What would really help the lived experience of victims of cuckooing: project update

At our recent research minded event we heard from Seb Barnes, Practice manager for the Mental Health and Substance Misuse Team West, who is in the early stages of his project which is going to explore what really helps the lived experience of victims of cuckooing. Seb is already the Adult Social Care lead for Cuckooing in East Sussex and sits on a cross organisational working group to address this issue. Seb reflected:

“We have had some success but also a number of failures which can lead to significant risk for the victims. It’s a real challenge – So how do we get the voice of the victim included? It’s a real challenge as victims often have problems with the law and substance misuse issues.

I am doing this research on my own; I started with a literature review and it’s clear whilst this is a big issue there is very little academic research; I haven't found a single study on this from the victim’s point of view. I am planning on conducting semi-structured interviews which will work better for victims.

As other practitioners have found ethics is an issue especially as I am talking to clients. I have to get it through ESCC internal governance process and the University of Brighton ethics board.

The other challenge as always is time. My day job is very demanding and I only have one day a month study leave. My team are really behind it and we are a research beacon team, which helps. You need to get yourself into the right headspace intellectually. And you also need to think about where to do it; I have young children at home and if I’m at work I will get embroiled in work.

For me good research is about improving our practice; I am on the board with other organisations to work on this and we need to get it right.

As an example I worked with one victim who had a safeguarding plan with police to keep him safe. He said he couldn't be housed in Hastings because the gang would find him so Hastings Borough Council arranged for him to go to Basildon. Everything was put in place but when he arrived at Basildon housing office they said “You’re not a vulnerable adult we’re not going to house you”. So then he had to rough sleep for a few days until we could get to him and provide accommodation. Then we had the additional cost of putting him up in a hotel in Hastings for a few weeks whilst we negotiated with housing. We really need a joined up approach to this work.

When I reflect on this, cuckooing is a kind of modern slavery; the victims of which receive a lot of care and support but often cuckooing is not being categorised as modern slavery. I hope to address these inconsistencies and biases with this project and make a difference for victims of cuckooing across East Sussex and hopefully beyond."