frontline workers

How to report modern slavery and ensure potential victims have the support they need.
Call the UK Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline on 08000 121 700

What is the National Referral Mechanism?

 The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is a framework for identifying victims of human trafficking and ensuring they receive appropriate protection and Government-funded support. It is also the mechanism through which the Government collects data about victims. The information helps build a clearer picture of human trafficking in the UK.

national referral mechanism at a glance

Step 1: A frontline professional or first responder becomes concerned that someone may be a victim of human trafficking.

Step 2: With the individual’s consent, they submit an NRM form and may also inform the police.

Step 3: The individual is offered safe accommodation and support while their case is being considered.

Step 4: Case owners from the Single Competent Authority (Government agency) decide whether the individual is a victim of trafficking.

An individual cannot self-refer to the NRM. They must be referred by a designated organisation or agency (“first responder”), with the individual’s consent.

First responders include statutory agencies such as the police, local authorities, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and some designated charities, including Unseen.

how are potential victims referred to the national referral mechanism?

making an nrm referral

If you are a frontline professional and are concerned about someone, you should complete an NRM form or get a first responder to do this.

You (or the first responder) should then discuss support needs and make a referral into safe accommodation by contacting one of the designated organisations listed below.​

Individuals recognised as a potential victim of modern slavery through the NRM can get tailored support. This “recovery and reflection” period is for a minimum of 30 days while their case is being considered.

Support may include safe accommodation, legal advice, protection and emotional and practical support.

support during referral

designated support organisations

Certain organisations and subcontractors can arrange support and safe accommodation for people under the National Referral Mechanism. They are:

In England and Wales –The Salvation Army

In Scotland –TARA or Migrant Help​

In Northern Ireland –Women’s Aid or Migrant Help.

An individual who wants to access Government-funded support must consent to providing their details. First responders will pass these details to the police, who might launch an investigation and speak to the person of concern. The police may also apply for a visa (for up to 12 months) for someone who is helping with enquiries in this way.

the police and the national referral mechanism

national referral mechanism form

You can access the NRM form on the Government website

In Northern Ireland –Women’s Aid or Migrant Help.

unseen and the nrm

Unseen is a first responder. We work with victims to establish what help and support might be available.

However, during the NRM period, Unseen supports potential victims via our safehouses and outreach projects.

Unseen can also advise victims on reintegrating into the UK or returning home.

If an individual does not want to give their name or personal details it will not affect the guidance we can offer them.

Unseen runs modern slavery awareness training for professionals
Justine Currell

As I came to understand more about the issue, including through a visit to an Unseen safehouse, I knew I needed to do more to stop this abuse and exploitation.

For the last five years of my Civil Service career, I was the Modern Slavery Senior Policy Advisor in the Home Office and led on development of the Modern Slavery Act, including the transparency in supply chains provision and business guidance.

I joined Unseen to lead the development of the Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline, and Unseen’s work with businesses. I am regularly called upon to present at national and international conferences and use my experience of working with Ministers to influence other governments internationally to take action to address modern slavery and, in particular, business supply chain issues.

In my spare time I enjoy keeping fit, music, reading and travelling.

Andrew Wallis

What ultimately compelled me to act was a report on how people from Eastern Europe were being trafficked through Bristol airport to the USA. Kate Garbers, who went on to be an Unseen Director, and I wrote to all the city councillors, MPs and the Police Chief Constable challenging them on the issue. The challenge came back to us: this city needs safe housing for trafficked women. And so Unseen began.

But we never wanted Unseen to be just about safe housing. We wanted to end slavery once and for all, and that remains our driving focus.

I chaired the working group for the Centre for Social Justice’s landmark report “It Happens Here: Equipping the United Kingdom to Fight Modern Slavery”. This is now acknowledged as the catalyst behind the UK’s Modern Slavery Act of 2015. It was a great honour to be awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours that year. On the other hand, I’ve also been described as “the loveliest disrupter you could ever hope to meet”.

This job has taken me from building flat-pack furniture for safehouses, to working with businesses to address slavery in supply chains, to delivering training, raising awareness and advising governments around the world.

When not at work, I enjoy travelling, spending time with my dog Harley, cooking, supporting Liverpool and Yorkshire CC, music (I’m a former DJ) and endurance events such as the Three Peaks Challenge and Tribe Freedom Runs – which I vow never to do again. Until the next time.