A new scheme has been set up to help local businesses and public service workers recognise the signs of modern slavery in rural Yorkshire.
North Yorkshire Police, working in partnership with major statutory, voluntary and private sector organisations including health, local government and local businesses, have launched a Modern Slavery Partnership.
Speaking today, on Anti-Slavery day, Detective Inspector John Freer, the force's lead for modern slavery and human trafficking, said “North Yorkshire Police is keen to work with local organisations and businesses, to raise awareness of the fact that North Yorkshire is not untouched by modern slavery and to work together eradicate the crime.
“People have the belief that slavery exists only in densely populated areas and cities, which isn’t the case. Modern slavery can be found in towns and villages, rural and isolated areas.
"The Partnership’s aim is to work with private, public and voluntary organisations throughout the region to equip them with the knowledge to be able to recognise the signs of modern slavery, how to prevent and stop it and how to support its victims.”
Professor Gary Craig, Professor Emeritus of Social Justice at the University of Hull, who has helped develop the partnership, said: “Modern slavery can be found anywhere in the county and city.
"Everyone can have a role in combating slavery by knowing what it looks like, recognising it when they see it and then taking action by reporting it to the police or local authorities.”
Modern slavery has increasingly been recognised as a serious issue in the UK, leading to the passage of a Modern Slavery Act in 2015, which gives many organisations the knowledge and access to expertise to combat this appalling crime.
It is estimated that there are likely to be several hundred people in some form of modern slavery in the North Yorkshire area at any one time, with upwards of 30,000 across the whole of the country.
Modern slavery covers forms of serious sexual and physical exploitation such as human trafficking, forced labour, domestic servitude, cannabis farming, car washes, child labour and organ trafficking.
It can also be found in any economic activity such as hospitality and leisure, agriculture, construction, care, food production and fishing.
Some groups across the county have taken action to raise awareness of modern slavery, including both of York’s universities, which have planted modern slavery roses in dedicated gardens to raise awareness amongst their students of the issue.
The partnership will formally be launched in early November. Organisations wishing to be involved in its work are encouraged to contact Detective Inspector John Freer at firstname.lastname@example.org or Professor Gary Craig at Gary.email@example.com.
For more information on recognising the signs of modern slavery go to the North Yorkshire Police website https://northyorkshire.police.uk/news/modern-slavery-see-something-say-something/ or the Modern Slavery helpline website https://www.modernslaveryhelpline.org/