Reform of the National Referral Mechanism

The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is the UK’s framework for potential victims of modern slavery to be identified and referred for appropriate support; however the system needs improvement in many areas. The Commissioner is therefore pushing for complete reform.


The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is the UK’s framework for identifying victims of modern slavery and referring them to appropriate support and assistance. It was established in 2009 following ratification by the UK of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.


Since then there has been a considerable increase in the number of potential victims referred to the NRM for assistance (from 714 in 2010 to 5,145 in 2017). Furthermore, the profile of modern slavery, trends, types of exploitation and criminal operations have changed. There has also been an increased understanding of the complexity of their needs.


As such, the Commissioner believes that the current NRM is not fit for purpose; it is no longer able to fully respond to the crime and cater to the multiple, complex needs of victims, and is therefore in need of complete reform.


The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner has called for a National Referral Mechanism with more coordination, accountability, oversight and monitoring. Such a system will ensure a more robust and professional response to modern slavery crime.


In January 2017, the Commissioner wrote a letter to Sarah Newton MP, the then Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, raising concerns about the current NRM failings and setting out his recommendations for improved victim identification and care.


Following these recommendations, in April 2017, the Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP, committed to radical reform of the NRM to boost support for slavery victims in the UK.


The Commissioner made further recommendations on reform of the NRM following a consultation with stakeholders across the UK. In a letter dated September 2017, the Commissioner called for immediate access to support services after potential victims are rescued; a multi-agency expert group for decision making; victims’ entitlement to long-term support following a positive NRM decision; and a robust data collection mechanism that feeds into the UK intelligence picture of modern slavery crime.


The recommendations informed the UK Government’s announcement of NRM reform in October 2017, with many of the Commissioner’s suggestions actioned.

Other areas of focus

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