The police have always dealt with vulnerable people but over the past decade, the nature and extent of this involvement has changed dramatically.

Increasingly, the police have been drawn into policing modern slavery, County Lines drug networks, mental health, online child sexual victimisation, and domestic abuse – all complex problems which the police know they cannot solve on their own.

These problems have been made much worse by austerity, with the police having to step into the gaps left by underfunded public services and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The Vulnerability & Policing Futures Research Centre has therefore been funded for five years by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to address the following question:  

How are vulnerabilities produced, compounded and mitigated by policing and how best can the police and other services be harnessed to prevent and reduce vulnerabilities?

A partnership led by the Universities of York and Leeds

working with ten other universities and 38 external partners


Studies focusing on vulnerability in urban areas, drawing together diverse public sector datasets (police, health, social services and education) to understand interactions between agencies and the potential to prevent harm arising from responses to vulnerabilities.


Research on how police and partners can best collaborate in response to specific vulnerabilities, including exploitation by County Lines drug networks, online child sexual victimisation, domestic abuse, modern slavery, mental illness and homelessness.

Public engagement

Research examining public understanding of policing, the issues people feel are most important and the appetite for change. The findings will complement research evidence from across the Centre to help inform public debate, policy and practice. The Centre aims to transform how organisations work together to prevent harm arising from vulnerability and reshape the future of policing as a public service.

Centre team

Jointly led from the Universities of York and Leeds by Professor Charlie Lloyd and Professor Adam Crawford, the ESRC Vulnerability & Policing Futures Research Centre is one of six new ESRC Centres announced in 2021. The Centre brings together an interdisciplinary team of 25 co-investigators from across institutions across the world, as well as 38 police, non-governmental organisations, local and national government partners.

Along with Co-Directors Professor Crawford and Professor Lloyd, the Centre team includes Deputy Directors Dr Kate Brown (University of York) and Dr Dan Birks (University of Leeds) as well as six post doctoral researchers, and a professional support team of three based across the two institutions. 

Six fully-funded ESRC PhD Studentships are attached to the Centre in linked project areas of policing vulnerabilities, benefitting from the diverse social science disciplines as well as the diverse training opportunities made available through the White Rose Social Sciences Doctoral Training Partnership (WRDTP). 

Three Data Scientist Development positions are also attached to the Centre's work each year, managed through the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics Data Scientist Development Programme. Applications are welcomed each May, for posts commencing in October.


There are several ways that people can work with the Vulnerability & Policing Futures Research Centre.

Early Career Researcher Development Fund

The Centre runs an annual Early Career Researcher (ECR) Development Fund for research that aligns with the Centre’s programme of work, values and principles. Research grants of up to £25K are available for ECRs to lead co-produced projects tackling challenges related to vulnerability and policing.

Translational Fellowships

Our Translational Fellowships funding programme enables non-academic practitioners and policy makers to undertake research that addresses particular vulnerability and policing problems or solutions in their work. The collaborative programme empowers ‘front line’ workers or policy professionals to produce tools that are evidence-based and readily applicable to policy and practice.

Find out more about our opportunities and get involved via the Centre's website.