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Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 specifies that public authorities have a duty to notify the Secretary of State of any individual identified in England and Wales as a suspected victim of slavery or human trafficking.

The statutory guidance can be found here:

Modern slavery: how to identify and support victims

Victims of modern slavery can be any age, gender, nationality and ethnicity. It often involves people who are trying to escape poverty or discrimination, trying to improve their lives, support their families.

Traffickers and slave masters use whatever ways they can to pressure, deceive and force individuals into a life of abuse, servitude and inhumane treatment.

This can include violence and threats, forcing people into debt, and is always about controlling people to exploit them for financial or personal gain.

They may use concerns about an individual’s immigration status or worries that their families may be at risk if they resist.

Human trafficking is the process by which people become trapped and exploited. It does not have to involve travel, although people may be moved across borders or into countries.

Safeguarding adults duties apply where a victim of modern slavery has care and support needs, and as a result of those needs is unable to protect themselves from abuse or harm. For example, someone with a learning disability may be employed but work long hours for very little pay, the employer taking advantage of them. 

What might it look like?

  • Sexual exploitation including prostitution and ‘adult entertainment’
  • Forced labour – commonly in agricultural, construction, food processing, hospitality industries, factories, car washers and nail bars – farming, textile production
  • Domestic servitude
  • Organ harvesting
  • Forced criminality – includes cannabis cultivation, street crime, forced begging, burglary, metal theft and benefit fraud

How might you recognise it?

People may be: 

  • Distrustful of authorities
  • Expression of fear or anxiety
  • Signs of psychological trauma
  • Acts as if instructed by another
  • Injuries apparently a result of assault or controlling measures
  • Evidence of control over movement, either as an individual or as a group
  • Found in or connected to a type of location likely to be used for exploitation
  • Restriction of movement and confinement to the workplace or to a limited area
  • Limited social contact / contact with family
  • Unable or reluctant to give details of accommodation or work address
  • Perception of being bonded by debt
  • Money deducted from salary for food or accommodation
  • Threat of being handed over to authorities
  • Threats against the individual or their family members
  • No or limited access to bathroom or hygiene facilities, or medical care
  • Passport or documents held by someone else
  • Being placed in a dependency situation

See also:

January 2023 - Skills for Care have produced some videos to support health and social care employers, especially when recruiting internationally.

March 2022 - the Local Government Association published guidance on modern slavery developed specifically for council officers leading and working in homelessness and housing services.

See also the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority site - they work to prevent worker exploitation, protect vulnerable people, and tackle unlicensed/criminal activity, ensuring those licensed operate within the law.

Watch this 7 min video:

GLAA Modern Slavery – Do the Right Thing


Norfolk Anti-Slavery Network

In 2020, the Norfolk Anti-Slavery Network was set up with support from the Red Cross. NSAB are proud to be part of this partnership, supporting the work raising awareness of the issues, improving recognition of those affected, and promoting effective responses where modern slavery and or human trafficking is found.


  • to help prevent ‘hidden’ crimes which are traditionally under-reported and, crucially, to support those who are victims of such crimes.


  • To provide leadership and to strengthen and enhance the multi-agency response to modern slavery and human trafficking in Norfolk

Norfolk Anti-Slavery Network website


Norfolk Anti-Slavery Network modern slavery leaflet


Human Trafficking Foundation

The Human Trafficking Foundation grew out of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery with three objectives: 

  • To shape policy and legislation by equipping parliamentarians and policy makers, lead government departments, local authorities, police and statutory agencies to better understand the extent and nature of human trafficking, and the need to adjust rapidly to changing trends; 
  • To provide a sustained and collective voice amongst NGOs, civil society, and voluntary organisations fighting modern day slavery so that short-comings in current policy can be identified and addressed, and how that can best be tackled;
  • Identifying opportunities for new and different types of intervention within the rapidly evolving landscape of human trafficking

Human Trafficking Foundation



First Responders

A ‘first responder organisation’ is, in England and Wales, an authority that is authorised to refer a potential victim of modern slavery into the National Referral Mechanism. The current (national) statutory and non-statutory first responder organisations are:

  • police forces
  • certain parts of the Home Office:
    • UK Visas and Immigration
    • Border Force
    • Immigration Enforcement
    • National Crime Agency
  • local authorities
  • Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA)
  • health and social care trusts (Northern Ireland)
  • Salvation Army
  • Migrant Help
  • Medaille Trust
  • Kalayaan
  • Barnardo’s
  • Unseen
  • New Pathways
  • Refugee Council

There are different cohorts of first responder organisations in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

First responder organisations have the following responsibilities. These responsibilities are invested in the organisation and it is for the organisation to decide how it will discharge these responsibilities:

  • identify potential victims of modern slavery and recognise the indicators of modern slavery
  • gather information in order to understand what has happened to them
  • refer victims into the NRM via the online process (in England and Wales this includes notifying the Home Office if an adult victim doesn’t consent to being referred)
  • provide a point of contact for the competent authority to assist with the Reasonable and Conclusive Grounds decisions and to request a reconsideration where a first responder believes it is appropriate to do so

A first responder is an individual working at a first responder Organisation that is involved in discharging one of the duties of the organisation listed above. (Information taken from National referral mechanism guidance: adult (England and Wales) - GOV.UK (

Local authorities include county, city, district and borough councils. There is a need for organisations to have their own modern slavery lead and a single point of contact where concerns could be raised.

National Referral Mechanism (NRM)

The NRM is the UK’s system for identifying and supporting victims of modern slavery.

Potential victims of modern slavery are referred into the NRM, and if the Single Competent Authority within the Home Office assesses there to be reasonable grounds to believe that the individual is a victim of modern slavery, the individual will receive a minimum of 45 days of support as a recovery and reflection period, delivered through the Victim Care Contract (VCC).

Following a positive conclusive grounds (CG) decision, victims will be exited from VCC support only when appropriate to do so.

Victims will receive at least 45 days of support during the move-on period during which the support provider will help the victim transition out of support The VCC provides adult victims in England and Wales access to a tailored and specialised package of care and support.

This includes but is not limited to accommodation; material assistance; counselling; access to mental, physical and dental health services; and signposting to legal support.

The Salvation Army is the Prime Contractor of the Victim Care Contract and provides support through their 13 subcontractors. They explain more of the help available:

The Salvation Army provides a Volunteer First Responder Service which operates outside of the Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract and is funded by its charitable resources. We offer an internal support network to monitor and ensure wellbeing is maintained within the team who, by the nature of the role can be exposed to distressing information and people with extreme levels of trauma. This team receives regular support to meet the increasing demand placed on the service.  They are highly trained to be able to identify and support people, many of whom will never have told anyone about what has happened to them before. If someone is destitute, they can be given somewhere safe to stay while waiting for their ‘reasonable grounds’ decision from the Home Office.

If it is decided that they are a potential victim, then they will be offered specialist support which may include safehouse accommodation, if needed.

While they are receiving this intensive support, called a period of ‘recovery and reflection’, the Home Office gathers further information and more detail about each person’s experience of exploitation to determine whether there are ‘conclusive grounds’ that they are a victim of modern slavery.  This means they continue to receive more light touch support into the future, called ‘Reach-In’ as they build resilience and independence.

Read more on their website, including many case studies: Supporting survivors | The Salvation Army

There is more information and guidance about the NRM on the government website: Support for modern slavery victims

This useful leaflet has a quick guide on the Duty to Notify and a flowchart to help understand the process.

The following is copied from Stopthetraffik:

(Following referral into the NRM)

Assessment by a Competent Authority (CA)

In the UK we have two Competent Authorities:

  • The UKHTC, which deals with NRM referrals from the police, local authorities, and NGOs
  • The UK Border Agency (UKBA), which deals with NRM referrals identified as part of the immigration process, for example where trafficking may be an issue as part of an asylum claim

The CA will assess the case and make a decision on whether an individual is a victim of trafficking. There are several stages in this process: 

Stage 1. Reasonable Grounds Decision
The target is for this decision to be made within 5 working days from receipt of referral. The decision is based on the approach: "From the information available so far I believe but cannot prove."

If the decision is affirmative then the potential victim will be:

  • allocated a place within a safe house accommodation, if required
  • granted a recovery and reflection period of 45 days. This allows the victim to begin to recover from their ordeal and to reflect on what they want to do next within the choices open to them.  

Both the first responder and potential victim will be notified.

Stage 2. Conclusive Decision
The target is for this decision to be made within within 45 calendar days of Reasonable Grounds Decision. The decision is based on the approach: "It is more likely than not." Both the first responder and potential victim will be notified.

If an individual has been identified by the Competent Authority as a victim of trafficking, these are the possible next stages of the NRM process:

A. Co-operation with police enquiries. The victim may be granted discretionary leave to remain in the UK for up to one year to allow them to co-operate fully in any police investigation and subsequent prosecution. The period of discretionary leave can be extended if required.

B. Possible leave to remain. If a victim is not involved in the criminal justice process, the UKBA may consider a grant of discretionary leave to remain in the UK, dependent on the victim's personal circumstances.

C. Wishes to return home. If the victim is from outside the European Economic Area, they can receive help and financial assistance to return home through the UK Border Agency Assisted Voluntary Return of Irregular Migrants (AVRIM) process. If they are an EEA national, UKHTC will put them in touch with their embassy and any relevant NGOs who may be able to help.

If an individual has not been found to be a victim of trafficking, depending on their circumstances they may be referred to the relevant Police force or the UKBA.

There is no appeals process for an individual to challenge the Reasonable Grounds or Conclusive decisions. However, it can be challenged at Judicial Review.

If the UKBA has decided that an individual was not trafficked and there are no other circumstances that would give them a right to live in the UK, they will be offered support to voluntarily return to their country of origin.

The NRM operates alongside existing European, refugee and human rights law, so those who are trafficked may make other applications to remain in the UK based on either European, refugee or human rights law.

Unseen UK

Unseen is a UK charity with its head office in Bristol.

They provide safehouses and support in the community for survivors of trafficking and modern slavery.

They also run the UK Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline and work with individuals, communities, business, governments, other charities and statutory agencies to stamp out slavery for good.

In 2023 they published a report on modern slavery and the care sector.

There is more information for frontline workers on their website Unseen UK