Report modern slavery as a first responder

How you can report cases of modern slavery in the UK if you’re a first responder.

First responders can use the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) to:

  • report cases of modern slavery
  • refer potential victims for support and protection

The government assesses every new NRM case to determine if the person has been a victim of modern slavery.

Who first responders are

First responders work for designated organisations and help identify and support potential victims of modern slavery.

You can still report modern slavery if you’re not a first responder. Call the modern slavery helpline on 0800 0121 700 or report it online.

If you’re unsure, you should check what the referral pathway is in your organisation.

How to report modern slavery

You need to complete the online referral form. It allows you to save and return to it if you are unable to complete it in one go.

If you won’t have access to a computer when you interview a potential victim, you can print the NRM prompt sheet.

The prompt sheet highlights the questions you must ask and explains the type of information a report needs. You can then complete the online form at a later stage using your notes from the prompt sheet.

Making a report

Referring a potential victim can give them access to support, such as counselling, legal advice and housing.

You can request emergency housing and medical care immediately. Other benefits will only be given once their status as a potential victim has been confirmed.

All potential victims in the UK are entitled to support.

Potential child victims

If you think the potential victim is under 18, you must always refer them to the NRM.

You will first need to complete a child welfare services form and send it to the relevant local authority.

Once the local authority knows about the potential child victim, you can start their NRM referral. The local authority will receive a notification once you complete it.

If the child is in an area where Independent Child Trafficking Guardians (ICTGs) are available, you will also need to refer them to the ICTG service.

ICTGs are an independent source of advice for trafficked children, somebody who can speak up on their behalf.

As of May 2021, ICTGs are available in two-thirds of local authorities in England and Wales. The locations of where the ICTG provision is currently available and corresponding guidance on the role of the ICTG can be found in the interim guidance for ICTGs.

If a first responder identifies a potential child victim of modern slavery, and is in an area where ICTGs are available, they should refer them to the ICTG service by completing the online referral form in English or in Welsh. This is in addition to following usual local authority safeguarding routes and NRM referrals.

What happens next

This depends on whether the potential victim is a child or an adult.

If they are a child, you must refer their case to the NRM – only potential adult victims can choose whether to refer their case.

If they are an adult, you will need to explain what happens if they want you to refer their case and what happens if they do not.

If a potential victim wants you to refer their case

By referring their case, the potential victim will get access to support and a formal decision.

To help make a formal decision, their personal information is shared with organisations such as the police and Home Office.

Decisions are made in 2 stages:

  • stage 1 - reasonable grounds decision
  • stage 2 - conclusive grounds decision

Stage 1

A caseworker will look at the potential victim’s case within 5 working days, whenever possible, and decide if there are reasonable grounds to believe they are a victim.

Emergency accommodation and support may be provided during this time if the potential adult victim is at risk from their exploiter or of becoming destitute.

Cases that do not meet the reasonable grounds criteria will be closed at this stage unless there’s a request for a reconsideration.

Where a negative reasonable grounds decision is returned, no further emergency accommodation or support will be available through the NRM.

Stage 2

If there are reasonable grounds, the case will be investigated in more detail before deciding if there are conclusive grounds.

The potential victim will receive a recovery period of at least 30 days. If the potential victim has consented to receive NRM support, they will enter into support following the date of their positive reasonable grounds decision.

After this recovery period, a conclusive grounds decision will be made as soon as possible. NRM support will be available to potential victims at least until the conclusive grounds decision is made.

If conclusive grounds decision is positive

The potential victim will receive a minimum of 45 calendar days’ move-on support following their conclusive grounds decision.

Afterwards, the point of exit from support is determined by a recovery needs assessment, with the type and length of ongoing support varying depending on the individual victim’s recovery needs.

This assessment identifies the ongoing recovery needs related to modern slavery exploitation and informs a tailored needs-based transition plan for each victim.

If the conclusive grounds decision is negative

The potential victim will receive move-on support for up to 14 working days after the receipt of the negative conclusive grounds decision. However, an extension request for an additional period of support can be made by the individual’s support worker.

Ask for a reconsideration

You can ask for a reconsideration of a reasonable grounds or conclusive grounds decision within one month.

It must be for one of these reasons:

  • you received new information which would affect the outcome of the case
  • there are specific concerns that a decision is not in line with the guidance

More information about asking for a reconsideration is available in annex E of the modern slavery statutory guidance.

If a potential victim does not want you to refer their case

The potential victim will not receive support through the NRM or get a formal decision.

You will still need to complete the online referral form but choosing the option to indicate the potential victim has not consented to referral into the NRM.

Designated organisations in England and Wales have a Duty to Notify (DtN) the Home Office when they encounter a potential victim of modern slavery.

A DtN is also sent to the police to help them:

  • investigate the exploiters
  • understand how and where modern slavery is happening

You can only raise a DtN in England and Wales – it is not available in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The potential victim’s personal information will not be shared with anyone, unless they agree to let the police contact them.

If you have any safeguarding concerns about the potential victim you must contact the police immediately.

Contact us


Telephone: 0207 035 5689

Updates to this page

Published 28 May 2019
Last updated 3 June 2024 + show all updates
  1. Updated in line with the May 2024 changes to the modern slavery statutory guidance.

  2. Further detail provided on the Independent Child Trafficking Guardian service, support provision through the Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract, and options following a negative decision.

  3. Contact information updated.

  4. Updated content on asking for reconsideration.

  5. Updated information for release of online form to all first responders.

  6. Updated guidance information. Added link to form MS1.

  7. First published.

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