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Wiltshire multi-agency panel to help safeguard against child exploitation meets for the first time

Wiltshire Council and Swindon Borough Council are part of a multi-agency pilot to help address issues of child exploitation in the county.

Published 17 March 2023
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Wiltshire Council and Swindon Borough Council are part of a multi-agency pilot to help address issues of child exploitation in the county.

The government announced Wiltshire would pilot a new scheme where a local panel makes decisions using local expertise on who may be vulnerable to child slavery or exploitation so action can be taken to safeguard and support them.

The recommended decision of the local panel would then go to the Home Office for sign off. The panel will mean quicker decisions using the local knowledge and understanding of modern slavery. It will help reduce delays with court hearings in the criminal justice system with the flexibility to schedule additional panels at the request of the court and meet the timescales for a hearing. Children under the age of 18 who are identified in this way will receive specialist support and intervention.

Currently the recommendations are made nationally and there is a backlog of cases. The Home Office is running a number of pilot schemes to quicken the process and ultimately safeguard more young people. Wiltshire's first panel will meet next week.

The £80k pilot aims to help eradicate human trafficking and slavery and to discover and respond to incidents by focussing on the victim and using a multi-disciplinary and collaborative community effort.

This month the first panel to consider local cases will meet with representatives from Wiltshire Council, Swindon Borough Council, Wiltshire Police and health partner Great Western Hospital

Cllr Laura Mayes, Cabinet Member for Children's Services said: One of the most important duties of a local authority is to keep our young people safe. It is very good news we're part of this pilot which will act quickly and decisively using local knowledge to safeguard those who need us the most. All children and young people deserve to have the best start in life and we will look at what is causing obstacles to young people in achieving that.  

Detective Inspector Eirin Martin from Wiltshire Police's Exploitation and Missing Team said: I welcome this pilot - any plan which can help address child exploitation in our county is a good thing.

We already work hard with our partners to tackle and reduce this type of crime in our communities and this scheme hopefully will work well to help us all provide more protection for vulnerable children.

Wiltshire has trained up a number of panel members and the panel is set to meet fortnightly.

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