The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is a framework for identifying and recording victims of human trafficking or modern slavery - and for ensuring they receive the appropriate support.
A referral to the NRM by the police means a suspected offence (or offences) under the Modern Slavery Act has been committed, and that the first steps needed to safeguard victims are being put in place. Other agencies, such as local authorities, are also able to make NRM referrals which are also notified to police.
The NRM does not itself result in modern slavery investigation but seeks to support the victim. Investigation is the role of the police.
The support services available to victims through the NRM process include:
- Safe accommodation and material assistance
- Medical treatment and care
- Counselling and emotional support
- Advice on immigration and legal rights and services
- Advice on the criminal justice system
- Guidance on education, training, and employment
- 45-day ‘reflection period' when a person cannot be removed from the UK. The recovery period is intended to give the victim time to recover and escape the influence of traffickers and/or to take an informed decision on cooperating with the authorities
- Ensuring any necessary return to the home country is safe and dignified
The National Referral Mechanism is a statutory process and must be followed by police and other organisations (known as "first responders") who can make referrals. As part of this, first responders are required to notify the Home Office about any potential victims of modern slavery they encounter in England and Wales. Accurately completing the NRM form is sufficient to satisfy this duty.
When encountering people who the police believe may be victims of modern slavery, NRM forms must be completed and submitted for;
- all adults who are suspected victims of offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and who consent to enter the NRM process;
- all children who are suspected as being victims (consent is not required). Immediate safeguarding and support for children will be provided by local authority safeguarding teams.
Where adults who are suspected victims do not consent to becoming part of the NRM process, a Duty to Notify form must be completed and submitted to the Home Office. For vulnerable adults, it may be appropriate for a social worker to make an assessment of capacity to consent to a referral.
Once a referral has been made to the NRM process, police will contact the Salvation Army and/or other local service providers to ensure that appropriate safeguarding arrangements are put in place.
Updates on any on-going investigation will also need to be provided to the NRM “Single Competent Authority” as this may have an effect on the support services available to the victim.