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Time to transform

Results of a survey of frontline professionals on the National Referral Mechanism for child victims of trafficking and modern slavery

This briefing shows the results of an ECPAT UK survey into professionals’ attitudes towards the UK’s current framework for identifying victims of human trafficking or modern slavery, the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), specifically in regard to children’s cases. The online survey was sent to frontline practitioners working with children who may have been trafficked, including local authorities, police and immigration services, criminal justice, health and education systems, and NGOs.

The key findings were:

• Only 6% of respondents felt that there was good awareness of the NRM amongst frontline professionals working with children.

• 54% of respondents believed that the current NRM process needed to be revised and only 7% believed that the system should remain as it is.

• More than 80% of respondents did not believe that NRM decisions were made in a suitable timeframe.

• Only 25% of respondents believed that the decisionmaking remit was held by the most appropriate agencies.

• 75% felt decision-making should happen within existing child multi-agency procedures, and only 4% thought decisions should not be multi-agency.

The survey highlights that there are major concerns about the effectiveness of the NRM for child victims of trafficking amongst those working directly with the children affected. In particular, there is a perceived widespread lack of awareness of the mechanism amongst frontline professionals, concerns about decision-making and safeguarding of children and clear desire for reform, with overwhelming support for embedding NRM decision-making within a multi-agency child protection framework.