Someone is vulnerable if, as a result of their situation or circumstances, they are unable to protect themselves or others from harm or exploitation (College of Policing).
The nature and extent of someone’s vulnerability changes over time, in response to their personal circumstances.
Each case of exploitation arises from a unique set of circumstances. However, certain life experiences are known to increase vulnerability to exploitation:
- being in care, or being a care leaver
- being involved with a gang
- experiencing communication difficulties (for example, due to having English as an additional language or having a sensory impairment)
- experiencing drug or alcohol misuse
- experiencing financial difficulties
- experiencing mental health difficulties
- experiencing past trauma or adversity, including experiences of neglect or abuse
- experiencing peer pressure
- experiencing times of transition and change
- feeling socially isolated
- going missing
- having a learning disability or autism spectrum condition
- having caring responsibilities
- having an illness, health condition or disability
- homelessness and living in insecure housing
- involvement in the criminal justice system
- living in an unsafe or unstable home environment.
People with several or more of these experiences are at greatest risk of being exploited, although it is worth remembering that anyone you encounter could be experiencing exploitation.