Cuckooing is the practice where people take over a person’s home and use the property to facilitate exploitation.  It takes the name from the cuckoo bird who take over the nests of other birds.  Cuckooing can take different forms including:

  • using the property to grow, deal or store drugs;
  • using the property for sex work;
  • using the property to store weapons or stolen goods;
  • taking over the property as a place for the exploiters to live;
  • taking over the property to financially abuse the tenant, for example, through the collection of benefits.

The most common form is where drug dealers or gang members take over a person’s home, usually by befriending them first, and then use it for the purposes of dealing.  Befriending takes the form of grooming and can begin with what might appear an innocent relationship, which then leads to coercion and threats and alientating the individual from having access to their support network.  Individuals who experience cuckooing are at risk of a wide range of abuse including physical and sexual abuse.

What are the signs of cuckooing?

Signs that ‘cuckooing’ may be taking place at a property include:

  • An increase in people entering and leaving
  • An increase in cars or bikes outside
  • Possible increase in anti-social behaviour
  • Increasing litter outside
  • Signs of drugs use
  • Lack of healthcare visitors

What action should be taken?

Cuckooing is a crime and should be reported to the Police by calling 101 or 999 if there is immediate danger to anyone.

It is likely that an individual whose home has been cuckooed will be at continued risk and a safeguarding referral should be made to the Local Authority.  Further information on making a referral can be accessed here.

Local information, including a pathway and guidance is available in the RSAB Multi-Agency Cuckooing Map and Guidance.

How can I find out more?

To gain an understanding of cuckooing and the impact that this can have on an individual, it is helpful to look at case studies and view available short films: