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 – 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.

Three data scientist development posts linked to the Centre currently open for applications by 29th May 2022. See 'Live' area below.

The Centre

Contact us

Professor Charlie Lloyd
+44 (0) 1904 321912

Professor Adam Crawford
+44 (0) 113 343 5045

A partnership led by the Universities of York and Leeds

working with eight other universities

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?

The research

To address this central question, the project will undertake three interconnected strands of research:

Understanding interactions

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.

Effective collaborations

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.

Project details

The centre is co-directed by Professor Charlie Lloyd at the University of York and Professor Adam Crawford at the University of Leeds - and is co-located across these two universities. 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, University of York
    • Nathan Capstick, Communications and Engagement Officer, University of Leeds
    • Sophie Caswell-Jones, Centre Coordinator, University of York

Six fully-funded ESRC PhD Studentships are attached to the Centre in linked project areas of policing vulnerabilities, with two still available to apply for. See the Live section below for details.


Three Data Scientist Development positions available, fixed term for 12 months:

These exciting development opportunities are managed through the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics Data Scientist Development Programme, for commencement October 2022. Apply by 29th May 2022 via the University of Leeds website.

Fully-funded ESRC PhD Studentships in linked project areas of policing vulnerabilities:

Are you looking for your next challenge? Do you have a research interest in policing and vulnerable groups, and the interactions between them and other service providers? Do you want to do a PhD in a dynamic research environment with access to relevant academic and non-academic partners? Do you want to conduct your post-graduate research at a new interdisciplinary centre of excellence?

Applications are open for two 1+3 or +3 ESRC funded PhD Studentships to commence in October 2022 associated with the ESRC Vulnerability and Policing Futures Research Centre. 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. 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. 

As an integral part of the new Centre, PhD Students will work alongside a team of over 25 leading researchers from diverse social science disciplines and 38 regional, national and international partners. Each studentship will be aligned to a particular area of the Centre’s research agenda, and supervised by a multidisciplinary team and in collaboration with relevant external partners. Three studentships will be based at the University of York and three at the University Leeds and all will be connected to the ESRC White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership.

As members of the Centre’s PhD Programme and Early Career Researcher Network, PhD researchers will have access to mentorship and support from academics across disciplines and departments, bespoke training opportunities focused on vulnerability and policing, as well as the Centre’s PhD summer school, with embedded networking opportunities to a wider international cohort of related doctoral researchers. In addition, they will benefit from diverse training opportunities made available through the White Rose Social Sciences Doctoral Training Partnership (WRDTP).

The two studentships currently open for applications are as follows:

Contact us

Professor Charlie Lloyd
+44 (0) 1904 321912

Professor Adam Crawford
+44 (0) 113 343 5045