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'Cuckooing' is when someone takes over the home of a vulnerable person.

Cuckooing is a serious form of exploitation, but it often goes unrecognized. A perpetrator might pose as a friend and offer support, food, money, or utilities to gain access to a property.

Having gained access to the property, they take over and exploit it for criminal purposes. As a result, the vulnerable person is exposed to exploitation, violence, and homelessness.

We are committed to supporting all vulnerable residents. We know that some of our residents are impacted by cuckooing, a form of exploitation that can often go unnoticed. When someone is being cuckooed, their home becomes a scary place to live, and they may not know where to turn for help.

What are the signs of cuckooing to look out for?

It can be difficult to spot cuckooing as the exploitation is often carried out behind closed doors. However, there are some things to look out for that might indicate that someone is being cuckooed. These include:

  • an increase in anti-social behaviour
  • people accessing a property in unconventional ways, e.g., through a window or over a wall
  • an increase in cars and bikes around a particular property
  • an increase in the number of people coming and going into the property, including late at night
  • a property becomes noticeably more unkempt
  • you’re worried about someone and have a gut feeling something is wrong

We need your help to stop cuckooing

If you are concerned about one of our residents and think they may be a victim of cuckooing, you can get report it to us by filling in this short form, calling 0800 028 2028 or emailing safeguarding@lewisham.gov.uk. You can also make a cuckooing report online.

When you report cuckooing, you don’t have to give any personal details and can be completely anonymous.

How we can support people who are being cuckooed

We work together with anyone who has been a victim of cuckooing and give them the support they need to make sure they stay safe. We can offer support including:

  • changing someone’s locks and/or deactivating their key fobs
  • arranging for a support agency including the police to carry out welfare checks
  • seeking an injunction against the people who are cuckooing the property
  • working with other agencies including social services and the police (with the resident’s consent) – the police can get an order to stop people accessing the property
  • supporting residents who are at risk of harm to move home in an emergency

How we helped Mr P

A local group began to move into Mr P’s home and started to use it as place to take drugs in. Mr P was scared of the group and didn’t want to disclose who they are or what they were doing in his house. The abuse escalated until the gang started to use his home when he wasn’t there, and without his consent. 

We started to receive reports of people accessing the property through the windows, taking drugs in the property’s communal areas, and coming and going at all times of the day and night.

We investigated the complaints and worked with the police, and they get a closure order that banned access to the property. We then referred the case to the Emergency Housing Panel who approved an emergency move for Mr P. In the meantime, we placed Mr P in safe temporary accommodation, and made sure he received the mental health and wellbeing support he needed.

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