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How do I refer a client into the NRM and what happens next?

How do I refer a client into the NRM and what happens next?

Jargon busting

Terms you will hear a lot:

  • NRM – National Referral Mechanism (the government system for identifying victims of modern slavery)
  • Competent Authority – decision maker in the NRM
  • First Responder – an specific organisation with the ability to refer someone into the NRM
  • Reasonable grounds decision – the decision from the Competent Authority that someone is a potential victim of modern slavery
  • Conclusive grounds decision – the decision from the Competent Authority that someone is definitely a victim of modern slavery

There is no automatic right to legal aid to help someone with advice “just” about going through the NRM and being identified as a victim, or about whether they should go into the NRM (unless this can be covered as part of another case for example, asylum – if the modern slavery is linked to the asylum claim).

A victim can apply for exceptional legal aid (discretionary legal aid) to get a free lawyer if they want free advice before going into the NRM. There is more about this process here.

Unseen runs a free helpline that people can ring to get general advice about the process of being identified as a victim of modern slavery.

Their details are here: www.modernslaveryhelpline.org/

The free number to call is 08000 121 700

Unseen says this about the helpline:

  • Potential victims will have the chance to speak to fully trained call handlers who can help them access relevant services, including Government-funded support through the National Referral Mechanism
  • Statutory agencies can call to gain support in dealing with potential victims, and to receive guidance in accessing all the information and tools available through the associated Resource Centre
  • Businesses can call for information, advice and also to report any concerns they have about potential instances of modern slavery in their operations
  • Members of the public and those delivering services on the front-line can also report any modern slavery suspicions or concerns about individuals, premises or locations
Things to consider before referring

Note that:

  • Referral is voluntary.
  • It may not always be in the client’s best interests to be referred so the implications must be properly considered, in particular the availability of legal advice.
  • The client must sign the form before referral: but note that many clients will consent to signing a form if told to do so by those they consider to be in positions of authority, which may in many cases include support workers. It is important to ensure that consent is fully informed.
  • The police can be informed about the case even if the client does not go into the NRM. Certain public authorities have a duty to notify the Home Office about any potential victims of trafficking they come across in England and Wales. The information will also be shared with the police to record crime.
  • If there is an NRM referral the police will be informed about the case even if the client does not want to speak to them. This is so they can record what happened as a crime.
  • There are second tier advice services, for example, ATLEU, where support workers can get free telephone advice about whether a case may be suitable for referral into the NRM.
Referral into the NRM – First responders

There are only certain approved organisations who are “First Responders” which means they can refer a person into the NRM.

Contact one of them if the individual is sure they would like a referral.

The First Responder will need to speak to the potential victim of modern slavery and should do this with an interpreter. They will assess if they think the person is a potential victim of trafficking. If they agree they will then complete a referral form with them that the victim signs.

This process is free to the victim.

43 police forces of England and Wales

British Transport Police

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI)

Police Scotland

Border Force

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

National Crime Agency (NCA)

Home Office UK Visas and Immigration Directorate (UKVI)

Home Office Immigration Compliance and Enforcement (HO ICE)

Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA)

Local Authorities

NHS (England, Scotland and Wales) and local health boards

Health and Social Care Trusts (Northern Ireland)

Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA)

Migrant Help

Kalayaan

Medaille Trust

Salvation Army

Barnardo’s

National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)

Unseen UK

New Pathways

BAWSO

Refugee Council

When a big organisation like a local authority is a First Responder, this means that anyone working for that body has the power to make a referral and can be approached to do this if they have not identified the issue already.

One of the biggest First Responders is the Salvation Army and they can be contacted using these details 24 hours a day, seven days a week:

Tel: 0300 303 8151 (24/7 Referral Line)
Email: mst@salvationarmy.org.uk
salvationarmy.org.uk/about-human-trafficking

Lawyers are not First Responders.

Referral forms

If you are not a First Responder, do not fill one of these out. They are for information:

gov.uk/government/publications/human-trafficking-victims-referral-and-assessment-forms

What if the potential victim needs housing and support before reasonable grounds?

If the potential victim needs housing and support on an emergency basis, tell the First Responder that and explain the need. They should make an effort to arrange some emergency assistance for the person while they are waiting for a reasonable grounds decision. If you have not heard back about this keep contacting the First Responder to ask what help can be given.

Who are the NRM decision makers?

There are two decision making bodies in the NRM that will decide if someone is a potential victim of modern slavery (the “reasonable grounds” decision) or definitely a victim of modern slavery (the “conclusive grounds” decision).

These are called the “Competent Authorities”.

NRM Hub Leeds (Non European nationals and people with an immigration issue eg European nationals asking for discretionary leave within the NRM)

The Competent Authority within UK Visas and Immigration can be based in a number of different places. However the office in Leeds deals with a large number of cases. Tel: (10am-12 & 1-3pm Mon – Fri) 0113 341 2159
Fax: 0870 3369 360
Email: neyh.ukba.nrm@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

The Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit (formerly UKHTC): (European and British nationals)

Email: nrm@nca.x.gsi.gov.uk

Reasonable grounds decision

Within five working days after a referral, a reasonable grounds decision should be made. This is a decision that there are ‘reasonable grounds to believe’ that the person may be a victim of trafficking.

This is considered to be a low threshold: ‘I suspect but cannot prove’. Think of it as being ‘might this person be a victim of trafficking?’ – not ‘is this person a victim of trafficking?’.

The reasonable grounds decision gives the victim substantial rights. It is the ‘gateway decision’ for the victim to access:

  • A ‘reflection period’ of 45 days or more – this is to enable the victim to access services and support they need to start recovery
  • Legal aid in immigration (non asylum) claims
  • Support, financial subsistence and accommodation (the victim should tell the First Responder if there is any area of danger to them that they do not want to be accommodated in because they might be at risk)
  • Counselling and interpreting
  • Limited protection from removal from the UK (the decision raises a barrier to removal)

If the reasonable grounds decision is negative

This can be challenged in two ways:

1) Reconsideration

This is where – according to Home Office guidance – a First Responder or support provider asks the Competent Authority to look at the decision again because they think the decision is not in line with guidance or they have new evidence). (See p.91 of the Home Office guidance for decision makers here.

2) Judicial review

This is a process where the victim asks a judge in the High Court to review a decision by the Competent Authority that they think is unfair.

A lawyer can advise on this under legal aid. Look for an immigration or “public” lawyer. It is important to act quickly and any court action must be taken no later than 3 months after the date of the decision under challenge.

Find a lawyer here.

If a decision is positive

The victim should be provided with financial support, accommodation if they need it, and can access free health care. If they need legal advice on their immigration options, including their right to ask for discretionary leave as a victim of modern slavery, they should look for a a lawyer now, to help them before a final decision is made on their identification as a victim.

The victim should consider what evidence they have not yet given to the Competent Authority that can support their case to be identified as a victim and be given discretionary leave to remain as a victim. They can get legal aid advice about this from an immigration lawyer if they want to know about their right to stay in the UK.

Support workers are often asked to give evidence to the Competent Authority. If there is a lawyer involved it is a good idea to ask them about the evidence and let them know what you are submitting beforehand.

If the victim does not have an asylum claim they will be told in a letter from the Competent Authority that it is up to the victim to notify the Competent Authority if they want to be considered for discretionary leave too. They can do this easily by emailing, writing or faxing the Competent Authority, or asking their support worker to do it for them. This applies to European nationals as well as non European nationals. A decision on whether someone can get discretionary leave to remain will come, in practice, at the same time as the conclusive grounds decision. A victim will also only get discretionary leave if they get a positive conclusive grounds decision. So they need to take the chance early on to explain why they qualify for leave to remain and why they are a victim, while they are still in the NRM.

Interviews

The Competent Authority sometimes asks to interview a victim of modern slavery, but this does not always happen. A lawyer can advise the client on how to prepare for the interview if they are also advising on the client’s right to stay in the UK.

Police referral

The NRM referral form will be shared with police after it is complete to help detect and prevent offences, and record the incident. This is stated in the consent part of the referral form but it is worth checking that clients understand that this has happened.

The form also states that the police may not pursue a case unless the individual engages with them directly.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 has two main modern slavery offences:

  • Slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour
  • Human trafficking

The guidance for Competent Authorities puts a mandatory obligation on them to ensure that a police referral is done for all allegations. This referral is either to the police force where the alleged exploitation took place, to the National Human Trafficking Unit (in Scotland) or the Home Office criminal and financial investigations team (which includes seconded police officers).

The police should contact the client after an NRM referral has been made. They do not always contact solicitors so it is worth checking with the client or with the Competent Authority if a police referral has been made, if the client wishes to consider an investigation into possible offences committed against them.

The referral will be made to the police force in the area where the victim is living or where they were encountered if it is not clear where the exploitation took place, or if the exploitation took place overseas.

If a positive reasonable grounds decision is made the matter must be recorded as a crime. If a negative reasonable grounds decision is made it is up to the police as to whether they decide there are any recordable offences.

Information will be shared with the Competent Authority by the police on the nature of any investigation and the outcome so it is important to check on what has been shared and if the client is aware of what has been happening.

Victims should not be punished for non co-operation.

If the client is unhappy with the outcome or process of an investigation they can make a police complaint within 12 months of the action they are complaining about.

Conclusive grounds decision

This decision should be made “as soon as possible” after the 45 days reflection period.

Unfortunately it is common for it to take six months or longer. Complaints or court action can be considered against the Competent Authority if the process takes a long time.

Complain to the Home Office: complaints@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

Complain to the Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit: nrm@nca.x.gsi.gov.uk

The conclusive grounds decision looks at whether, on “the balance of probabilities”, the person is a victim of modern slavery. This means that on the evidence available, it is “more likely than not” that modern slavery occurred.

The burden of proof is higher than the reasonable grounds decision, and more also than that applied to other human rights decisions including asylum claims.

If the conclusive grounds decision is negative this can be challenged in two ways:

1) Reconsideration

This is where – according to Home Office guidance – a First Responder or support provider asks the Competent Authority to look at the decision again because they think the decision is not in line with guidance or they have new evidence). (See p.91 of the Home Office guidance for decision makers here.

2) Judicial review

This is a process where the victim asks a judge in the High Court to review a decision by the Competent Authority that they think is unfair.

A lawyer can advise on this under legal aid. Look for an immigration or “public” lawyer. It is important to act quickly and any court action must be taken no later than 3 months after the date of the decision under challenge.

Find a lawyer here.

Compensation advice

There is legal aid for some types of compensation advice and a victim does not need to go through the NRM to get this advice on legal aid.

There is no automatic legal aid for Criminal Injuries Compensation advice.

Please see our compensation section for more information.

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