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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/human-trafficking-victims-referral-and-assessment-forms/guidance-on-the-national-referral-mechanism-for-potential-adult-victims-of-modern-slavery-england-and-wales
This guidance is for all adult cases in England or Wales. Separate guidance for cases in Scotland or Northern Ireland is available.
1. What the National Referral Mechanism is
The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is a framework for identifying and referring potential victims of modern slavery and ensuring they receive the appropriate support.
This guidance explains how to complete the referral form before it is considered by the relevant Single Competent Authority (SCA) within the Home Office.
2. Referral processes
Only staff at designated First Responders Organisations can refer cases to the NRM.
Forms should be sent to the SCA by email to email@example.com
The SCA will then aim to make a reasonable grounds decision within 5 working days.
If you are unsure which police force area the individual was identified in, please check police.uk.
3. First Responder organisations
A ‘First Responder organisation’ is, in England and Wales, an authority that is authorised to refer a potential victim of modern slavery into the National Referral Mechanism. The current statutory and non-statutory First Responder organisations are:
- Police forces
- Certain parts of the Home Office:
- UK Visas and Immigration
- Border Force
- Immigration Enforcement
- National Crime Agency
- Local Authorities
- Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA)
- Health and Social Care Trusts (Northern Ireland)
- Salvation Army
- Migrant Help
- Medaille Trust
- Tara Project (Scotland)
- NSPCC (CTAC)
- New Pathways
- Refugee Council
There are different cohorts of First Responder organisations in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
First Responder organisations have the following responsibilities. These responsibilities are invested in the organisation and it is for the organisation to decide how it will discharge these responsibilities:
- identify potential victims of modern slavery and recognise the indicators of modern slavery
- gather information in order to understand what has happened to them
- refer victims into the NRM via the NRM form (in England and Wales this includes notifying the Home Office if an adult victim doesn’t consent to being referred)
- provide a point of contact for the SCA to assist with the Reasonable and Conclusive Grounds decisions and to request a reconsideration where a First Responder believes it is appropriate to do so
A First Responder is an individual working at a First Responder Organisation that is involved in discharging one of the duties of the organisation listed above.
4. What modern slavery is
Modern slavery is a term that covers:
- servitude and forced or compulsory labour
- human trafficking
From 31 July 2015, potential victims of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour in England and Wales recognised with a positive reasonable grounds decision may also have access to support previously only offered to potential victims of human trafficking.
In Northern Ireland this support was extended to victims of modern slavery from March 2016 and in Scotland from April 2018.
5. The components of modern slavery
5.1 Human trafficking
For a person to have been a victim of human trafficking there must have been:
- action (recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt, which can include either domestic or cross-border movement)
- means (threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability - however, there does not need to be a means used for children as they are not able to give informed consent)
- purpose of exploitation (eg sexual exploitation, forced labour or domestic servitude, slavery, removal of organs)
5.2 Slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour
For a person to have been a victim of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour there must have been:
- means (being held, either physically or through threat of penalty – eg threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability. However, there does not need to be a means used for children as they are not able to give informed consent)
- service (an individual provides a service for benefit, eg begging, sexual services, manual labour, domestic service)
Forced or compulsory labour may be present in trafficking cases. However, not every person who is exploited through forced labour has been trafficked.
There will be cases of exploitation that do not meet the threshold for modern slavery – for example someone may choose to work for less than the national minimum wage, or in undesirable conditions, without being forced or deceived. These cases should not be referred into the NRM but you may want to refer them to the police.
Alternatively you can contact the pay and work rights helpline for more information on 0300 123 1100, or the Gangmasters Labour Abuse Authority on 0800 432 0804.
Slavery and servitude are more serious versions of forced or compulsory labour. More information on the indicators of modern slavery is available.
6. How to refer cases to the NRM
Modern slavery is a complex crime and may involve multiple forms of exploitation. Victims may not be aware that they are being trafficked or exploited, and may have consented to elements of their exploitation, or accepted their situation. If you think that modern slavery has taken place, the case should be referred to the NRM so that the SCA can fully consider the case. You don’t need to be certain that someone is a victim.
If you think you have encountered a person who has been a victim of modern slavery in England and Wales, you should complete the NRM referral form and send it to the SCA.
Adults will only be accepted into the NRM if the consent section of the form has been completed. Informed consent requires that the potential victim have the NRM, the referral process, and potential outcomes, clearly explained to them.
7. Duty to notify the Home Office of suspected victims of modern slavery
7.1 Duty to notify
From 1 November 2015, specified public authorities are required to notify the Home Office about any potential victims of modern slavery they encounter in England and Wales. Completing this NRM form is sufficient to satisfy this duty to notify as long as all of the sections marked with a † are completed.
However, if the potential victim does not want to be referred to the NRM, then an MS1 form should be completed and sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The MS1 form can be anonymous. The MS1 form and guidance is available.
8. Access to support
Individuals who are recognised as a potential victim of modern slavery through the NRM have access to specialist tailored support for a period of at least 45 days while their case is considered, which may include:
- access to relevant legal advice
- independent emotional and practical help
Support in England and Wales is currently delivered by the Salvation Army and a number of subcontractors. The Salvation Army will assess each potential victim to determine what support is most appropriate.
You must explain this process to the potential victim and seek their consent before filling out the NRM form. If they consent to being referred they should sign the form, and also sign if they wish to access support.
You should contact the Salvation Army as soon as possible to make the support referral (prior to the reasonable grounds decision which has a target of 5 working days).
9. Completing the form
The NRM form should only be completed for adults when a member of staff from a designated First Responder organisation suspects someone is a victim of modern slavery and where the individual concerned has understood the implications of, and consented to, a referral.
It is not to be used as an interview record but as a means for the first responder organisation to provide as much information as possible to the SCA to enable a decision to be reached.
This does not prevent the first responder from approaching the potential victim to obtain further details where appropriate, while avoiding placing them under unnecessary additional stress or trauma.
Throughout the form, items marked with an asterisk should be supported by documentary evidence where possible.
Consent is required for an adult to be referred to the NRM. So they can give their informed consent, you must explain:
- what the NRM is
- what support is available through it
- what the possible outcomes are for an individual being referred
You should also make it clear that information may be shared or sought by the SCA from other public authorities, such as the police and local authorities, to gather further evidence on an NRM referral.
10.1 No consent
If an adult does not consent to enter the NRM, a separate duty to notify form should be completed. Guidance on this process and the MS1 form is available.
10.2 Child victims
If the potential victim is under 18, or may be under 18, you should complete a child referral form. Child victims do not have to consent to be referred into the NRM and should be referred to wider child safeguarding processes for support. Read the separate guidance and form for child victims.
11. Independent Child Trafficking Advocates
Independent Child Trafficking Advocates are an independent source of advice for trafficked children and somebody who can speak up on their behalf.
In the Early Adopter Sites in the in the East Midlands, Greater Manchester, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, London Borough of Croydon, Wales and West Midlands, if a child is considered to be trafficked, a first responder must be informed. Once this identification has been made the first responder must notify the ICTA Service by completing dedicated pro-forma and issuing it to email@example.com
A 24/7 support line number for the ICTA Service [0800 043 4303] is available for advice and case conferencing
12. Indicators of modern slavery
To help make a primary assessment about whether an individual is or may be a potential victim of modern slavery, there are 20 general indicators. These indicators are not a definitive list and there may be other indicators that may raise concerns, therefore the option to highlight ‘other’ indicators has been included.
It is not the case that by selecting a set number of indicators this will equate to a person being a victim; it could be that just one or a combination of factors that demonstrates that a person may be a victim. Each case should be considered on its own merits. There are also sections for indicators of common forms of exploitation, however if you consider that an individual may have been exploited in a way not listed, this could still be modern slavery and should be recorded.
We recognise that first responders may be unable to provide significant detail about the individual and their potential modern slavery experience on this form (eg where an individual is seriously traumatised). However, it is important that all information available at this stage is provided on the form to support a timely reasonable grounds decision.
If further information about the case comes to light, this should be referred to:
- SCA by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
13. How to refer modern slavery victims to the police
A potential victim of modern slavery is a potential victim of a crime. All NRM forms should be referred to the police - either on the victim’s behalf if they give consent, or as a third party referral if they don’t give consent (provided this does not breach any obligation of confidence under the common law).
This referral should be made bythe first responder / frontline worker or, if the referral has not already been made by the time the NRM form is received, the SCA. The police will then determine what action is appropriate, in line with Home Office Counting Rules.
This doesn’t mean that potential victims are under any obligation to cooperate with the police. There is a separate section in the NRM form where they can confirm if they are or are not willing to engage with the police.
13.1 Obligation of confidence
The NRM process is already a multi-agency process and when a potential victim consents to enter the NRM, they should be aware that information will be passed on by the first responder / frontline worker in order to access the NRM. It is unlikely that an obligation of confidence would prevent referring this information to the police.
If a first responder / frontline worker is unsure whether an obligation of confidence would be breached by referring a case to the police, they should contact their organisation’s legal advisor for further guidance.
There is no obligation of confidentiality between the SCA and the victim, as this information has been received via a third party. The SCA is therefore entitled to process this information in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation and refer this information to the police to support the detection and prevention of crime. The SCA does not require consent from the victim to do so. The intention is to do this in all cases referred into the NRM where there has not already been a police referral.
14. Police referral process for first responders / frontline workers
When completing the NRM form, the first responder / frontline worker should explain to the victim that their case will be passed on to the police (either by the first responder themselves or the SCA), as they are a potential victim of crime.
The victim is under no obligation to cooperate with the police to receive support through the NRM. If the potential victim indicates they will cooperate, then the police will contact them regarding the allegation. Otherwise, communication will be with the person who made the third party referral.
As set out in the Home Office counting rules for recording crime:
[…] all reports of incidents, whether from victims, witnesses or third parties and whether crime related or not, will, unless immediately recorded as a crime, result in the registration of an auditable incident / record by the police.
[…] an incident will be recorded as a crime (notifiable offence) for ‘victim related’ offences if, on the balance of probability: (a) the circumstances of the victim’s report amount to a crime as defined by law (the police will determine this, based on their knowledge of the law and counting rules)
(b) there is no credible evidence to the contrary immediately available. A belief by the victim (or a person reasonably assumed to be acting on behalf of the victim, that a crime has occurred is usually sufficient to justify its recording).
Where a report of a crime is made to police and the individual decides not to record it as such, they must make an auditable record of that decision and inform the reporting person why they will not be recording a crime.
The first responder / frontline worker should check whether a police referral has already been made in relation to this case. Where a referral has not been made, the table below outlines where the form should be sent:
|Where the location of the alleged exploitation is known||The police force covering that area (where there have been multiple locations referral should be to the most recent location’s police force)|
|Where the location of the exploitation is unknown||The police force covering the area where the victim resides at the point of the referral to the police OR the police force covering the area where the individual was encountered, if the individual does not have a fixed address.|
|Where the exploitation took place overseas||The police force covering the area where the victim resides at the point of the referral to the police or the police force covering the area where the individual was encountered, if the individual does not have a fixed address.|
Where the police have not been contacted, the first responder / frontline worker should indicate on the form why not, including where this is because a referral has already been made by another party.
Where a crime reference number has been provided, this should be added to the form, but if it is outstanding this should not delay submission of the NRM form.