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, child sexual exploitation, domestic abuse – all complex and ambiguous 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 NGOs. The Vulnerability and Policing Futures Research Centre has therefore been funded for five years by the Economic and Social Research Council to address the following big 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 how vulnerability develops 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 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 exploitation, domestic abuse, modern slavery, mental illness and homelessness.
An engagement nexus that combines research into public opinion with a programme to embed research evidence into policy, practice and public debate, transforming capability to prevent harm and future vulnerabilities through integrated partnership working and reshaping the future of policing as a public service.
Jointly led from the Universities of York and Leeds by Professor Charlie Lloyd and Professor Adam Crawford, the ESRC Vulnerability and Policing Futures Research Centre is one of six recently announced ESRC Centres. There is an interdisciplinary team of 25 co-investigators across institutions in the UK and beyond, supported by 38 police, non-governmental organisations, local and national government partners.
The Centre started work on 1 May 2022, with a team in place comprising six postdoctoral researchers (three at York and three at Leeds); and a professional support team of three also across the two institutions.
Key members of the Centre team:
- Centre Deputy Directors: Dr Kate Brown, University of York; Dr Dan Birks, University of Leeds
- Centre Professional Support Team: Roz Cumming, Centre Manager and Sophie Caswell-Jones, Centre Coordinator, University of York; Nathan Capstick, Communications and Engagement Officer, University of Leeds
Six fully-funded ESRC PhD Studentships are attached to the Centre in linked project areas of policing vulnerabilities, benefitting from working alongside a team of over 25 leading researchers from 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.
The Centre is embarking on an ambitious programme of research considering both place-based and problem-based approaches to addressing the issues around vulnerability and policing. Watch this space for details of our live projects and the Centre's formal launch, coming soon.
It aims to build new interdisciplinary knowledge from problem-based and place-based perspectives about the interactions between vulnerability and service providers’ responses and to use these finding to build new, integrated and innovative approaches to harm reduction that address the needs of vulnerable groups.