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The Victim Care Contract (MSVCC)

The central way that the government performs its duties to provide accommodation, interpreting, financial support, and other assistance to adult victims is through the provision of support under the Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract (‘MSVCC’) between the Home Office and The Salvation Army, which is the prime contractor.

In very simple terms, victims of trafficking with a positive reasonable grounds decision are entitled to the MSVCC support that they need for a minimum of 30 days during their recovery and reflection period under the MSVCC between The Salvation Army and the Home Office. 

As will be seen below, it is sometimes necessary for individuals to instruct a Legal Aid solicitor to assist them to enforce their entitlements to MSVCC support in the face of failures to provide it. ATLEU offers publically-funded legal advice and representation in public law and housing cases. Our referrals email is referrals@atleu.org.uk and our online referrals system that links to legal aid advisors around the country is referrals.athub.org.uk. There is also a list of Legal Aid solicitors on the Ministry of Justice website

The Modern Slavery: Statutory Guidance for England and Wales (under s49 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015) and Non-Statutory Guidance for Scotland and Northern Ireland provides detailed guidance on what can be expected from MSVCC support  – see Annex F

Support workers

The government performs its duty under ECAT ‘to provide counselling and information, in particular as regards their legal rights and the services available to [victims]’ through support workers, employed by either The Salvation Army or their subcontractors. 

Upon receiving a positive reasonable grounds decision, a victim should be assigned a support worker, whose role is to advocate on the victim’s behalf and assist them to access the support to which they are entitled (including both MSVCC support and ‘mainstream’ forms of support). If the victim is in MSVCC accommodation (see below), the support worker will usually be connected to the accommodation. If not, the victim will receive ‘outreach-only support’. 

In advocating for the needs of victims and assisting them to access the support to which they are entitled, the support worker plays an important role in victims’ psychological and social recovery. 

Interpreting and translation

Victims have a right under the trafficking legal framework to translation and interpreting services, where appropriate. Where necessary, these services should be provided under the MSVCC to enable them to access their entitlements, for example, at the point of referral into the NRM, when interacting with First Responders and MSVCC subcontractors, legal representatives, and healthcare professionals. See 15.42 – 15.43 of the guidance.

Financial support

The government has a duty under ECAT to take such measures as may be necessary to assist victims in their physical, psychological and social recovery. Such assistance includes, at least, standards of living capable of ensuring their subsistence. 

Financial assistance is accordingly paid to victims from when they receive a positive reasonable grounds decision, whether they are in NRM accommodation or are receiving outreach support. It should also be paid as soon as possible prior to a positive reasonable grounds decision where a victim is in emergency NRM accommodation. 

‘Subsistence’ has been recognised by the High Court to mean a level beyond ‘the minimum sum needed to stave off destitution’ (R(K & AM) v SSHD [2018] EWHC 2951 (Admin)). This is because the purpose of the duty to provide material assistance is to assist victims in their physical, psychological and social recovery. 

However, the rates victims receive are fixed in the guidance, which is quoted below: 

The Essential Living Rate

15.51. The Essential Living Rate is to help a potential or confirmed victim pay for weekly living needs such as food, clothing, and toiletries. It is paid at the rate of:

• £49.18 per week; or

• £15.30 per week for victims living in catered MSVCC accommodation (£49.18 minus the cash value of items such as food and drink provided in-kind through catered MSVCC accommodation).

15.52. The Essential Living Rate will not be paid to potential or confirmed victims where they are already receiving support for their living needs through asylum support or support under Schedule 10 of the Immigration Act 2016 (see here), or the Universal Credit Standard Allowance (see here), or if they have too much income to be eligible for Universal Credit.

The Recovery Rate

15.53. Potential victims with a positive Reasonable Grounds decision will be paid the Recovery Rate at £26.47 per week. The Recovery Rate is to assist a victim to access services that facilitate their recovery. It can be used to assist a victim in accessing health, fitness, or wellness classes, to help fund additional weekly transport and communication costs, or flexibly towards other recovery related costs.

15.57. A child is considered a victim’s dependent if the victim has parental and financial responsibility for meeting the child’s living needs. Dependent payments will cease from the day a dependent turns 18 and the dependent who has turned 18 will not receive any further financial support from the MSVCC. Dependent rates are paid at:

• £49.18 per week for each child dependent (adjusted to £15.30 in catered MSVCC accommodation).

• Additional weekly payments per child under a certain age:

o £9.50 per week for a child until their first birthday.

o £5.25 per week for a child from the day after their first birthday until their fourth birthday.

15.58. Where a potential or confirmed victim is not living with their dependents, or where the second parent (not supported by the MSVCC) is already receiving dependent financial support, in respect of the relevant dependents, via asylum support or the Universal Credit Child Element, the victim will not receive dependent payments from the MSVCC.

Pregnancy and maternity payments

15.59. Additional payments will be made to potential and confirmed victims who are expecting, or have very young child dependents:

• £5.25 per week for pregnant women.

• A one-off maternity grant of £300 per expected child, for expectant mothers who are within 8 weeks of their expected due date or an individual who, on the date of entry to support is accompanied by a dependent child of less than 6 weeks old. Individuals who are eligible for a Sure Start Maternity Grant or maternity grant from the asylum support system, are not eligible to receive this grant in respect of the child concerned. If, however, an individual receives less than £300 per expected child from either the Sure Start Maternity Grant or the asylum support maternity grant, then a further top up payment from the MSVCC will be provided to ensure that the individual receives a total of £300 per expected child.

The guidance provides further information on what support can be offered for those on other types of support, for example, Schedule 10 support. As can be seen from the above, the Home Office’s reasoning is that those receiving asylum support or some other essential living support already receive a payment to cover essential living needs, or receive in-kind assistance, or receive a combination of in-kind assistance and payments. 

Sometimes, however, victims will have recovery needs which will not be met by the set amount of money received under the MSVCC. For example, an individual may have been housed away from their support network, contact with which is essential to their recovery, and will therefore have additional travel expenses. Or, a victim may be accommodated in catered section 98 asylum support accommodation and therefore receive only £25.37 per week in total, which is not enough to meet their recovery needs.

Where a victim continues to have an outstanding recovery need which is not covered by MSVCC financial support, a request for additional funds, with supporting evidence, could be submitted to mstsupport@salvationarmy.org.uk.

Following a failure to agree to increase the subsistence amount, public law legal advice should be sought. Legal Aid is available for these matters. 

Accommodation 

NRM accommodation is generally provided in safe houses across England and Wales, either directly by The Salvation Army, or through a subcontractor. The addresses of safe houses are not disclosed. They are staffed by support workers, and are usually self-catering, though catered accommodation is provided for individuals who are unable to prepare their own food. Both single-sex and mixed-sex safe houses are available.

It is important to note that the Home Office guidance has recently been updated with a much more restrictive policy about who is eligible for MSVCC accommodation:

15.14. A victim will enter Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract (MSVCC) accommodation if the Needs-Based and Risk assessment process determines that it is necessary. This will usually be because there is a threat to their safety from their exploiter(s) or a direct risk of re-exploitation from their exploiter(s). There may be other reasons why MSVCC accommodation is identified as necessary, including, but not limited to:

• The victim is destitute at the point of referral to the NRM or entry into MSVCC support.

• The victim needs a single occupancy room (excluding where occupants are part of the same family) or single sex accommodation owing to their modern slavery experience.

15.15. A victim may already be in secure and appropriate accommodation when they are referred into the NRM and consent to receive MSVCC support. In these circumstances, they will usually continue to remain in that accommodation, unless the Needs-Based or Risk Assessment identifies a need to enter MSVCC accommodation. Alternative suitable accommodation may include: 

• Local authority accommodation.

• Accommodation provided under section 95, 98 or section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (‘asylum accommodation’).

• Accommodation provided under paragraph 9 of Schedule 10 to the Immigration Act 2016 to enable individuals to meet bail conditions (‘S10 support’); or

• Any other secure, appropriate, and adequately furnished accommodation, such as staying with friends or family. 

15.16. Where a need for MSVCC accommodation is identified for a reason other than a risk from traffickers, the MSVCC may not provide accommodation if, as determined through the Risk or Needs-Based Assessment, an existing accommodation provider, such as asylum accommodation or S10 support, can provide alternative accommodation to address this need. 

As can be seen from the guidance above, it is possible for MSVCC caseworkers to not to provide MSVCC accommodation if they judge that there is no risk from traffickers. In ATLEU’s experience, the risk assessment conducted can often be too cursory or simplistic and often fails to identify the risk of re-trafficking. Also, support entitlements under Article 12 ECAT are not only about protection from re-trafficking but recovery support. The current guidance tends to put victims in asylum support accommodation if they are eligible for it, which many victims are. In most cases, however, asylum support accommodation is not suitable accommodation for victims of trafficking. It is usually poor quality, mixed-sex, shared accommodation. As such, in most cases NRM accommodation and local authority accommodation should be prioritised. 

NRM accommodation offered will almost certainly be in a different area of the country from where the victim was exploited. It is additionally unlikely that accommodation offered under the MSVCC will be in London. It can be argued that only London-based accommodation is appropriate and secure/safe accommodation in relation to the victim’s needs. Initial transport to the accommodation will be provided by The Salvation Army. 

If a victim has been offered NRM accommodation outside of their preferred area, and this puts their recovery at risk, public law legal advice should be sought as soon as possible.

It is important to note that the government will very likely take the view that it has no obligation to provide NRM accommodation to a victim who already has access to appropriate and safe/secure accommodation. Article 12 ECAT requires that the state provide appropriate and secure accommodation to victims, but it does not specify that such accommodation must be in a safe house. What is appropriate and safe depends on the needs of the individual. In some cases an individual’s needs may be such that only safe house accommodation will be appropriate and safe/secure.

Some individuals have a very high level of need and will require more intensive support. For example, in some cases only supported accommodation will be appropriate and safe/secure for an individual. Such accommodation should be available under the MSVCC. However, The Salvation Army may refuse to accommodate those with more complex needs, most likely on the basis that the local authority should provide the support under the Care Act 2014. These refusals may be challengeable, and public law advice should be sought.

Who is entitled to MSVCC support?

Based on the law, guidance, and ATLEU’s casework experience, the following have a clear entitlement to MSVCC support, including NRM accommodation:

  • Individuals who are destitute and who have been referred into the NRM and are awaiting a reasonable grounds decision.
  • Individuals with a positive reasonable grounds decision who, without MSVCC support, would have unmet recovery needs, for example, no access to appropriate and safe accommodation, or insufficient funds.
  • Individuals with a negative reasonable grounds decision who are in emergency NRM accommodation, when an extension request has been approved by the Home Office.
  • Individuals with a negative conclusive grounds decision who are already in MSVCC support, when an extension request has been approved by the Home Office.
  • Individuals with a positive conclusive grounds decision awaiting a decision on Discretionary Leave who, without MSVCC support, would have unmet recovery needs, for example, no access to appropriate and safe accommodation, or insufficient funds. See ATLEU’s blog for further information on the entitlement to support for victims in this position.
  • Individuals with either a negative reasonable grounds decision or a negative conclusive grounds decision that the Single Competent Authority has agreed to reconsider, and who, without MSVCC support would have unmet recovery needs, for example, no access to appropriate and safe accommodation, or insufficient funds. 

In addition, there are some grey areas where an entitlement to MSVCC support is not always clear. For example: 

  • It is not clear whether those who are not already in MSVCC support and who have received a negative reasonable grounds decision or a negative conclusive grounds decision, and who have requested reconsideration of that decision, but the Single Competent Authority has not yet made a decision about whether to reconsider, have an entitlement to MSVCC support. ATLEU’s view is that MSVCC support should be continued in these circumstances. We recommend that MSVCC support should be requested when it is required. If it is refused, legal advice should be sought.
  • If an individual requested a reconsideration of a negative RG or CG decision, that reconsideration was refused but the refusal was challenged by judicial review, MSVCC support should be continued whilst the judicial review challenge is under consideration. If MSVCC support is not automatically provided in these circumstances, the public lawyer/immigration lawyer is able to request that a judge orders that the MSVCC support is provided whilst the main judicial review challenge is under consideration. A request for this type of order from a judge is called an application for “interim relief” or an “injunction application”.
  • It is unlikely that individuals who are not already in MSVCC support and who have received a negative reasonable grounds decision, or a negative conclusive grounds decision, and who have not requested reconsideration of that decision (or who have unsuccessfully requested reconsideration of that decision) would be entitled to MSVCC support. However, much depends on the specific facts in these kinds of cases. Legal advice should be sought (see below).

Note that the guidance states that ‘elements of support are specific to the individual’s ongoing recovery needs arising from their modern slavery experiences’ (see 8.21 of the guidance). The Recovery Needs Assessment Guidance goes into further detail about what this means in the context of accommodation in particular:

The provision of […] accommodation may be necessary for a victim’s recovery where the purpose is, for example:

    • an ongoing need to safeguard victims from exploitation reoccurring 
    • to provide a secure base from which victims can start to rebuild their lives and become more self-sufficient following exploitation 
    • as a stepping stone to longer term stability 
    • to facilitate access to other services to assist with recovery needs arising from their modern slavery experiences (pp. 18-19 of the Recovery Needs Assessment Guidance).

However, if the victim has no access to accommodation that is appropriate and safe, then they will likely be entitled to MSVCC accommodation.

Any refusal to provide MSVCC support on the basis that the victim’s needs do not arise from their modern slavery experiences in circumstances where the victim would have an unmet recovery need without support should be robustly challenged (see below). 

How to access MSVCC support?

For those in need of support under the MSVCC who have not been assigned a support worker, a referral should be made to the Modern Slavery Team at The Salvation Army (0800 808 3733 or mstsupport@salvationarmy.org.uk). For those with a MSVCC support worker, the support worker should make the request. 

It is usually helpful to send to the email address above at least some evidence which demonstrates that the victim is entitled to MSVCC support. It is not a requirement to provide evidence, but it will be helpful in the event support, or elements of it, are refused. There may not be enough time to collect a lot of evidence, but it is helpful to send anything that is available. Further evidence can also be sent later in the event of a refusal to provide support or elements of support. Evidence can either be sent to mstsupport@salvationarmy.org.uk or to the support worker, who should pass it on to The Salvation Army. 

Some examples of helpful evidence are:

  • Representations addressing that the victim is destitute or is facing destitution, or is unable to afford products or services which are essential to their recovery
  • An email from a friend stating that the victim can no longer stay with them, and that they have been asked to leave by a certain date
  • A copy of a positive reasonable grounds decision
  • Evidence that the victim is not eligible for accommodation by the local authority due to their immigration status
  • A letter from a support worker explaining that the victim does not have appropriate and safe and/or safe accommodation, with reasons
  • A written statement from the victim explaining why their current accommodation is inappropriate and safe and/or unsafe, or why they need a particular kind of accommodation
  • Evidence from the police that the area where the victim is currently staying is unsafe
  • Medical evidence which supports the victim’s request (for example, a letter from a psychologist explaining that sharing accommodation with men would be re-traumatising, or that being moved out of a particular area would be detrimental to the victim’s mental health)
  • Evidence that accommodation is required in a particular location (for example, a letter from a psychotherapist, or a letter from a church where the victim has a strong support network)

Following referral into the NRM, The Salvation Army must conduct an initial risk assessment which should include an assessment of immediate welfare needs. This should be followed by a preliminary risk assessment to identify any further immediate welfare needs. 

The Salvation Army must also conduct a full needs-based assessment to determine the support the victim requires as well as a full-risk assessment. Any relevant information or evidence sent to The Salvation Army should always be taken into account in any assessment. 

If the victim did not require support when they received their positive reasonable grounds decision but a need for support has since arisen, a referral for support should be made and an assessment should be carried out.

In cases where an individual is destitute or is at risk of becoming destitute, and is not eligible for local authority support, or other accommodation available to them is unsafe or unsuitable, emergency NRM accommodation should be provided from the day of referral into the NRM.

There have been instances where The Salvation Army, or another designated First Responder organisation, has refused to refer victims into the NRM. ATLEU has published a blog about this concerning phenomenon which contains advice about challenging such refusals.

In cases where a reasonable grounds decision has not yet been made, the Initial Needs Based Assessment will be conducted prior to a reasonable grounds decision where emergency accommodation is required. If emergency accommodation is not required, the Initial Needs Based Assessment will be conducted following a positive reasonable grounds decision. The assessment will often be carried out by telephone interview and an interpreter must be provided if necessary.

Usually, when victims who are already receiving outreach support from one of The Salvation Army’s subcontractors later develop a need for accommodation, the request for accommodation will usually be made to The Salvation Army by their support worker.

The support provided following a needs assessment after a positive reasonable grounds decision will continue for a ‘reflection and recovery period’. The reflection and recovery period will last for a minimum of 45 days, or until a conclusive grounds decision is made, whichever is later. 

Challenging initial failures to provide support

The Salvation Army may refuse to provide an individual with MSVCC support for a variety of reasons. Most refusals to provide support at the first instance relate to accommodation. This section therefore focuses on refusals to provide appropriate and/or safe accommodation. However, it broadly applies to all forms of MSVCC support.

Failures to accommodate victims, whether pending a reasonable grounds decision or following a positive reasonable grounds decision, may be challengeable in court by way of judicial review.

A refusal to provide accommodation to an individual without first conducting an assessment of their needs will very likely be unlawful, and the advice of a Legal Aid public law, community care, or housing solicitor should be sought. It may still be unlawful, however, to refuse to provide NRM accommodation following an assessment of need. It depends on the facts of the case. Some examples of reasons The Salvation Army may give for refusing accommodation are: 

  • The victim is currently in appropriate and safe accommodation, such as asylum support accommodation or accommodation provided by a local authority
  • The victim’s needs are too intensive or complex to be provided for under the MSVCC
  • The victim is eligible for alternative appropriate and safe accommodation (such as through the local authority, or via a friend, or through the asylum support system). 

Following a refusal by the Salvation Army to provide appropriate and safe NRM accommodation, it will be helpful to obtain the refusal in writing (usually in an email). The email address for correspondence relating to MSVCC support is mstsupport@salvationarmy.org.uk. It will also be helpful to obtain a copy of the needs assessment from The Salvation Army. This can be requested both from mstsupport@salvationarmy.org.uk and from mstsar@salvationarmy.org.uk. If you are acting on behalf of the victim, a signed form of authority giving you permission to act on their behalf must be emailed with the request. In practice, obtaining copies of documents held by The Salvation Army takes a long time and it is unfortunately often necessary to proceed without these documents.

Following a refusal to provide appropriate and safe accommodation, advice from a Legal Aid public law or housing solicitor should be sought. Legal Aid is available to challenge government decisions, which includes decisions about MSVCC support. It is also available to individuals who are homeless or threatened with homelessness, which includes people occupying accommodation that is not reasonable to continue to occupy. To be eligible for legal aid, it is necessary to meet the financial criteria. 

Because judicial review is usually a slow process, when the victim has an urgent unmet need for support, it is often advisable to apply to the High Court for an emergency order requiring the Home Office to immediately provide accommodation for the duration of the court case. This is called ‘interim relief’. 

ATLEU provides publicly-funded legal advice and representation in public law and housing cases. Our referrals email is referrals@atleu.org.uk and our online referrals system that links to legal aid advisors around the country is referrals.athub.org.uk. There is also a list of legal aid solicitors on the Ministry of Justice website

While attempting to find legal advice following a refusal of accommodation, it can be helpful to send an email to mstsupport@salvationarmy.org.uk requesting that The Salvation Army reconsider the decision, with reasons why the victim needs appropriate and safe accommodation and is entitled to it. If there is evidence which helps explain why The Salvation Army’s decision is wrong that has not yet been sent to them, it should be sent to them at this point. This email could be copied to MSTClientLegal@salvationarmy.org.uk as well as the MSVCC contract manager, martine.laffan-butler@salvationarmy.org.uk.

Case study: No risk assessment

Adiatu is a highly vulnerable victim of trafficking from Sierra Leone who, following her escape from domestic servitude, was referred into the NRM by the social services department of a London borough. Following her escape, she was facing street homeless and required urgent accommodation. This was communicated to The Salvation Army at the time of referral. The Salvation Army, however, refused to provide emergency accommodation as they said that they had not been able to get in touch with Adiatu to conduct a risk assessment. Adiatu had felt too afraid to pick up her telephone to speak to strangers. Adiatu instructed public law solicitors to challenge this refusal, who sent an urgent pre-action letter to The Salvation Army, which resulted in The Salvation Army arranging emergency accommodation the same day. 

Case study: High support needs

Jazmin is a victim of trafficking from Hungary who suffers from severe PTSD and depression. Following her referral into the NRM she was placed in NRM accommodation. On her first night in the safe house she attempted to commit suicide. She was taken to hospital and discharged the next day, back into the safe house. The Salvation Army then said to Jazmin that her needs were ‘too high’ for them to manage, and that she should seek local authority accommodation instead. She was given a week to leave. Jazmin then applied for local authority accommodation. However, the emergency accommodation offered by the local authority had no staff on site and was in an area close to where she had been exploited. Jazmin again attempted suicide in the emergency accommodation. While she was again recovering in hospital, Jazmin instructed public law legal representatives to challenge the Home Office’s termination of her accommodation on the basis of her high level of need, and a settlement was reached that the Home Office would contribute to the funding of suitable local authority supported accommodation. 

Challenging inappropriate and/or unsafe accommodation

In some cases, accommodation may be offered by The Salvation Army, but the accommodation is not appropriate and/or safe, for example because it is in an unsuitable location, or because it is mixed sex. Legal advice should also be sought in these cases.

In many cases, it is often advisable to accept an offer of NRM accommodation from The Salvation Army. The decision to provide inappropriate and/or unsafe NRM accommodation can still be challenged after moving in, and usually it will be easier to argue that the accommodation is inappropriate from inside the accommodation. Legal advice should be sought as soon as possible.

However, there will also be cases where moving to inappropriate and/or unsafe accommodation would pose such a risk to the victim’s wellbeing that it is not reasonable to expect them to move. These cases will be assisted by strong evidence of the likely harms that would result from moving to the accommodation. It is always advisable to seek the advice of a public law or housing solicitor before turning down an offer of NRM accommodation. 

It is important to note that many decisions to either refuse accommodation outright or to refuse to provide accommodation of a particular type (for example in a particular area) are unlawful and can be challenged. Often, The Salvation Army will state that it does not have access to, for example, female-only accommodation in the London area. In cases where the victim has a need for this kind of accommodation, this is not a justification for refusing to provide it, and the Home Office will likely have a legal obligation to make it available. In many cases, the Home Office will also have a legal duty to make arrangements to provide accommodation of a particular standard in order to meet a victim’s complex needs. 

It may be that a victim requires accommodation under the MSVCC, but that the particular type of accommodation usually provided through the MSVCC, a safe house, may be inappropriate and unsafe. For example, the victim may have a need, stemming from a mental health condition, to live in self-contained accommodation, or in a non-institutional environment. Perhaps the victim does very badly living with others.

Safe house accommodation can be quite restrictive, for example, visitors are usually prohibited. For some victims, living in a restrictive environment is not appropriate and does not assist their recovery. In these cases, the Home Office may have a duty to make arrangements to provide alternative appropriate and safe accommodation, perhaps by sourcing an appropriate property itself or by working together with a local authority to make one available.

Alternatively, a victim may already be occupying suitable accommodation where they have become settled, provided, for example, by the social services department of a local authority, and they have been threatened with eviction from this accommodation by the local authority. In such cases, the Home Office may have a duty to provide appropriate and safe accommodation by being flexible and making alternative arrangements, such as, for example, by funding the local authority accommodation. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the Home Office will agree to make arrangements of this kind if they are not pushed to do so by a legal representative. It is therefore especially important to seek legal advice in these cases. 

In cases where a victim is already receiving outreach support, a refusal to provide appropriate and safe accommodation will be communicated to the victim via the support worker. However, it is important to remember that these are still ultimately government decisions and therefore must comply with the government’s duties under ECAT. For example, if a victim has a need to stay in London to assist their recovery and a support worker states that ‘accommodation cannot be provided in London because The Salvation Army has told me that all the London safe houses are full’, then evidence of the client’s need to stay in London should be obtained and submitted to The Salvation Army (either directly or via the support worker), and legal advice should be sought. 

In cases where the assistance provided by the support worker falls below the standards necessary to effectively support the victim, it is often advisable to liaise directly with The Salvation Army through the mstsupport@salvationarmy.org.uk email. 

Support workers have an obligation to meet the needs of victims. This can involve advocating on their behalf. Support workers remain contracted by the Home Office, however, and some may feel uncomfortable about providing evidence against the Home Office in litigation. Due to these complexities, it is advisable to obtain as much evidence from as many different sources as possible. 

Although The Salvation Army is contracted to provide services under the MSVCC, it is the Home Office, as the public body, that owes the ultimate legal duty to the individual victim. It is therefore often advisable to involve the Home Office directly, in particular the Single Competent Authority (nrm@modernslavery.gov.uk), when challenging a failure to provide suitable accommodation. 

Case study: NRM v local authority accommodation

Lukas is a Lithuanian victim of trafficking with a positive reasonable grounds decision. He suffers from PTSD. Although he is an EU national, he has no right to reside. He was accommodated by a local authority in the south west of England under the Localism Act 2011 for a few weeks. This accommodation was appropriate and safe and gave him a safe space to recover. However, Lukas received a letter from social services giving him 14 days’ notice that he was being evicted from the accommodation. The letter stated that because he was eligible for NRM accommodation the local authority no longer had a duty to house him. 

Lukas’ support worker then asked for NRM accommodation from The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army stated that Lukas already had appropriate and safe accommodation and that the local authority should continue to house him. 

Lukas then instructed a public law solicitor. The solicitor sent a single pre-action letter to both the Home Office and to the local authority. The letter contained representations and medical evidence from a psychologist attesting to the fact that Lukas required a stable environment for his recovery. The letter threatened legal action if the local authority did not continue to provide accommodation to Lukas under the Localism Act 2011. The letter suggested that, if necessary, the Home Office and the local authority should come to an arrangement which would allow Lukas to continue to occupy the accommodation. As a result of the letter, the Home Office agreed to take over paying the rent for Lukas’ accommodation. 

Moving on

The guidance is clear that MSVCC support, including accommodation, is not supposed to be long term: 

The Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract operates as a bridge, to lift adult victims out of a situation of exploitation and to set them on a pathway to rebuilding their lives. As such, it is important that no support provided through the Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract prevents potential victims or victims from accessing support they would otherwise be entitled to receive. The Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract generally offers temporary support; other long-term support options should be pursued where they are available and able to meet the victim’s needs. One of the roles of the Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract is to provide information and signposting to potential victim or victims, and in some circumstances facilitate access to statutory and non-statutory services, including services that may provide longer-term support. (8.6 of the guidance)

How MSVCC support, including accommodation, will be terminated, depends on whether the victim has received a positive or negative conclusive grounds decision (or for those in emergency NRM accommodation, a negative reasonable grounds decision). However, whether the conclusive grounds decision is positive or negative, victims with an active asylum claim and who would otherwise be destitute without the Home Office providing accommodation, and those who are eligible for accommodation from a local authority, are usually encouraged to apply for these forms of accommodation.

The guidance states that a needs assessment must be conducted when a victim transfers from MSVCC accommodation into asylum accommodation. 

Following a positive conclusive grounds decision

As a result of litigation the Home Office has accepted that victims will not necessarily have recovered by the end of the 45-day reflection and recovery period and will therefore sometimes require support beyond this period (see NN and LP v SSHD [2019] EWHC 1003 (Admin)). This has now been incorporated into the guidance: 

It is important to note that a full recovery should not be expected during this minimum 45 day period; for some victims this may take considerably longer or may not be possible at all. It is therefore expected that victims will leave the MSVCC with ongoing recovery needs when they have alternate sources of support to help them meet these needs. 

Following a positive conclusive grounds decision, victims receiving support will have a minimum of 45 days of ‘move on’ support, starting from the date of the conclusive grounds decision. This is to ‘to facilitate, where possible, their transition into alternative services’ (p. 8 of the Recovery Needs Assessment Guidance). 

As soon as possible following a positive conclusive grounds decision, a Recovery Needs Assessment (‘RNA’) will be conducted by the victim’s support worker to determine whether the victim has ongoing recovery needs ‘arising from their modern slavery experiences’ (p. 7 of the Recovery Needs Assessment Guidance), and whether MSVCC support, including accommodation, is necessary to meet those needs beyond the ‘move on’ period. RNAs will include a ‘transition plan’ for transitioning out of MSVCC support, and a recommended time period for how long support should continue. RNAs should be a collaborative exercise between the support worker and the victim. The victim’s views and preferences should be taken into account. 

Needs for each element of MSVCC support are assessed separately, and MSVCC support will only continue to be provided where the victim has an ongoing ‘recovery need’ and where the victim does not have access to alternative services which could meet that need. For example, a vulnerable victim with a positive CG who has recently been granted refugee status and has applied for Universal Credit may be assessed as having a continuing need for financial support until their Universal Credit is in payment, and a continuing need for support worker contact, but not for MSVCC accommodation (as they would be eligible for Part 7 Housing Act 1996 homelessness accommodation). 

The guidance states that if a need for MSVCC accommodation is identified by the support worker, the support worker should address the following in the RNA:

  • If alternative housing is available but not considered secure and/or suitable, full details of the rationale behind the consideration 
  • Full details of minimum time that MSVCC accommodation is needed for, including estimated time for completing applications, such as applications for immigration status 
  • Local authority or Asylum Support applications (p. 20 of the Recovery Needs Assessment Guidance)

The assessment and any supporting evidence is sent to The Salvation Army for ‘quality assurance’. The Salvation Army then sends it to the Single Competent Authority, who will make a decision based on the support worker’s recommendations in the assessment. The Single Competent Authority will then communicate the decision to the support worker via The Salvation Army.

Victims should continue to receive MSVCC support pending a decision on the RNA. If a need for ongoing support is not recommended or the Single Competent Authority decides that support should not continue, the victim will have to exit MSVCC support within nine days of the RNA decision, or at the end of their guaranteed 45 days of ‘move on’ support (whichever is later).

The maximum amount of time that MSVCC support can continue following an RNA is six months. However, in practice the Single Competent Authority usually decides support should continue for a shorter period. At the end of the period of agreed support, if the victim has further recovery need arising from their modern slavery experiences of if they have recovery needs that cannot be met outside of the MSVCC, the support worker must conduct and submit another RNA before the end of the agreed period of support. 

The Single Competent Authority will make its decision on the basis of the recommendations in the RNA and any supporting evidence. The Single Competent Authority may also make its own checks with the Home Office. The Single Competent Authority will either fully, partially, or not agree with the recommendations in the RNA. 

Finally, there may be cases where the victim is in urgent need of support. In these cases, it is advisable to correspond with the Single Competent Authority directly by email (nrm@modernslavery.gov.uk) or by telephone (020 7035 5689) to explain the urgency and to request that a decision be made quickly, by a particular date and time. It is also possible to submit supporting evidence directly to the Single Competent Authority. Records should be kept of any telephone conversations. Delays in making decisions in such cases may be challengeable by judicial review, and public law legal advice should be sought. 

Challenging RNAs

The guidance states that: 

The SCA’s decision is final; the only ground for reconsideration is when material new evidence/information comes to light, which was not available at the time of the original recommendation. (p. 27 of the Recovery Needs Assessment Guidance)

Home Office policy is that the deadline for requesting reconsideration is 28 days from the date of the RNA decision, and that reconsideration can only be requested by The Salvation Army, on behalf of the support worker and/or victim. Where reconsideration has been accepted, the victim will remain in support pending the outcome. 

RNAs should be provided to the support worker, who should share it with the victim. If the victim is experiencing difficulties obtaining the RNA, it is advisable to do the following

  1. Escalate the request to manager level within the MSVCC subcontractor (ie. to the relevant support worker’s manager)
  2. Send an urgent request for the decision, including a signed consent form from the victim, to mstsar@salvationarmy.org.uk
  3. Send an urgent request for the decision, including a signed consent form from the victim, to nrm@modernslavery.gov.uk

If this does not result in disclosure, public law advice should be sought as soon as possible. 

There will be many cases where the victim is not happy with the decision, but it is not possible to follow the RNA reconsideration process outlined in the guidance. These cases will usually involve one or more of the following situations:

  • The 28-day time limit for requesting reconsideration has passed
  • The MSVCC subcontractor or The Salvation Army, has refused to request a reconsideration
  • There is no new evidence, or the new evidence does not add anything material, but the decision looks wrong, for example, it is irrational, or the evidence has not been properly considered, or the decision contains a factual error

In all of these cases, public law advice should be sought as soon as possible, as it may be possible to challenge an RNA decision by way of judicial review. Judicial reviews must be filed promptly, and in any event within three months of the decision under challenge. It may also be possible to challenge the Home Office’s policies which restrict how reconsideration requests can be made. 

For example, the policy that only The Salvation Army can submit reconsideration requests may be susceptible to challenge. The Home Office had a similar policy relating to reconsiderations of trafficking identification decisions which stated that only the First Responder or the support provider could request a reconsideration of a trafficking decision. This policy was declared to be unlawful by the High Court in the case of R(DS) v SSHD [2019] EWHC 3046 (Admin). 

If the 28 day time limit on requesting a reconsideration is enforced and where this restricts a victim’s access to support to which they are legally entitled, it may be possible to challenge both the refusal to accept a reconsideration request after 28 days and the underlying policy. In practice, legal representations and/or a pre-action letter threatening litigation alongside submitting relevant evidence of the impact of the decision will usually resolve the issue. 

Case study: NRM support withdrawn due to pandemic

Bora is an Albanian victim of trafficking with severe PTSD. She is an asylum seeker on section 95 support. She received £37.75 of asylum support and a top up £27.25 in NRM financial support. She received a positive conclusive grounds decision in February 2020. Her support worker conducted a RNA in April 2020 which recommended that the NRM financial support should continue. This was because the UK was in lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which meant that Bora had to spend more money to top up her internet to attend her English classes and her support groups which had been moved online. She also required additional money to buy 14 days’ worth of food in case she was required to self-isolate. 

The Single Competent Authority refused this, on the grounds that the lockdown meant that she would not need money for travel. Bora’s NRM support was terminated. She then had a mental health crisis as a result. She instructed public law solicitors to challenge the decision. Given the urgency and the fragile state of her mental health, it was considered that the reconsideration process was not a sufficiently timely remedy and an urgent pre-action letter was sent to the Home Office. Medical evidence was obtained from her psychiatrist attesting to the severe impact of not being able to attend her online activities was having. This resulted in the Home Office withdrawing the decision and reinstating support. 

Following a negative reasonable or conclusive grounds decision

Following a negative reasonable grounds decision (where the individual is in emergency NRM accommodation) and following a negative conclusive grounds decision, the victim will have ‘move on’ support provided for nine days following the date of the negative decision. 

The Home Office acknowledges, however, that sometimes individuals who have received negative trafficking decisions require support to continue for a longer period. In such circumstances, an extension request should be submitted by the support worker before the individual exits the service. The extension request will then be considered by the Single Competent Authority.

The guidance states that this policy also applies to individuals who have requested a reconsideration of their negative trafficking decision (and where the Single Competent Authority has not yet agreed to reconsider, or where the Single Competent Authority has refused to reconsider). 

The guidance states that only support providers can make extension requests, and that where a support worker refuses to make the request the individual should raise a complaint ‘through the official MSVCC complaints procedure’. However, there is no other mention of this complaints procedure in the guidance, and it is not unclear what the complaints procedure is. Moreover, it is likely that a complaint will not be a sufficiently timely remedy for a failure to make an extension request given that the move-on period is only nine days.

In circumstances where the support worker is not willing to make an extension request, correspondence requesting an extension and including reasons for the extension, together with any supporting evidence, could be sent to mstsupport@salvationarmy.org.uk and nrm@modernslavery.gov.uk. There is further information on what information should be included in an extension request at paragraph 15.140 of the guidance. Legal advice should also be sought, as a court order granting interim relief will often be the only option at this stage. 

Requesting back payments of financial support

There may be circumstances where a victim did not receive the MSVCC financial support to which they were entitled. Perhaps financial support which remained necessary for a victim’s recovery was terminated without a proper assessment of need. Or, perhaps a victim did not understand their entitlement to financial support and ‘turned it down’ without fully knowing what it was. 

In circumstances where a victim believes they should have received financial support but did not receive it, a request for a back payment covering the period without support should be made. Representations should be sent to mstsupport@salvationarmy.org.uk outlining the dates between which the victim was entitled to financial support but did not receive it, the reason why they did not receive it, together with supporting evidence, if possible, of their entitlement. 

Following a failure to pay a back payment, public law legal advice should be sought. Legal Aid is available for these matters. 

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