We also have 21 designated safeguarding officers (DSOs) with 11 of these out of hours. Our internal and external safeguarding processes make sure the service helps to protect the safety and welfare of children and adults at risk as our teams meet them during their work. We have a safeguarding policy and guidance that includes activities that are undertaken to protect specific children, young people and adults who are suffering, or likely to suffer, abuse harm or neglect. Our teams have raised 634 safeguarding cases between April 2011 and March 2023.
Our customer promise sets out our commitment to all customers. Working with them we aim to create a safer future for Kent and Medway. We promise to give excellent, personalised and accessible services. We also promise to maintain our customers trust and to work with our customers to keep improving. Our promise, in many ways, is in line with our ambition included within this statement.
We are committed to a culture of listening and understanding to encourage everyone to be curious and compassionate. We have internal and external whistleblowing routes for colleagues to raise concerns to prevent and identify harm. This culture and practice not only help us all to value difference and be kind it means we are able to identify when someone is at risk of harm.
We don’t just comply with the relevant laws and practices on how we should treat colleagues, customers and anyone who comes into contact with our organisation. We extend our role beyond compliance by making sure we do not tolerate discrimination in our business practices, or the behaviours of anyone within our organisation or networks.
Our sourcing map
Our average annual spend with third parties is £20m and we currently source a variety of goods and services from 58 countries worldwide (an increase from 49 as published in our 21/22 statement)
List of countries we source goods and services from
- United Kingdom
- Costa Rica
- Cote D'loire
- Czech Republic
- Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
- New Zealand
- North Macedonia
- Papua New Guinea
- Republic of Ireland
- South Africa
- South Korea
Our progress: What are we doing about modern slavery?
Our sourcing map shows our extensive global supplier base. Given the ongoing global supply issues alongside rising costs, it is an evolving picture. To assure the continuity of critical goods and services needed for our front-line our map has expanded substantially. This reflects the work that the Authority is doing to have greater transparency in our supply chains.
We understand modern slavery could appear in our supplier’s business, or any supplier in the chain from raw material to disposal.
As a publicly funded organisation, we ensure absolute transparency in all our purchasing decisions and practices. We continue to build on our promise in our previous statements that all of our Tier 1 suppliers will need to sign up to the Modern Slavery Assessment Tool. We have made great progress in this area. Over £21.4m worth of contracts with suppliers across all categories (fleet, information communications technology, facilities management and construction, operational equipment, clothing/personal protective equipment and professional services) are now working with us to publish their performance against key measures on the tool. The level of information shared with us is proportionate to the critical nature of the goods and services that each supplier gives us, and the level of risk of modern slavery associated with the specific markets they work within.
We work with our Tier 1 suppliers to make sure that they are committed to training workers and their local suppliers on modern slavery risks and compliance.
It certainly cannot be underestimated how complex the audit and traceability processes are when dealing with multi-tier supply chains. This must absolutely be done collaboratively with our Tier 1 suppliers, which will take time, not least because of the dynamic nature of global markets. However, the progress that we are making by working closely together with our suppliers with a shared purpose and values will continue to ensure that we do right by everyone that engages with our organisation.
Our suppliers are taking positive steps to help make sure that their supply chains and every individual that works within the chain is free of any risk of modern slavery. Action such as on-site pre-enrolment systems and anonymised call cycles to check directly with workers regarding their human rights and their personal experiences of the employment processes to ensure that they are ethical, and every individual is aware of their rights. We also have suppliers who are signed up to and follow the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority protocols; and suppliers who are in collaboration with the UK Construction Industry to address slavery and forced labour risks in the industry.
Supplier code of conduct
The authority works in a responsible, ethical and open way and we expect the same from our suppliers. We have set out the standards, values and behaviours we expect from our suppliers in our Supplier Code of Conduct . We ask suppliers to confirm that they will work with us to protect and respect human rights.
Policies and controls
We are committed to the highest standards of openness, honesty and accountability. As such, policies have been developed or updated to reduce slavery and human trafficking:
- Modern Slavery Policy
- Speak Up Policy
- Transparency Policy
- Safeguarding Policy:
- Guidance Document G27 – How to raise a safeguarding concern.
- Guidance Document G28 – Safeguarding Terms and Definitions.
- Recruitment and Selection Policy
- Managing Safeguarding Allegations Policy
If a modern slavery risk is identified, our Modern Slavery Policy provides links to comprehensive legal guidance.
We keep our policies under regular review, ensuring that we have the right guidance, processes and controls in place to detect modern slavery related offences.
We work closely with external agencies and law enforcement, as well as attending industry meetings to stay on top of emerging modern slavery trends. The intelligence we get from this helps us strengthen our capabilities to recognise red flags in customers’ transactional behaviours.
Looking after our people
Our internal policies encourage a culture of supporting and empowering our people, recognising that we must ensure that modern slavery is considered at every significant decision gateway internally, as well as externally.
In March 2023 we adopted an updated flexible working policy, which means that from day one of joining our organisation, colleagues can request flexible working to enable greater opportunities for work-life balance. The policy reflects our proactive approach to introducing measures that give our people freedom of choice, long before any legislation changes. It is quite simply the right thing to do.
We understand that social isolation has become a growing issue since the Pandemic, which is a known factor for increasing risk of exploitation. We have set clear guides for managers in terms of adding in regular face to face touchpoints with colleagues. We also have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in place for 24/7 support.
We make sure that any recruitment services that we engage apply the same high standards that we do. Verifying ID, the right to work in the UK along with Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks helps us learn who we are employing to identify whether someone is connected to modern slavery-related activities, as perpetrator or victim
Process and risk
We have developed a safeguarding concern referral form. We signpost our people to the process of raising a concern through guidance published on our intranet, safeguarding training is mandatory. We have widely distributed posters, some of which have been developed with our external EAP provider, that signpost colleagues on whistleblowing. or show a process flow diagram for raising a concern. We continually look at the referral process to make sure that first accounts are recorded by the person identifying the concern. The information asked for on our referral form is consistent with other partners. We make sure the concerns and feelings and wishes of the person are documented at the earliest opportunity.
Working with our legal advisers, we have developed improved obligations on our suppliers by introducing modern slavery compliance clauses which we are including in procurement projects. As a result, our suppliers are obligated to take steps to investigate and identify issues relating to the Modern Slavery Act and to tell us at once if they become aware of any issues within their supply chains. We want to make sure that the rights of everyone working on our contracts are protected and have therefore also included provision for income security and working hours. Our future contracts will also include details of the Modern Slavery Helpline and link to the online reporting facility.
Training and awareness
All of our teams:
A two-year training plan was launched in March 2022. Modern slavery and human trafficking e-learning is mandatory for all new and existing colleagues as part of our safeguarding training. Specific roles will decide whether members of our teams receive level 2, 3 or 4 training, i.e, call handler level 2, safeguarding officer level 4. This is evidenced in our Safeguarding Policy.
The training plan is reviewed on an annual basis.
Safeguarding Level 3 and 4 training has been completed by 70 colleagues and 131 have completed the enhanced Level 2 since the National Fire Chief Council’s 'train the trainer' session in October 2021. These numbers will continue to grow as more colleagues are due to undertake the training until September 2023.
Commercial and Procurement:
The Commercial and Procurement team has made good progress with its commitment to Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) Ethical Procurement and Supply E-Learning. All team members that have responsibility for sourcing or supplier relationship management have now completed the training and are certified. This means that KMFRA are now able to progress with signing the CIPS Corporate Code of Ethics and Ethics statement, which means that we shall be listed on the CIPS Corporate Ethical Register.
Our registration will be a symbol of our efforts to procuring ethically and the steps that we are taking to eradicate malpractice from our supply chains. Our commitment to the statement aligns with our approach to continuous learning, making sure that our people are equipped with the knowledge and understanding to make this happen. This will be renewed annually.
The team is also committed to their continued professional development and regularly participate in webinars to expand their learning and exposure to actions taken and lessons learned from real-life cases found within supply chains.
Collaboration and stakeholder engagement
Compliance and positive steps towards change relies on teamwork. Our partnerships are integral for the Authority in addressing modern slavery risks, helping us to stay on top of emerging modern slavery trends and strengthen our detection capabilities.
We have had many intervention successes resulting from multi-agency collaboration, like the number of safeguarding cases we have identified.
Issues/Areas of work
Stop the Traffik
Registered Charity building a global picture of human trafficking hotspots and trends through information sharing and collaboration.
To build resilience into communities, and to encourage appropriate response and reporting.
Providing training and support to KMFRA Safeguarding Manager
The Salvation Army
Modern Slavery Helpline available 24/7.
Support provided via the helpline if concerns are identified and further advice needed.
Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority
Non-Departmental Public Body set up to protect vulnerable and exploited workers.
Investigate reports of worker exploitation and illegal activity such as human trafficking, forced labour and illegal labour provision, as well as offences under the National Minimum Wage and Employment Agencies Acts.
Point of reference for knowledge, skills and experience in terms of all aspects of human rights abuse.
Presented at senior managers forum to build on knowledge and awareness across our organisation.
Emergency services partner
First responders for modern slavery issues
Sharing of information if detected to help trace individuals.
Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking Co-ordinator provided training to our Designated Safeguarding Officers and Head of Commercial and Procurement
UK Fire and Rescue Services
Fire and Rescue Sector
Sharing of information and learning
Sharing of model template for Modern Slavery Policy for adoption sector-wide.
We are proud to report that we are responding to modern slavery in a way that reflects our Customer Promise, with safety being our primary focus.
Modern slavery is a complex, multi-layered issue. We are committed to our responsibility to regularly review our policies, due diligence, and risk assessment processes to strengthen our approach to modern slavery. This allows us to identify, assess, and address risk, to tackle modern slavery from its root causes and protect the human rights of the people in our business and supply chains.
We will continue to widen the scope of our due diligence to engage and share our ambitions with our suppliers and train everyone within our organisation to spot the signs of modern slavery.
It is crucial that we measure how effective our efforts are in delivering long-term sustainable change and tackling modern slavery from its root causes and we will be proud to carry the CIPS ethical mark once awarded as a symbol of our commitment.
Over the reporting period that this statement covers, we have increased our knowledge of our supply chains by growing the number of suppliers that are working with us to mitigate modern slavery risks in our supply base.
We recognise that there is still progress to be made across our supply chains. We are committed to reviewing and improving our practices and collaborating with others to ensure that we continually improve within an ever-changing world.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our partners, including our customers and suppliers, without whom our work to protect the rights of individuals in our supply chains and address the risk of modern slavery wouldn’t be possible.
Chair, Kent and Medway Fire and Rescue Authority
Chief Executive, Kent Fire and Rescue Service