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Cuckooing - a form of exploitation

Cuckooing is a practice where people take over a person’s home and use the property to exploit them and others. 

It takes the name from cuckoo birds who take over the nest of other birds.

There are different types of cuckooing:

  • using the property to deal, store or take drugs - this is the most common type
  • using the property for sex work
  • taking over the property as a place to live
  • taking over the property to financially abuse the resident

The person who might be at risk

The person lives alone and could:

  • be isolated, lonely and have little social connection
  • have previously experienced abuse or exploitation
  • be described as vulnerable or chaotic
  • be known to mental health services
  • have personal substance misuse - either now or in the past
  • have previous brain injury or impairment
  • have a family connection to substance use or drug dealing
  • have friends or people they know who use substances or deal drugs

Signs of exploitation

These could be signs of exploitation:

  • they may tell you what is happening to them
  • not remaining in the home
  • a decline in the state of the property
  • use of drugs - that might be new, or increased or a re-start
  • not allowing people into the home
  • increase in self-harm
  • scared or unwilling to talk about the situation - especially about people in the property

You might notice

Other signs of exploitation that you might notice are:

  • missing medication - especially if it has a street value
  • benefits being paid to someone else
  • possessions, money or documents that are missing
  • new people staying or visiting who may be hostile, secretive, aggressive or appear controlling
  • a decline in the state of the property
  • the person is harder to contact and may miss appointments
  • general change in attitude
  • signs of neglect such as weight loss

Reports from the person or others

Other signs might come from the person or others in the form of:

  • possessions, money, documents or keys being given to, taken by or held by someone else
  • someone new at the property such as an informal carer
  • increase in visitors to the property
  • burglary or theft
  • damage to property
  • anti-social behaviour or noise complaints