New panel set up to protect victims of modern slavery

This story was published 16 August 2021

A joint project to put in place local support for victims of trafficking or exploitation is being piloted in York and North Yorkshire.

Person sitting on floor

The initiative has seen the creation of a new, multi-agency panel, which will make decisions on protecting and supporting adult and child victims of modern slavery in the county.

The panel has powers to put in place specialised, tailored support, which may include protection from their traffickers or other criminals, accommodation, access to relevant legal advice and emotional and practical help.

Previously, these decisions were made by the Home Office following a referral from a local agency when victims of modern slavery had been identified, under the National Referral Mechanism.

Under the 12-month pilot being run by ourselves and the City of York Council, those decisions will now be made by a local panel, with input from other organisations including local NHS bodies and North Yorkshire Police.  The County and City councils are one of ten local authorities to take part in the national pilot, which launched earlier this month.

The panel looks at how to protect and support adult and child victims of modern slavery, which can involve many different types of exploitation, including forced or compulsory labour, coercing someone to commit crimes such as stealing to order, sexual exploitation, or human trafficking, which includes the movement of children across county borders by criminal gangs to sell drugs.

Under County Lines, drugs gangs from big cities expand their operations to smaller towns and rural areas, including in North Yorkshire, and children are used to transport the drugs and collect payments.

A notable characteristic of County Lines gangs is the exploitation of children and vulnerable adults, recruited with the lure of gifts or money and then locked into the criminal network through the use of violence, intimidation, debt and grooming.

Victims may not be aware that they are being trafficked or exploited and in some cases may have consented to elements of their exploitation, or accepted their situation.

Jess Markwart, Manager for Multiple Vulnerabilities with North Yorkshire County Council said: “Many people may be surprised to learn that modern slavery affects North Yorkshire, as well as the rest of the UK, but sadly, that is the case.

“The creation of this panel gives us powers locally to make decisions on keeping victims safe and removing them from the criminals’ control. The local agencies involved with the panel will have local knowledge and context and will be well placed to put in place the best possible support to keep people safe and protected from traumatic circumstances.”

Rose Howley, Head of Assessment and Targeted Intervention with the City of York Council’s Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) said: “The new, multi-agency panel enables decisions to be made quickly and effectively on keeping child victims safe from exploitation and serious criminal activity.

“It also means we can draw on a range of services and expertise in the county to put in place the right kind of support; whether that’s legal advice, help with safe accommodation or emotional support.”

Possible signs that a child is experiencing a form of harm, such as exploitation include a change in behaviour, such as becoming unusually withdrawn, secretive behaviour, having more money, clothes or other items they usually couldn’t afford, or being seen in places they shouldn’t be during school hours or normal term-time.

For a list of possible signs of exploitation or mental harm among children, visit;

For further information on safeguarding adults in York and North Yorkshire visit;