Details on the legal advice and representation, housing support and healthcare services that are available to survivors of trafficking and slavery.
Our new referral system is now live. If you need to make or receive referrals for survivors of trafficking and/or slavery register now!
Working with a lawyer
These are some things to consider before you approach a lawyer about your client’s case.
- What is the client’s preference? Always discuss what the client would like with them so they can make the choice about who will take on their case.
- Does anyone you know have any feedback about working with this lawyer or organisation? It is always good to ask colleagues about their experience for other clients.
If you have not worked with the lawyer or organisation before, you could ask if you could do a short call with the lawyer to ask about a few things that are important to clients, to get an idea of the service that will be provided:
- Travel expenses in immigration cases – will they reimburse travel expenses for clients who need to go to appointments with the lawyer to give them information or say what they think about a course of action?
Legal aid will pay for travel expenses in immigration cases if the client is a. getting asylum support money, b. an unaccompanied asylum seeking child and being supported by social services, c. being supported by the local authority under the Care Act 2014, Children Act 1989 or Immigration Act 2016 or d. destitute.
- Client appointments – is the client able to call up whenever they have questions, to talk to the lawyer with an interpreter if they need one?
It is important the lawyer is approachable and has time for the client, especially when cases have a lot of different parts and clients may have new things to tell the lawyer over time, or need reminding of advice. It is not always possible for a lawyer to speak to a client as soon as they have a question, but clients should be able to speak to the lawyer at a mutually convenient time, with an interpreter, in person, by phone or by video.
- Getting documents – will they help the client to get a full copy of their Home Office, SCA, police or any other file?
Getting documents is a big job and one that helps understand a client’s background and will also reveal things about the client that may be unhelpful and need to be addressed and understood by the lawyer early on. Sometimes you might be able to help the client to get documents, for example, helping them organise documents in their possession to hand over to the lawyer.
- Statements – do they prepare statements with clients?
Writing out someone’s story, including their background before their modern slavery experience, is often an effective way to explain vulnerability to the Home Office, and find out information the client may not volunteer in an interview. Some lawyers do not like to send in statements to the Home Office before an interview but it is good to know if they will prepare them with a client in any case so the client understand the sort of questions they may be asked, and for the lawyer to have a detailed background of the client’s life to make their arguments and clarify anything not clearly expressed by the client to the Home Office.
- Will the lawyer get a medico legal report for the client? How often do they get these reports in the modern slavery cases they work on?
Medico legal reports are detailed medical opinions from psychologists or psychiatrists that answer tailored questions from a lawyer about the client. Sometimes a very detailed GP or therapist letter can be enough but it needs to cover specific questions relevant to the modern slavery elements of the case, which the lawyer will know how to ask. Opinions like this are crucial to success in most modern slavery cases and lawyers can arrange legal aid funding to pay for them and ask the experts the right questions to make sure the report is good.
- Will they help the client to make arguments about why they should get a positive Conclusive Grounds decision while the client is in the NRM?
Lawyers get funding on legal aid to do this work and arguments made between a client getting a positive RG and CG decision help the Home Office to make a good decision on identification as a victim of modern slavery.
- If the SCA has questions or asks the client to complete a questionnaire, will the lawyer explain what the SCA is asking and be the one to reply to the SCA? If the SCA asks about documents the client and lawyer have not seen, will the lawyer ask the SCA to provide these before giving a reply?
It is important that clients understand why the SCA is asking something in a simple way, and often questions that are asked are not ones that support workers can or should answer on behalf of the client. The SCA should always provide a copy of any documents that they are relying on if they are not available to the lawyer and client already so the client can understand how this information may be used against them and properly respond. This is work the lawyer should do if you have one on the case.
- Will they be able to give advice and help the client to apply for discretionary leave to remain or any other application for leave to remain as well as asylum?
Lawyers get legal aid to give a client with a positive RG or CG decision advice on any type of application for leave to remain. This includes applications for discretionary leave to remain as a victim of modern slavery, which can be a very important form of leave to obtain for a client to help them feel more independent and start recovery, even while they are waiting for an asylum decision.
- What is their approach to delay on a case, from the NRM or asylum team? Are they able to make formal complaints to the Home Office if there is delay or write a letter threatening court action if there is no action after a reasonable time?
- If clients get a negative RG, CG or decision refusing discretionary leave to remain, how often does the lawyer write a letter threatening court action in their cases? Is it every time? In 75% of such cases or less?
This question is not about actually going to court when someone gets a negative decision, but about a willingness to push back against unlawful decision making. Lawyers can help the client to challenge negative decisions from the Single Competent Authority by way of judicial review in court. The first step is to write a ‘pre action letter’ which is a letter threatening court action if the SCA does not change its mind. Often when you write a letter like this, the SCA will agree to change its mind without court. If the lawyer does not do this sort of work regularly when their clients get negative decisions, it is useful to know from the beginning, in case there are other lawyers who can do these letters as well as the rest of the work on the case, or if you go ahead with this lawyer, to make sure the client can be referred to a public lawyer immediately when they get a negative decision. There are very short timescales to challenge decisions you are not happy with. You should take prompt action and in any case go to court no later than three months after the decision.
Legal aid – free advice
Legal aid by right
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 available:
- If they need immigration advice about any type of of application for leave to remain and they have a positive reasonable or conclusive grounds decision – this applies to European and non European people
- Have a claim for asylum or need advice about a claim
- Have a claim for indefinite leave as a victim of domestic violence/for a residence card as the family member of a European person where the marriage or civil partnership terminated because of domestic violence
- Need help to get out of immigration detention
- Need help with a ‘judicial review’ challenge such as challenging a decision they are not a victim of trafficking or a decision not to grant discretionary leave to remain under Home Office policy.
An individual cannot get automatic legal aid if they are just thinking about going into the NRM and don’t have a positive reasonable grounds decision yet. If they want advice on a type of application that is definitely covered by legal aid, like asylum, then going into the NRM might be relevant so the lawyer can talk about the NRM too. If not, they can apply for ‘exceptional legal aid’ to cover this type of advice.
Applying for exceptional legal aid
This is a discretionary type of legal aid where you need a decision that your case justifies a free lawyer from the Legal Aid Agency directly, before a lawyer can begin work.
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, if you think that not having free legal help will lead to a breach of your human rights or European Union rights.
It takes 25 working days to get a decision in most cases. If the Legal Aid Agency agrees that the matter is urgent, the person should get a decision in 10 working days.
The Legal Aid Agency says it is difficult to tell if something is urgent unless this is made clear on the front of the application. It is a good idea to say very simply why the case is urgent on the application form itself (if you are using one) or on the piece of paper with your written reasons why you need this help (if you are applying in person), and in your cover email. The Legal Aid Agency should triage applications to decide if something is urgent before the 10 working day point. If you have asked them to deal with the case urgently and you have not heard from them, ring up the Legal Aid Agency to get a reply using this number: 0300 200 2020.
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. If the individual is applying themselves, or with the help of a support worker, they do not need to fill in an application form. The Legal Aid Agency says they accept a minimum of the following information in writing (and signed by the applicant):
- Background to your case, including all the main facts.
- What you need legal advice on or what court proceedings you need representation in. Explain why you cannot represent yourself.
- What outcome you wish to achieve.
- Information that will support your application eg court applications and orders, expert and medical reports, copies of any decisions you wish to challenge.
- Information on your financial situation.
Applications can be made by email only:
You might need to send several emails if you have a lot of attachments.
Telephone: 0300 200 2020
Find a lawyer
List of lawyers who do trafficking compensation work
More information on legal aid:
Help with applications for exceptional legal aid – guidance:
What to expect when working with a lawyer
What to bring
Before meeting a client, the lawyer should speak with the victim or support worker about what they should bring as proof of their situation.
The individual should bring any documents they want the lawyer to look at.
If the individual has an immigration case the individual may need to bring your positive reasonable or conclusive grounds decision with you to the first appointment. Ask the lawyer before the appointment if you are not sure.
The individual must bring proof of their finances for the last month so the lawyer can assess if they meet the financial test and are able to get legal aid. This can sometimes be difficult for a victim of modern 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.
Interpreters and gender of lawyer
The individual should tell the lawyer if they need an interpreter and if they feel comfortable talking to males and females (just in case they get a male lawyer or interpreter and don’t feel able to speak in front of them).
Unfortunately it is very common for people not to come to their first appointment without the right proof that they qualify for legal aid which means lawyers face a big risk in booking interpreters for the first session, as they will not get reimbursed for the interpreter costs by legal aid if the individual cannot show they qualify.
It is very helpful if a support service can work with the individual to ensure they have the right proof of income for the appointment and even provide some proof of income to the lawyer before the appointment so the lawyer might feel reassured to book an interpreter for that appointment. (Although the legal aid assessment is based on the person’s financial circumstances on the actual day of the appointment.) Alternatively a support service could perhaps agree to cover the cost of an interpreter for the first appointment themselves if proof of income cannot be guaranteed before the session.
What happens at the first meeting
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.
If there is an interpreter present (if needed) then the lawyer can go on to talk about issues in more detail in that first meeting.
The lawyer will ask about what has happened and what the individual wants to do now. The lawyer should give some advice.
Sometimes first meetings can be short while the individual and lawyer get to know each other, and if the individual does not feel comfortable to start giving lots of detail to the lawyer before they know them better. This is normal and okay. The lawyer can arrange a follow up appointment for a longer talk whenever the client feels comfortable.
They should send a letter after the appointment confirming what was discussed. Advice should be written in a way the client can understand and let the client know where the case is going from here. The lawyer should also send what is known as “client care” information – this is information about the law firm or advice organisation and the lawyer, and is sometimes included in the advice letter. It tells the client and their support worker who they can go to if the lawyer is not around, with the name of the lawyer’s supervisor, and gives key contact information.
What else to expect
- Appointments to ask questions or talk about the case when the client wants to talk to the lawyer – by phone, video, or in person
- Document search – lawyers will help to request files held by other people (previous lawyers, the Home Office, the SCA, the police, medical records) and go through them carefully and talk about their findings with the client before sharing the information with anyone else.
- Expert evidence to support the arguments made to the Home Office – this might be from a doctor or someone that knows about the country the client is from in an immigration case
- Statements – writing out the story of the client about their background (when it is relevant to the issues they are facing now) and the problem that has made them need legal advice
- Copies of important documents and letters – as long as the client feels comfortable to receive these. Sometimes they don’t. But they might like to have copies to keep even if they do not read them straight away. These documents include witness statements, expert reports, and letters might be copies of legal arguments made to the government or other side in a case.
- Advice in person and in writing after a decision to explain next steps and why the case is not strong enough for the lawyer to keep working on it, if that is their view.
It is a criminal offence to provide immigration advice unless you are properly regulated. You can find an immigration lawyer using the links below.
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 after 45 days unless the government agrees the victim still needs help.
If the person is destitute they can ask for help with accommodation and money from the government even before they get a reasonable grounds decision. This request can just be made to the First Responder who is approached about the referral 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: hthttps://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/912352/Main_Guidance_post_24_August_2020_V2.pdftps://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:
Survivors 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/ that offers 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.