[Skip to Content]
Leeds Women's Homelessness and Housing Frontline Network meet to discuss, ‘Cuckooing’, Adult Exploitation and Home Invasion

Leeds Women's Homelessness and Housing Frontline Network meet to discuss, ‘Cuckooing’, Adult Exploitation and Home Invasion

Leeds Women's Homelessness and Housing Frontline Network meet to discuss, ‘Cuckooing’, Adult Exploitation and Home Invasion

Monday, September 18, 2023

In this blog Izzy Kynoch, Housing Influencing Change Worker at Basis Yorkshire, shares learning from a recent event with frontline workers on the topic of ‘cuckooing’.

‘Cuckooing’ takes the name from cuckoos who take over the nests of other birds and so describes a practice where perpetrators take over a person's home and use the property to facilitate exploitation. It is becoming increasingly prevalent throughout the country, yet, there is still no national, standardised approach to tackling it. Without a structure to succinctly identify, define and legislate against ‘cuckooing’, the most vulnerable in our society are at continuing risk of perpetrators actions. 

Our ‘Examining Cuckooing and Exploitation’ event on 25th May 2023 was in response to this evolving situation and came about for a number of reasons. It had been fed back from previous Leeds Women’s Homelessness and Housing Frontline Network (LWHFN) events that ‘cuckooing’ was a serious problem for a number of women supported by agencies. This was also true for the team at Basis Yorkshire (who facilitate this network) and other partner agencies that I had recently spoken to. These conversations had led me to meet Heather Ashby, the team leader for the Leeds Anti-Social Behaviour Team (LASBT), who told me about the work she had been doing to not only establish better local pathways to preventing cuckooing, but starting to co-develop a resource that would address this issue. When we spoke, the recurring focus was a consciousness to reframe cuckooing for what it is – exploitation. It thus seemed ideal to bring Rebekah Vickers-Patel into this discussion, an exploitation specialist and lead of the STAGE project at Basis Yorkshire, who runs training on adult exploitation. Rebekah’s knowledge into the workings and effects of trauma and grooming offered a rich insight into how perpetrators identify and exploit victims. Nonetheless, the insights into the barriers victims experience accessing support for exploitation helped to contextualise how difficult it is for the women we support to identify and speak out about home invasion.

Another reason we wanted to discuss cuckooing at our LWHFN event was to disseminate good working practice already happening in Leeds and improve workers' knowledge of pathways available to them. The aim was not only to bring in the knowledge of Rebekah and Heather, but to initiate a discussion to disseminate good working practice already happening in Leeds and improve workers knowledge of pathways available to them. Ultimately, we wanted to address how home invasion is affecting frontline workers day-to-day practice and explore what systems change work we can initiate to de-complexify pathways. For example, in Heather establishing herself as the person to alert if any home invasion activity is detected it means that workers can initiate a safeguarding response immediately. Through the meeting, suggestions that Heather attend drop-ins to create better relationships with the women also felt like a positive action to reduce barriers to women reporting to their support workers/other professionals. Another crucial issue in the handling of exploitation in a home invasion context is the lack of legislation – for example, Domestic Abuse, Stalking, Harassment and Honour Based Violence Assessment (DASH) forms and Multi-agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) meetings provide a structure for workers to identify and report domestic violence, however, nothing as such exists for non-intimate violence. Neither is there a definition for ‘adult exploitation’; discussing this through the meeting felt beneficial, not only for support workers to know that they are working within incomplete structures (and therefore finding some solidarity) but also to bring these issues to the fore. As a result, Basis Yorkshire are looking at developing a risk assessment specific to home invasion, to better capture data around those at risk of exploitation and are pushing to define exploitation.

“Having discussions with other partners, sharing experiences and understanding trauma better has been really helpful.”

After Rebekah and Heather’s presentation, the attendees worked through a fictional case study of ‘Rachel’, that I had devised, asking: ‘what were the signs? What might we have missed?’ ‘What interventions might have helped prevent the exploitation from escalating?​, and ‘taking a step back, what pathways might have improved Rachel's situation and the frontline worker's ability to support her?’ The feedback from this part of the session was really positive: attendees found this reflective practice helpful as they shared experiences and good practice with other organisations. This led to an idea to develop a working document where frontline workers could share examples of good practice; an action that could be pursued through further LWHFN meetings.

“Looking at a case study & being able to discuss with others has been brilliant!”

The meeting also established other actions to take forwards – ideas from attendees such as: supporting other vulnerable individuals potentially involved in the exploitation; having early conversations with women about the risks of home invasion, what exploitation is and how to report it; working to build relationships between women and LASBT/police; education around healthy relationships; and not using properties for very vulnerable individuals that have been previously cuckooed were all suggestions that could be actioned after the meeting.

As such, we developed a number of actions to start working on as we develop this pathway and the structures around home invasion and adult exploitation. They are as below:

  • Continuing conversations with exploitation specialists to create definition of adult exploitation
  • Naming a person within the council to co-ordinate issues around exploitative home invasion
  • To continue sharing best practice through the Frontline Network - idea for a working 'solutions/best practice' document
  • Developing a kind of DASH form for home invasion
  • Development of research and collaboration with University of Leeds, Leeds Anti-Social Behaviour Team (LASBT), Beacon and West Yorkshire Police that can be then shared across cities
  • Recognition that there is no national approach to home invasion - this needs standardising - LASBT developing package/training that can be delivered/disseminated across councils
  • Link in with the thematic Pan-London Migrant Frontline Network
  • Look into developing a toolkit for women to notice the signs

“It’s been really useful learning from other organisations/parts of the UK and looking at solutions that have worked for some people.”

We would like to thank everyone for our excellent speakers and those who attended the event: we very much look forward to taking forward the ideas that came from this session and to the next LWHFN meeting!

If you would like to stay up to date with the work we do and watch out for our further sessions through, sign up to our FLN Leeds Women’s Homelessness and Housing Newsletter here.

Useful resources

News and Views

  • Brain Injury Guidance

    Brain Injury Guidance

    Leigh Andrews of Change Communication offered specialist advice on brain injuries and homelessness through a digital...
  • End Furniture Poverty Survey

    End Furniture Poverty Survey

    End Furniture Poverty have recently spoken with the Frontline Network to discuss their important ongoing survey, seek...
  • Cover the Cost Campaign

    Cover the Cost Campaign

    Jasmine Basran, Senior Policy Officer at Crisis, talks to us about the Cover the Cost Campaign, asking the Government...
  • VRF Impact Report 2018/19

    VRF Impact Report 2018/19

    Over the past year we have given out 3827 grants totaling £1,156,805 through the VRF. Read the latest Impact Report t...
  • Influence from the Frontline

    Influence from the Frontline

    Frontline workers are crucial at giving insight into the viewpoints of the people they work with as well as the chall...
  • The Vagrancy Act

    The Vagrancy Act

    Crisis, along with others including Homeless Link, Cymorth Cymru, Centrepoint, St Mungo’s, Shelter Cymru and the Wall...
  • Influencing local decisions

    Influencing local decisions

    Zoe, Frontline Network Coordinator at Coventry Citizens Advice, talks to us about the Coventry Frontline Network and...
  • The Litigant in Person Network

    The Litigant in Person Network

    Martha de la Roche, Network Development Manager at Litigant in Person Network (LiP Network), tells us about The LiP N...
  • VRF Impact Report

    VRF Impact Report

    Find out what impact VRF had last year and how to get involved in shaping its direction in the coming year.
  • Housing First Scotland

    Housing First Scotland

    Please see here for the first issue of Housing First Connect - a twice-yearly newsletter for Scotland’s new Housing F...
  • Slaying the Dragon

    Slaying the Dragon

    Will Golding, Edinburgh Tutor at Crisis, talks to us about 'Slaying the Dragon'.
  • CPAG - Early Warning System

    CPAG - Early Warning System

    Dan Norris, from CPAG, talks to us about a new Early Warning System to record the impact of benefit changes implement...
  • The Hostile Environment

    The Hostile Environment

    Bethan Lant, a Project lead from Praxis, writes about the creation of a hostile environment for migrants and refugees.
  • Wrexham’s Crisis Cafe

    Wrexham’s Crisis Cafe

    Sinead Kelleher writes about Wrexham's Crisis Cafe, a multi-agency response to Universal Credit.
  • Frontline Worker Survey

    Frontline Worker Survey

    We are asking frontline workers to participate in a survey, aimed at those working with clients who are experiencing...
  • A map through conflict

    A map through conflict

    A Cyrenians Mediator writes about their innovative Amber Mediation and Support Project, a model of mediation and supp...
  •  “A place to call home"

    “A place to call home"

    Hannah Gousy was seconded from Crisis to the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) to help design policy recommendations to...
  • A London Nightshelter

    A London Nightshelter

    On 7 November we opened our church-based shelters for the winter with more churches signed on then ever before. Glass...
  • 'Step Up' at The Connection

    'Step Up' at The Connection

    Wyn Newman introduces the volunteer programme 'Step Up' that has been developed at The Connection for service users.