National Referral Mechanism Statistics 2021
While the Modern Slavery: National Refferal Mechanism Statistics reports from this year do not give the whole picture of the situation in Sussex, they do offer some useful comparison points.
In the first quarter of 2021, from January to March:
- Sussex Police received 61 referrals for crime investigation.
- Of these 61, 2 (3%) came from third sector first responders.
- 38 referrals were made by Sussex-based first responders, Sussex Police and local authorities.
- Of the 38 referrals made, 82% were children at the time of exploitation.
In the second quarter of 2021, from April to June:
- Sussex Police received 88 referrals for crime investigation.
- Of these 88, 3 (3%) came from third sector first responders.
- 33 referrals were made by Sussex-based first responders, Sussex Police and local authorities.
- Of the 33 referrals made, 64% were children at the time of exploitation.
In the third quarter of 2021, from July to September:
- Sussex Police received 145 referrals for crime investigation.
- Of these 145, 9 (6%) came from third sector first responders.
- 24 referrals were made by Sussex-based first responders, Sussex Police and local authorities.
- Of the 24 referrals made, 63% were children at the time of exploitation.
To put the above statistics into the context of the pandemic, England entered into its third national lockdown on 6th January, restrictions were first eased on 8th March and all legal limits on contact were removed on 21st June.
The biggest difference that can be seen between a time of national lockdown in Q1 and of post-restrictions in Q3 is the number of referrals for criminal investigation, which increases by over twice the amount. This rapid increase in referrals highlights the difficulties that were faced in combating the problem during national lockdowns and raises concerns over whether cases were regrettably missed during this time.
It is important to note that the statistics on referrals made for crime investigation are being used due to it being both the most detailed information available, and also because criminal exploitation was the most claimed type in Sussex in all three quarters. This therefore demonstrates the need for these referrals to be made to the police in order to sufficiently disrupt this type of exploitation.
The high level of child potential victims that is consistent throughout the year is also a cause for concern and begs the question of what more could be done to protect children from the vulnerabilities of trafficking and modern slavery.
The number of referrals made by local authorities and third sector first responders is interesting when compared with other areas in the UK. In recent years, there have been a number of campaigns to raise public awareness of modern slavery in the West Midlands. This great deal of work that has been done to combat the prevalence of modern slavery in the area is arguably reflected in the NRM statistics. For example, in Q1 of this year, during the height of lockdown restrictions, West Midlands Police received 243 referrals for crime investigation. In the same period, West Midlands Police made 63 referrals to the NRM, compared with only 28 made by Sussex Police. In the same quarter, local authorities in the West Midlands made 136 referrals, a stark contrast to the mere 10 made by Sussex local authorities. This raises the question of whether the police force and local authorities are doing enough in Sussex, or whether they should be doing more to combat the issue’s prevalence.
The Salvation Army
However, statistics from a recent report by The Salvation Army suggest that the issue is being dealt with sufficiently in Sussex. The report notes that referrals from the South East are the second highest in the UK, behind London, in the period between July 2020 and June 2021. The report also identifies the high number of British victims who entered the organisation’s service, with it being the second highest nationality behind Albanian. Just over half of all British referrals claimed to be subject to criminal exploitation, again highlighting the prevalence of this form in the UK. However, the report shows the most common type of exploitation to be sexual, with this being most frequently experienced by Albanians.
Guest speaker from The Salvation Army, Norree Webb, spoke of the struggles that the organisation has faced as a result of the pandemic. Notably, the most difficult of the new conditions were being forced to move away from in-person meetings and the impact that ‘locking up’ victims to meet government guidelines has on their recovery.
Summary of the session
The roundtable discussion saw sectors come together to discuss the impact that the pandemic has had on tackling modern slavery in Sussex but was also a more general discussion on how progress could be made in combatting the problem and the barriers that are in the way. Ardea CEO Colleen Theron, called attention to the NRM statistics that were prior discussed, asking the question of whether we should all be working more collaboratively to tackle the prevalence of trafficking and modern slavery in Sussex.
The problems faced in prosecution were discussed by Chief Inspector Kris Ottery, who highlighted the difficulties in obtaining evidence in trafficking and modern slavery cases on account of the discrete nature of it. However, he emphasised that while these hurdles exist they do not stop the industry of trafficking and modern slavery from being disrupted, which contributes towards eliminating it altogether.
There is hope that with lockdown restrictions now completely abolished, things can slowly start to get back to a sense of normality and that organisations such as The Salvation Army can return to delivering services as they were intended to be. It was a pleasure to be able to see so many attendees in person again and we would like to thank all speakers and guests for their participation in the discussion. We intend to host the next session in the new year, and hope that we will have progress to report back.