Referrals to NRM plateau in 2020

31st March 2021 | National Referral Mechanism

2020 end of year summary of referrals to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM)

The Clewer Initiative

Last month, the Home Office released its end of year summary of the number of potential victims of modern slavery referred into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) or via the Duty to Notify (DtN) process from 1 January to 31 December 2020.

These are the key findings:

  • In 2020, 10,613 potential victims of modern slavery were referred to the NRM; a similar number to 2019. The plateau in referral numbers is primarily thought to result from the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions.
  • Of these, 63% (6,716) claimed that the exploitation occurred in the UK only, whilst 26% (2,722) claimed that the exploitation took place overseas only.
  • Just under half of referrals (48%; 5,087) were for individuals who claimed they were exploited as adults, whilst 47% (4,946) were for individuals who claimed they were exploited as children.
  • The most common type of exploitation for adults was labour exploitation and for minors was criminal exploitation.
  • Potential victims from the UK, Albania and Vietnam were the three most common nationalities to be referred to the NRM.
  • Of the 10,613 potential victims referred in 2020, 26% (2,752) were female and 74% (7,826) were male. Compared to 2019, males overall have increased as a proportion of all NRM referrals (68% in 2019), with child potential victims slightly driving this trend. For adult potential victims, 70% (3,540) were male and 30% (1,538) were female, whilst for child potential victims, 78% (3,843) were male and 22% (1,079) were female.
  • For both adult and child potential victims, most referrals for sexual exploitation (90% and 85% respectively) were for female potential victims.
  • For those exploited as children, an increase in the identification of ‘county lines’ cases has partially driven the rise in the number of cases categorised within the ‘criminal exploitation’ category, with 40% of all child referrals for criminal exploitation being flagged as county lines.
  • In 2020, 1,544 referrals were flagged as county lines referrals, accounting for 15% of referrals received (data table 27) and an increase of 31% from 2019. The majority (81%; 1,247) of these referrals were for male children.
  • As in 2019, almost one-third of all referrals were sent to the Metropolitan Police Service, and West Midlands Police received the second highest amount of NRM referrals, accounting for 7% of all referrals in 2020.

To read the entire report, go to

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