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The Safe Car Wash app: review 


Baptist minister Steve Tinning reviews a new app which aims to highlight exploitation at hand car washes 

Safe Car Wash app review 

Last year we invited an Anti-Slavery Partnership Coordinator from the local Police to speak at Leigh Road Baptist Church about modern slavery – and were shocked to hear of the prevalence of slavery in our town (and across the whole of the UK).

We learnt a great deal about what to look out for. We were told that car washes and nail bars are common businesses for traffickers to use in their exploitation, and so we should watch out for suspect signs whenever we use them.

Not being a regular patron at my local nail salon I wanted to focus my energies on the various car washes that have started cropping up around Southend. There are around 17,500-18,000 hand car washes spread all over the country, and new ones opening every week. Between 2,500-3,000 of these are associated with shopping centres or supermarkets, but the rest are largely unregulated.

It’s critical then that those of us who use these car washes are able to identify the signs of modern slavery and have effective and safe ways of sharing any concerns we might have. The “Safe Car Wash” app is a wonderful tool to help us with this.
On Tuesday I downloaded this new app and drove to my local car wash. It was time for an inside and out clean, and so once the outside had been done I got out of the car and sat down beside my children’s car seats and as much of the rubbish as I could hurriedly gather from my door pockets.

As I sat there, I opened the app, watched and subtly answered the questions posed… “Do the workers have access to suitable clothing, like gloves and boots?”

“Is there evidence of workers living on the site, e.g. nearby caravans / mattresses?”

“Does the car wash only accept cash?”

“Did you have to pay a manager?”

There were about a dozen questions in all, each designed to provide information which would help the Modern Slavery Helpline identify whether the car wash I’d visited is a likely venue of modern slavery. I’m glad to report, no such alert was raised by my use of the app – but if it had, the app gives excellent instructions on how to safely report the issues raised and where to go for more information if you are interested in learning more.
The app was easy to download and install. The questions were framed in such a way that I was able to use the app inconspicuously and safely (it also made a point to remind me to prioritise safety throughout the process). There was a requirement to interpret some of the questions in my context, e.g. when the app asks “Did they offer a receipt?” I was left wondering, “should I ask for one?” (They didn’t offer a receipt, but were happy to provide one when I asked), but this is a minor quibble resolved by a degree of common sense.

On the whole I found the app extremely intuitive and a wonderful resource which I wholeheartedly recommend. I shall gladly use again the next time I misguidedly park my car under a tree for a prolonged period of time.

Steve Tinning is associate minister of Leigh Road Baptist Church, Southend. For more on the Safe Car Wash app, visit www.theclewerinitiative.org/safecarwash 


Baptist Times, 07/06/2018
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