A NORTH-East authority has signed up to a new charter to tackle modern day slavery.

It means Durham County Council will work with other agencies to focus on how to protect those at risk.

The charter, which was approved by councillors at a meeting yesterday, also looks at how it will raise awareness among its employees, including providing a consistent message on how to respond to modern slavery, and emphasising the importance of the council’s code of conduct for equality and diversity.

There is also guidance on whistle blowing to help identify and protect victims at the earliest opportunity.

The charter extends to contractors and the council’s supply chain and the ethical procurement of goods and services.

Councillor Lucy Hovvels, member for adult and health services, said: “Slavery is not confined to history books. The Government statistics show it still occurs in the UK, with vulnerable people deprived of their freedom and forced to undertake gruelling work in poor conditions with little or no pay.

“This charter demonstrates just how serious we are about preventing modern slavery in County Durham, to ensure all those who live and work here are safe, respected and properly rewarded for their work.”

Cllr Jane Brown, cabinet member for social inclusion, said: “As a local authority, employer, community leader and procurer, we are committed to tackling modern day slavery and human trafficking across all of our activities and responsibilities.

“The charter sets out how we and are partners will continue to scrutinise working conditions, support the vulnerable and raise awareness of this cruel, degrading and illegal practise.”

The Modern Slavery Charter was developed in consultation with Unite, GMB and Unison trade unions. Progress against its key aims will be monitored each year.