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News4 June 2024

Cuckooing - How we are working together to stop exploitation

Amy Lawson, Strategic Head of Specialist Services at Clarion Housing Group, talks about our work to combat cuckooing and protect our most vulnerable residents.
Amy Lawson, Strategic Head of Specialist Services

“At Clarion, all resident-facing colleagues are trained in safeguarding and spotting the signs of cuckooing.”

Amy Lawson, Strategic Head of Specialist Services at Clarion Housing Group

By Amy Lawson, Strategic Head of Specialist Services at Clarion Housing Group

Over our near 125-year history, the role of a social landlord has come to encompass more than just the provision of a good home for our residents, and today we have a number of specialist teams dedicated to assisting vulnerable tenants.

One of the issues those teams are constantly coming up against and helping residents overcome is the practice of cuckooing. Often in the headlines, this is a form of criminal activity and anti-social behaviour (ASB) which sees a tenant’s property infiltrated by individuals or criminal groups looking to take advantage of or abuse them.

This can involve anyone, from criminal gangs such as county lines drug dealers, to lone drug users and other violent individuals. We also see cuckooing happen across all property types, with perpetrators managing to evade detection by posing as friends or by threatening the most vulnerable residents in our communities.

Cuckooing is on the rise too according to our most recent figures, with 47 cases flagged by our teams to local authority safeguarding counterparts in the last financial year, an increase of 15 from the year prior.

In order to combat this, at Clarion all resident-facing colleagues are trained in safeguarding and spotting the signs of cuckooing. These can include:

  • An increase in people entering and leaving a property, especially at unusual times
  • A rise in vehicles arriving at and leaving from outside
  • An uptick in anti-social behaviour, litter outside, and noise from a property
  • Not seeing the tenant for long periods of time and noticing them being anxious or distracted when seen
  • Curtains remaining closed so no neighbours can see the activity in the property

Once the alarm has been raised about a potential cuckoo, our specialist teams work alongside partner agencies to find a solution, with police taking the lead in searches of properties and removing perpetrators in the first instance.

Tenancy specialists, who lead on ASB, will then work with police on full and partial closure orders banning offenders from entering. Following this, the aftercare assistance we provide to residents is vital, with many at continuing risk from further exploitation or reprisals even after the cuckoos have been removed.

To assist with this, our tenancy sustainment team can provide a dedicated officer to help residents over the longer term, looking at a number of options for the future to help them remain safe. In more serious cases, after being cuckooed the resident may even need to be relocated for their safety, either to a home in a new area or a supported living service.

Making this happen requires a system of dedicated teams working in conjunction with each other and other professionals to make sure our residents are supported and given the best possible outcome, allowing them to regain their independence and feel comfortable in their homes. Safeguarding must be held at the core of this work, ensuring the individual is safe at all times.

Just in the last few months, collaboration between Clarion, Cambs Police, and Fenland District Council has seen great progress made to protect the community in the town of Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. This has included three full closures and a partial closure of properties after incidents of drug use and dealing, violent attacks, and prostitution.

These closure orders will prevent offenders from returning, with police putting the properties under surveillance, and arresting and committing those who violate the order.

One particular case saw a victim who had whistle blown on their cuckoo secure a new home in a distant part of the country to safeguard them from further harm. This was achieved through multi-agency meetings and the grant of a management transfer.

This represents just some of the work colleagues are doing every day to keep Clarion residents and wider communities safe and comfortable in their neighbourhoods.