Drivers have made more than 900 reports of potential modern day slavery at hand car washes using a newly-launched app.
They were among 2,271 completed entries on the Safe Car Wash app, launched last year by the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
Users of the app had spotted various potential signs of modern slavery or labour exploitation which were marked off against a checklist on the app.
These included 48 per cent of reports which noted that workers did not have suitable protective clothing such as gloves or boots, despite many hand car washes potentially using harmful chemicals, according to the analysis.
A car wash which had a cash-only policy was flagged up as a concern by 80 per cent of those who responded, while 17 per cent of users said they had seen fearful looking workers. Children working on site was noted in eight per cent of reports.
The app asked drivers to look out for nearby caravans, containers, mattresses and bedding as evidence of workers living on site.
Responses showed that 14 per cent of users believed that workers may be living at the car wash.
Bishop Alastair Redfern, chair of The Clewer Initiative, the CoE’s campaign against modern slavery, said: “Sadly, the findings so far confirm what we already feared – that many car washes do not protect their workers.
“Our conversations with colleagues from law enforcement suggest that the data from the Safe Car Wash app is providing another piece in the puzzle of how to combat this complex crime. We hope to continue to build on this progress.”
There were 930 reports between June and December 2018 following analysis of the data by the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab.
Users were then asked to call the Modern Slavery Helpline anonymously where their findings were shared with police and the Gangmasters’ and Labour Abuse Authority.
Dr Akilah Jardine, research associate at the Rights Lab, suggested the app could help raise awareness and also be useful to investigations on the issue.