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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-referral-mechanism-reform/national-referral-mechanism-reform
The national referral mechanism (NRM) is the framework by which potential victims of human trafficking and modern slavery are identified and supported. The NRM was introduced in 2009 to meet some of the UK’s obligations under the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings.
Aim of the national referral mechanism (NRM)
Our vision for the NRM is that it operates as a bridge:
- it should lift victims out of situations of exploitation
- provide them with a short period of intensive support and specialist care
- put them in a position where they can begin to rebuild their lives with increased resilience against future exploitation
How the current national referral mechanism works
Potential victims can be referred in to the NRM by a wide range of ‘first responders’ (including the police, local authorities and certain non-governmental organisations). The case will be managed by one of the ‘competent authorities’ (either the National Crime Agency or the Home Office). The competent authority will first decide if there are ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe that the person is a victim (the ‘reasonable grounds’ decision) and, if the decision is positive, will proceed to investigate the case and decide whether, on the balance of probabilities, the person is a victim (the ‘conclusive grounds’ decision).
The competent authority aims to make reasonable grounds decisions within 5 days of receiving a referral and emergency support is available for potential victims who would otherwise be destitute during this time. A positive reasonable grounds decision entitles the potential victim to a ‘reflection and recovery’ period for a minimum of 45 days, and until the conclusive grounds decision is made. During this time, adult victims receive accommodation and subsistence, specialist support including counselling, access to physical and mental health care, and signposting to services including legal aid. Child victims are supported by local authorities under their statutory safeguarding duties.
When the conclusive grounds decision is made, those adults with a positive decision receive a further 14 days of ‘move-on’ support, and those with a negative decision receive support for a further 2 days of support. This ‘move-on’ support period is in place to help victims to safely transition out of NRM support.
National referral mechanism journey
More information on the current NRM process is available.
National referral mechanism reform
In October 2017, the government announced an ambitious package of reforms to the NRM focused around 4 key objectives:
- quicker and more certain decision-making that stakeholders and victims have confidence in
- improved support for adult victims before, during and after the NRM
- improved identification of victims
- improved support to child victims of modern slavery, who are supported outside the NRM
To achieve quicker and more certain decision-making, that stakeholders and victims have confidence in, the government will:
- create a single, expert case-working unit in the Home Office to handle all NRM cases and provide high quality, timely decisions for all victims regardless of their nationality – this will replace the current competent authorities in the National Crime Agency, and UK Visas and Immigration and will be separate from the immigration system
- set up an independent panel of experts to review all negative conclusive grounds decisions, adding significantly to the scrutiny such cases already receive
- build a new digital system to support the NRM process, making it easier for those on the front line to refer victims for support and enabling data to be captured and analysed to better aid prevention and law enforcement
To improve support for adult victims before, during and after the NRM in England and Wales, the government will:
- extend the ‘move-on’ period of support (when victims have a conclusive ground decision) from 14 to 45 days for confirmed victims of modern slavery and from 2 days to 9 days for those individuals with a negative decision
- provide weekly a ‘drop-in support service’ for all confirmed victims with leave to remain in the UK for up to 6 months after leaving government-funded support to aid their resettlement into local communities
- work with local authorities to develop and disseminate best practice for victims to transition into a community and access local services
- introduce minimum standards of care in all future contracts providing support to adult victims of modern slavery and an associated inspection regime based on the Human Trafficking Foundation’s Trafficking Survivor Care Standards
- lay regulations under section 50 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, and issue statutory guidance under section 49 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, setting out the support to which victims are entitled
- create ‘places of safety’ to ensure that adults leaving immediate situations of exploitation have a safe place to go for up to 3 days where they can access assistance and advice while they decide on whether to the enter the NRM
- align the subsistence rates for potential victims of modern slavery with those received by asylum seekers
To improve identification of victims of modern slavery, the government will:
- strengthen the first responder role by reviewing the criteria used to establish who should be a first responder and how they should be trained
To improve support to child victims of modern slavery who are within the NRM, the government will:
- continue with the national rollout of independent child trafficking advocates (ICTAs) across England and Wales to make sure trafficked children have a voice and someone to advocate for them on their behalf
- explore how best to make the NRM decision-making process more ‘child-friendly’ including looking at how NRM decisions are communicated to children