Skip to main content Skip to footer

Cuckooing Guidance

'Cuckooing‘ is when criminals target the home of vulnerable person, often so they can use the property for criminal purposes such as drug-dealing, hiding weapons and other criminal activities.

The term comes from the behaviour of cuckoo birds who take over the nests of other birds.

A criminal will often befriend a vulnerable person in order to exploit them and use their property.  The person is usually intimidated and too scared to report it to anyone.

‘Cuckooing’ is a form of criminal exploitation and the term used when criminals use or takes over a person's home for criminal purposes such as to cut, prepare, store or deal drugs or storing firearms and money relating to drugs.  Criminals will often target and exploit adults who have vulnerabilities. 

Initially perpetrators may approach the vulnerable person offering free drugs or other things they may need; however, this may progress to threats of violence, and/or the victim being made to pay off drug debts through use of their home and/or to assist in drug dealing.  Victims may be forced to stay in their bedroom or are prevented from freely using rooms in their home such as their kitchen / living room. They are usually intimidated and left with little choice but to cooperate.  Sexual assaults or exploitation may also take place.

Drug networks / gangs are likely to target several people who live close by to each other so they can quickly move between the different properties and avoid getting caught. 

Older children/young people are also being exploited by older criminals to enter properties that have been cuckooed and are used as drug runners and for manning the drugs (mobile telephone) line.

Many of the signs of cuckooing look like anti-social behaviour; however, being aware and recognising the indicators of cuckooing, and by raising your concerns about what may appear to be anti-social behaviour to the Council, or the housing provider, will also help tackle both issues.  Each cuckooed address is likely to accompany localised increases in anti-social behaviour, crime, and fear of crime.

There are a number of factors that can increase the risk to adults, such as:

  • Mental health problems
  • Drug/alcohol addiction
  • Physical/Learning disability
  • Neurodiversity / Autism
  •  Unaccompanied asylum seekers
  • Older adults
  • People with care needs who live independently
  • Single parents
  • Drug debt/financial difficulties
  • Poverty
  • Living alone
  • Socially isolated
  • Reduced contact with service
  • Living in a ground floor flat, having a spare room

Potential indicators of exploitation in the form of 'cuckooing'

  •   Anti-social behaviours/crimes
  •   Complaints of noise
  •   Increased visibility ‘coming and going’
  • Young  people frequenting coming to the property
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Damage to property/doors being left open or unlocked
  • Increased use of fob
  •  Lost/replacing keys fobs
  •  Availability of space
  • Lack of engagement
  • Evidence of takeaway boxes/litter
  • Electric Scooters and/or scooter helmets at the property
  • Security safe in the property

Potential indicators of child criminal exploitation

  •  Large amounts of money / cash
  •  Evidence of travel e.g. tickets, etc
  • Unexplained gifts - new clothes / trainers / accessories (new phone)
  •  Secretive / withdrawn
  •  Criminal behaviour
  • Associations with known offenders – Gang / Organised Crime Gangs members
  • Missing from home
  • Carrying weapons / weapons foun
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Picked up & dropped off in cars
  •  Returning with large amounts of alcohol, cigarettes, drugs
  • Possession of drugs paraphernalia, snap bags, grinders
  • Older friends, different peer group
  • Fearful, change in demeanour – anxious, anger, panic, etc.Drug debts with no way to pay
  • Unkempt / poor self care

  • Cuckooing is when criminals take over someone’s home to exploit them 

  • The perpetrators may store drugs, weapons or drug money at the property or use it as a base for drug dealing 

  • They may force the person to sell drugs for them to clear their ‘drug debt’ 

  • They may threaten or harm the person whose home they have taken over 

  • Perpetrators will move from one victim to the next in a relatively small area e.g. targeting a block of flats or properties within a few streets of each other 

  • Look out for reports of an increase in strangers, including young people coming and going at all hours, not seeing the person who lives there or seeing them looking stressed and anxious 

  • If the tenant avoids appointments or disengage with the service – this is a serious cause for concern and you should seek advice and consider making a referral 

If you spot some of the indicators above and are concerned about someone you know who you suspect might be a victim of cuckooing, you need to report this to your line manager or designated safeguarding officer who will then advise about any onward referrals and whether the concerns should be reported to the Police and Adult Social Care.   

If you have a feeling something just isn’t right, report it! 

How to report your concerns

Immediate danger, risk of harm, concern for safety or threat to life: Ring 999

Response from GMP: Immediate action will be taken.




Concern for Safety but NO immediate danger or risk of harm: Ring 101 or online via the Report a crime form.

Response from GMP:

GMP will create a log to review the risk/threats/harm.

Decoding if a visit to the address should be planned by the uniformed/neighbourhood police. 

No concerns for safety but information/intelligence known:

Complete the GMP Partner Intelligence Form and e-mail to

Response from GMP: Information/intelligence will be shared with Force Intelligence Bureau.

Member of the public: Report anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

Professionals: should be encouraged to submit intelligence by the FIB

Reporting Concerns to social care (adults, young people and children)

In addition, if there are no immediate dangers/risks/threats, you can also report your concerns online to Social Care via the following links ‘Worried about an adult’ or ‘Worried about a Child.

Contact Numbers (for weekdays between 8.30 until 4.30pm)

·         Adult Social Care – 0161 206 0604

·         Children Social Care – The Bridge – 0161 603 4500

If you need to speak to someone outside of the above times regarding an adult, young person or child, please contact the Salford Out of Hours Service on 0161 794 8888

Additional information

Housing Services 

A Joint Protocol between Salford Local Housing Authority and Registered Providers for households at risk of, or who are experiencing exploitation (including cuckooing) has been developed in response to exploitation concerns.  The document outlines the process when a potential victim of cuckooing is identified for securing initial temporary accommodation in order to consider alternative permanent accommodation  where it is deemed by the Police to be unsafe for the adult to remain in the local authority.  

The protocol sets out clear actions to be taken by SCC Housing Services and Registered Providers, and provides an agreed point of contact for discussion with Registered Providers to make the request for a management move and for them to identify alternative long term accommodation within their portfolio of housing stock outside of the local authority.  This process can take a number of weeks/months and the potential victim will likely need to secure temporary accommodation through the homelessness process in the meantime. 

Please also see the Approved Pathway For Reporting And Managing Concerns For Cuckooing Jan 2024


Where there are concerns that a person is at risk of, or is experiencing exploitation in the form of cuckooing, you are legally permitted to share information on a need to know basis with other relevant agencies who have a responsibility to safeguard any potential victims, this can be via a referral to the police or Adult Social Care or through an multi-agency meeting.   

Where a person may be being coerced or under duress, to prevent a crime being committed or where others are at risk which is extremely likely in cases such as these, Information can be shared without consent. 

If concerns are reported to the police.  

All intelligence regardless of the route into GMP, is reviewed by FIB (Force Intelligence Bureau) regarding risks/threats to harm/life and they will make an informed decision where it needs to be shared internally within GMP (ie, local district/neighbourhood teams, specialist units etc).  

When the FIB receives intelligence regarding Exploitation/Cuckooing relating to Salford residents, it’s always shared with the Salford Connect Team but may also be sent to specialist units across GMP. 

The Salford Connect Team have a daily meeting (10am)  

The Connect Daily Log will be sent to the Advanced Practitioner for Exploitation (cc the Team Manager for Adult Social Care Contact Team and the Team Manager for the Central Duty System who will cover in the Advanced Practitioner absence) 

The ASC Advanced Practitioner for Exploitation will then screen the named adult(s) and dial into the meeting if there is information/intelligence to be shared.  

GMP/Children Practitioners from the Salford Connect Team are present and the Adult Rep will ‘dial in’ (when required).  

The purpose of the meeting is for information sharing and to review the previous 24 hours of police activity, including recorded crimes, intelligence, arrests and referrals.  

Once the intelligence has been reviewed: 

  • If there is no identified risks, or evidence that a crime has been committed and no other known concerns regarding the adult. No further action will be taken. GMP log will be closed. 

  • If its not clear that a crime has been committed and further information/enquiry is needed then GMP Neighbourhood Team may become involved and visit the area/address to try and obtain further intelligence/evidence. 

  • If there is evidence that a crime is being or has been committed Connect Team (GMP officers) will take the lead on the investigation and keep the NRM process informed and updated.  

If there is an adult with care and support needs and they are at risk (as defined under the Care Act 2014), a multi agency meeting should be held under Salford Safeguarding Procedures (Care Act 2014, S42).  

The decision to carry out a safeguarding enquiry under Section 42 Care Act 2014 does not depend on the person’s eligibility for support or services, a section 42 enquiry should be undertaken wherever there is reasonable cause to think that the adult is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect. Where this is the case, the local authority (Adult Social Care) must carry out (or request others to carry out) whatever enquiries it thinks are necessary in order to decide whether any further action is necessary. 

Section 42 (2) requires Adult Social Care to make statutory enquiries or request others to do so, where it has reasonable cause to suspect that an adult with care and support needs is experiencing or is at risk of abuse or neglect and as a result of those care and support needs is unable to protect himself / herself against the abuse / neglect. 

Multi Agency working  

If the concerns relates to an adult who does not have care and support needs or it is unclear as defined under the Care Act, then a multi agency professionals meeting should be arranged by the ‘lead agency’?  

The lead agency will usually be determined by which agency has the most knowledge about the person and their situation, the agency with the most current or previous engagement and based on the needs of the person given the risks within the person’s situation (this will not always be Adult Social Care).  

It’s expected that agencies will prioritise attendance at multi agency planning meetings wherever possible. When agencies are not able to attend the meetings, it is expected they will provide relevant information. 

When scoping invitees, consideration should be given as to which person might be best to work with the adult at risk this is particularly important where there are multiple adults involved. 

The adult at risk should be advised of the meeting and their views should be sought in advance and be recorded as part of the multi-agency meeting. Careful consideration should be given about what information can be shared especially where there is multiple adults involved based on risks within the situation. The decision and reasons for this should be clearly documented. If there is uncertainty, then the lead agency should consider seeking legal advice within their agency about whether information should be shared. 

Considering the principles of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 is a vital element in safety planning with, or on behalf of, adults who are at risk of cuckooing. 

It’s also important that apart of the multi agency meeting, a multi-agency risk assessment is considered to fully document key risks, and actions required to try and mitigate those risks and which agency needs to lead on the actions. 

It is really important that this is approached in a person-centred way by keeping the adult at the centre of the multi-agency discussions and decisions i.e. what does the person want to happen? What are the risks to the person? What needs to happen to keep the person safe? Who needs to be involved?  

Starting with the adult

  • What’s important to the person, what do they want to happen? 

  • What are their needs (this is not just around eligible needs but needs that have arisen from the situation)? 

  • Who else is part of their household?  Are there any children that need to be considered and safeguarded? 

  • What is their current housing situation (tenure/landlord/housing provider)? 

  • What are the risks? 

  • Where would they like to live, where will they feel safe? 

  • Do they have any support networks? 

If there concern or reason to doubt the person’s ability to make informed choices (principles of Mental Capacity Act 2005 may need to be explored) 

Top tips: 

  • Move away from eligibility/thresholds and criteria  

  • Remember the initial priority is ensuring the person is safe 

  • Once we understand all of this, as a multi agency group, we can start to look at solutions which are outcome focused and utilise all resources available 

  • Consider whether the Care Act 2014 safeguarding duty applies. 

Multi agency working - Get everyone around the virtual table 

  • S42 or multi agency meeting should be arranged at the earliest opportunity with key partners to be convened at the earliest opportunity, should include Police, Social Care, Housing (Salford Housing Options Point (SHOP)) which could include the Housing Options Service and/or the Supported Housing Service for Temporary Accommodation) as a minimum and any other relevant agencies should be considered e.g. Achieve, Registered Providers (landlord) and GP  

Top tips: 

  • Professionals who are involved – needs to prioritise attending the multi-agency meeting  

  • Start by understanding the situation  

  • Make the person/people real  

  • Helps us understand who might be missing from the multi-agency group 

  • Helps us to understand the roles and responsibilities or reps and lead agencies 

  • Agree who the lead agency will be   

  • Meet regularly in order to prevent any drift 

  • Make sure any meetings are minuted and action points are agreed.  

  • Always start meeting by reviewing the action plan and recapping on the current position 

  • Multi agency risk assessment should be completed 

Safeguarding duty - Protection plan 

  • A Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) is required to create a multi-agency risk assessment that can be used to support a move to another Local Authority and which really focuses on the risks and how they will be managed by the multi-agency group. 

Top tips: 

  • Use the Adult Social Care multi agency risk assessment template to help identify all the risks   

  • Social Care Assessment – thinking holistically and beyond traditional eligible needs 

  • The Plan starts with what needs to happen – you can then work out who is best to support 

  • Be clear about the priority part of work to ensure it remains focused 

  • Ensure it captures and documents different agencies roles and responsibilities – who is going to do what and how that is addressing the identified risks 

  • Support plans – think strengths based – what’s available to people and what can they tap into themselves? 

  • Consider seeking legal advice if presented with challenges/barriers and push back from other Local Authorities 





Organisation Telephone Website or Contact 

Salvation Army, Victim Care Contract confidential 24/7 referral helpline

0800 808 3733 

Modern slavery | The Salvation Army 

Causeway – Free to Live – National charity that exists to support people to recover from trauma, protect them from further harm, and help them develop independent and fulfilling lives, including survivors of modern slavery and those caught in cycles of exploitation and crime 

03333 055336 

Causeway - Modern Slavery & Criminal Justice Support Charity ( 

Barnardo’s Independent Child Trafficking Guardians – Greater Manchester was an early adopter sites, all under 18 potential victims must be referred 

0800 043 4303 

ICTG - Greater Manchester | Barnardo's ( 


Latest news

Details of all the latest news from Salford Safeguarding Adults Board.

Cookie notice

Find out more about how this website uses cookies to enhance your browsing experience.