Number of people identified as potential slaves rises by 20%

Recent figures released by the Home Office have identified a 20% increase in the number of people identified as potential victims of slavery in the UK. 

The figures, which show a sharp rise from 10,601 victims in 2020, to 12,727 potential victims in 2021, have been attributed to an increased awareness of modern slavery issues amongst front line workers, as well as a greater awareness of what support is available to victims. 

However, with more than 100,000 people believed to be trapped in exploitation in the UK, the numbers of survivors currently being supported, are just the tip of the iceberg.

When someone claims they are a victim of slavery, or are identified as a potential victim by ‘First Responders’ such as the police or local authorities, they are referred into the government support programme, the National Referral Mechanism (NRM).

Once someone is in the NRM system, the Home Office then makes a ‘reasonable grounds’ decision on whether they believe that person is a victim. Adults who are given a ‘positive reasonable grounds’ decision are given support, such as accommodation, money, and counselling, while they wait for a ‘conclusive grounds’ decision on their case. Local authorities support children.

Upon receiving a ‘positive conclusive grounds’ decision, they are given at least another 45 days of support, often in safe houses and outreach programmes such as those run by City Hearts, whilst those given a negative decision receive nine days of ‘move on’ support.

The 2021 figures show that nearly 10,000 of the NRM referrals were for males, with forced labour, such as farm and construction work, being the biggest exploitation type for adults. 

More than 5,000 children were also referred into the NRM, with a large proportion of these being exploited for criminal activity, such as drug dealing.

City Hearts CEO Ed Newton, said: “We welcome the news that more survivors than ever before have received support through the NRM (the Government’s support system) over the past year. That support, which City Hearts is proud to deliver, marks a recovery and new beginning for each of those survivors. Nevertheless, it is clear that more needs to be done. There remains over 130,000 victims of Modern Slavery here in the UK, and we are determined that each of them be free from their exploitative situation and receive the support they need and deserve. We remain grateful to our partners who continue to work in this space.”

2021 Home Office statistics:

  • 12,727 potential victims of modern slavery were referred into the NRM.
  • 9,790 were male, 2,923 were female.
  • 7,434 of potential victims claimed exploitation in the UK only.
  • 3,883 claimed exploitation overseas only.
  • 6,411 of referrals were for potential victims who claimed exploitation as adults (4,812 of adults were male and 1,594 were female).
  • 5,468 claimed exploitation as children (4,314 were male and 1,145 were female).
  • 2,141 adult potential victims reported labour exploitation.
  • 2,689 child potential victims were referred for criminal exploitation.
  • The most common nationalities referred in 2021 were UK, Albanian and Vietnamese.

In 2021, of the 12,727 potential victims referred into the NRM, 12,665 reasonable grounds decisions were issued, and of those, 11,387 were deemed positive and 1,278 were negative.