Modern Slavery: The Home Office publishes its end of year statistics

The Home Office End of Year Statistics on Modern Slavery


The Home Office has published its statistical bulletin providing a summary, and breakdown, of the number of potential victims of modern slavery referred to the National Referral Mechanism in 2022.


In 2022, the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) received a total of 16,938 referrals. This represents an increase of 33% from the previous year. Of all the referrals received, at least 7019 (41%) related to children. This is the highest number of referrals received since the NRM began in 2009.

The Home Office bulletin breaks down the referrals by gender, exploitation type and nationality. It confirms that:

  • 80% of potential child victims referred to the NRM were male (5607) and 20% were female (1978);
  • The most common form of exploitation reported for potential child victims was criminal exploitation.
  • 2281 referrals received by the Competent Authority were specifically flagged for ‘county lines’. 75% of those referrals related to male children.
  • UK nationals represented the second highest nationality referred to the NRM. Of all of the UK nationals referred to the NRM, 80% were potential child victims.


The statistics issued by the Home Office confirm that children continue to make up a large proportion of those referred to the NRM. It is unsurprising that the most common form of exploitation reported for potential child victims was criminal exploitation. The Home Office suggests that the rapid increase in the identification of ‘county lines cases’ throughout 2020, partially drove the increase in referrals  for children within the criminal exploitation category. However, this has been the most common form of exploitation for children since at least 2019, when such data began to be recorded by the Home Office.

The statistics indicate that the average time taken for the Competent Authority to make a conclusive grounds decision is 583 days. As of the 26 January 2023, 12,907 of the referrals received by the Competent Authority in 2022 are still awaiting a conclusive decision. The delays in the Competent Authority reaching conclusive grounds decisions are concerning; particularly in relation to children and those who are remanded in custody in relation to offences committed as a direct result of their exploitation. The move to towards local decision making in the case of children may assist with these delays however, these benefits may be negated by the broader changes made to the NRM process as a result of the Nationality and Boarders Act 2022.

Written by Sabrina Neves, Solicitor at GT Stewart Solicitors