Details on the legal advice and representation, housing support and healthcare services that are available to victims of trafficking and slavery.
Legal aid – free advice
Legal aid is money from the government to help people who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer. Legal aid lawyers do not work for the government. They work for the individual, who has to pass a financial test. All lawyers can tell an applicant if they might be able to get legal aid and signpost to a legal aid lawyer if they do not do this work themselves.
For victims of modern slavery, legal aid is only available in certain circumstances:
- If they need immigration advice about their right to stay in this country and they have a positive reasonable grounds decision through the NRM (i.e. ‘I believe but cannot prove that the individual is a potential victim of modern slavery’)
- If they need immigration advice about their right to stay and they have a conclusive grounds decision through the NRM (i.e. ‘on the balance of probability, it is more likely than not that the individual is a victim of modern slavery’)
- Have a claim for asylum or need advice about a claim
- Have a claim to stay as a European national*
- Have a human rights claim*
- If they need advice on a challenge to a decision that they are not a victim of trafficking
- If they need advice on challenging a decision that they cannot get a residence permit.
*This can also lead to a grant of permission to stay however you need a positive reasonable or conclusive grounds decision to get free advice for these cases.
An individual cannot get automatic legal aid if they are thinking about going into the NRM and do not have a positive reasonable grounds decision and do not want to ask the government for protection. However, they can apply for ‘exceptional legal aid’ if the above options are not available and they are thinking about going into the NRM. An application for exceptional legal aid can be made for help with any legal problem which is not covered by automatic legal aid any more. It takes 20 working days to get a decision in most cases. An applicant can apply for exceptional legal aid themselves or get free help from some organisations just with the funding application, or from a legal aid solicitor:
More information on legal aid:
Help with applications for exceptional legal aid:
Rights of Women have a service for women who have experienced domestic or sexual violence or abuse and need help to apply for exceptional legal aid to access legal advice or representation in relation to an immigration law or family law issue. Ask for a referral form via firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find an immigration lawyer using the links below. It is a criminal offence to provide immigration advice unless you are properly regulated.
Before meeting a client, the lawyer should speak with them about what they should bring as proof of their situation. They should also bring any documents you want the lawyer to look at.
At the first meeting, the lawyer should check if the individual can get legal aid and fill out a legal aid form, if this is relevant. The individual must bring proof of their income for the last month so the lawyer can assess if they are able to get legal aid and then open a file. This can sometimes be difficult for a victim of slavery but they should speak to the lawyer before they go to the appointment to find out what might be the right proof in their situation if they are unsure. If the applicant does not bring any proof of income the lawyer may not be able to see them.
The lawyer will ask about what has happened and what the individual wants to do now. The lawyer should give advice and then send a letter after the appointment confirming what was discussed.
For more information on finding a lawyer:
Once a potential victim has a positive reasonable grounds decision, they can get financial support and accommodation while the government looks at their case. They will also get a support worker to help them. Once they get a conclusive grounds decision (negative or positive) this support will stop.
If they are destitute they can ask for help with accommodation and money even before they get a reasonable grounds decision. The Salvation Army who might be able to offer them urgent help if they decide to refer a case into the NRM.
If an individual has claimed asylum they can apply for asylum support, basic accommodation on a ‘no choice’ basis and a small amount of money. This support carries on while the protection case is with the Home Office or while their case is going through the court. If the claim is refused, the individual can apply for asylum support if they want to put in a fresh claim or if they want to appeal the Home Office decision.
Getting legal advice and taking a case to get a legal right to stay in the UK or achieve justice in a claim for compensation can help heal a victim of modern slavery. But there are other social, medical and mental health needs that are just as important.
Victims of modern slavery can often be denied access to healthcare when they need it while they are in a situation of exploitation, and also suffer the impact of physical and psychological abuse. Booking an appointment at a local GP for a general and sexual health check (if relevant) is a good first step. They can also advise on any local counselling services that may be available.
There is no charge for using the NHS for someone who has a positive reasonable or conclusive grounds decision that they are a victim of modern slavery or if they are getting asylum support (money and/or accommodation from the Home Office).
GP surgeries usually do not charge for any services they give patients. Hospitals can charge for many non emergency services. Victims should always ask if they will be charged later for treatment before accepting treatment as they can still be sent a bill later even if they were not told about the charge before.
There is more information on charging here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/496951/Overseas_visitor_hospital_charging_accs.pdf
These organisations can offer support and advice when an individual has therapeutic needs:
Victims may need support that is practical and social. If you are an accepted victim of trafficking you may be able to receive outreach support from the organisation that helped you through the NRM. Other projects include:
http://snowdropproject.co.uk/what-we-do/ – offering long term community support through one to one casework and befriending, or volunteer help to build community links.
If you have a project that you would like us to share information about please let us know.