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Pathways Through Liberation: Revealing Survivors' Support Journeys Outside of the UK National Referral Mechanism

  • Funder: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
  • Duration: December 2020-August 2023
  • Project Leads: Andrea Nicholson (University of Nottingham), Alison Gardner (University of Nottingham) and Carole Murphy
  • Partners: University of Nottingham, St Marys University, Antislavery Coordinator for the Welsh Government, Independent Antislavery Commissioner.
  • Twitter: @supportpathways
  • Email:

About the project

In 2018, only 6,993 potential victims were referred to the NRM (including children). Of those, little is known about what happens to the majority of survivors after they reach the 'cliff edge' of support at the end of their time in the NRM, but there is some evidence that survivors are experiencing homelessness and destitution, and are at risk of further exploitation.

Even less is known about the outcomes and support interactions of those who decline to enter the NRM, or who exit prematurely. The ongoing journeys and outcomes for these individuals are not routinely monitored by most support organisations or by governmental authorities. Data is not collected on the numbers of suspected victims of modern slavery who choose not to enter the NRM or who exit NRM services prematurely, or their reasons for doing so.

Our project will address this knowledge gap. We will be working with survivors to record and share their experiences of recovery and of their encounters with state and third sector services, and we have third sector commitment to facilitate interviews with survivors across the UK to reveal their non-NRM support journeys.

We will focus on three distinct cohorts: 1) Potential victims who have chosen not to enter the NRM; 2) those who have consented to enter the NRM but exit NRM support services prematurely; and 3) those who have exited NRM services following the completion of the NRM support period. Our research will show what changes are necessary to enable survivors to recover more quickly, and provide them with the stability to co-operate in bringing their exploiters to justice, increase engagement with the NRM, and achieve sustained liberation.