Who We Are

The Violence and Vulnerability Unit (VVU) is a national team of subject matter experts who have been commissioned by the Home Office to deliver targeted support to local areas being adversely affected by gangs, county lines drug networks and the associated violence and exploitation of vulnerable people.

Over the last 5 years the VVU have visited and worked with over 100 areas around the UK and have spoken to over 4000 practitioners and senior leaders from a range of agencies both statutory and voluntary.

Who We Are

Meet The Team

Simon Ford

Programme Director

Simon has worked in public protection for over 25 years in both police and local authority roles. His extensive knowledge of Community Safety and the role of Community Safety Partnerships has also brought him to the position of Programme Director, Violence and Vulnerability Unit where he leads a national team of gang and community safety experts who undertake violence and vulnerability work on behalf of the Home Office.

Paul Cullen

Paul has over 30 years’ experience working in local and central government. Working for Manchester Council he became community safety lead for the east Manchester New Deal for Communities programme in 2000, supporting the successful implementation of one of the UK’s biggest regeneration initiatives. He became Manchester City Council’s Head of Neighbourhood Crime in 2005, and in 2009 joined the Home Office Anti-Social Behaviour Unit.

In 2012 he became a member of the Home Office’s Ending Gang and Youth Violence Frontline Team. Since leaving the Home Office he helped to set up the Violence and Vulnerability Unit. In the last 7 years he has visited and supported over 130 areas around the UK affected by gang violence, helping them to better understand and tackle gang related violence, exploitation and county lines.

Mick McNally

Mick is a director with the Violence and Vulnerability Unit who help local areas and departments identify and tackle criminal exploitation and its links to modern day slavery and the county line business model. His work has helped improve national and local understanding of the criminal exploitation methodology and improve information sharing to uncover links to the drivers and causes of violence , vulnerability and exploitation. As part of this team he has helped areas develop their strategic and contextual response to criminal exploitation impacting adults and children.

Mick, previously led the Home Office Ending Gang and Youth Violence initiative and has continued to support this work helping inform policy , guidance and legislation most recently the upcoming coming serious violence strategy. The violence and vulnerability unit who have now completed over 150 partnership locality reviews in areas all over the UK capturing effective, promising and developing practice and uncovering emerging threat , risk and harm linked to criminal exploitation and county lines. He works closely with the HMPPs and supports strategies for the transition from secure estate back into the community, he was a senior lead for the Safer London Foundation Charity and is a former Detective Chief Superintendent in the Metropolitan Police Service.

John Dunworth

John is a freelance consultant specialising in violence and vulnerability issues and is currently the Training Director of the Violence and Vulnerability Unit (VVU). John has had a varied career, initially training as a social worker and then working in fostering and adoption, and substance misuse services. He joined the Home Office in 1991 and had a 20 year career inside the Civil Service as the Head of the Drugs Prevention Advisory Service, Head of domestic and sexual violence and the Head of the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit. His Home Office career also included secondments to the Cabinet Office, HMP Wandsworth as well as the third sector. In more recent times, John has worked as a TV producer, a trainer and led the action planning on CSE and Criminal Exploitation for Southend Borough Council.


John joined the Violence and Vulnerability Unit (VVU) in 2016 as a Locality Review assessor and as Training Director, creating the on-line ‘county lines’ training programme for practitioners. For the past few years John has worked with Southend Borough Council on developing the Violence and Vulnerability agenda and just completed an Assessment of the Eastern Region’s response to Serious Youth Violence.

Simon Ford

Simon Ford is currently Head of Community Safety at Southend Borough Council, a unitary local authority located in Essex. He manages a multi agency co located community safety team based at Southend Police Station.

The Unit has delivered to date, over 100 locality and strategic framework reviews supporting areas across the UK who are challenged by gangs and county lines. The VVU publishes an annual national summary of the work and findings from the previous year.

What We Do

The VVU can help partnerships tackle the following challenges:


What We Do

How We Help

We Provide

An informed national picture of criminal exploitation

Local areas and partners with a menu of enforcement tools and tactics based on evidence and understanding

Useful contacts, documents including successful funding bids and plans on a page

Reliable, accurate and consistent source of relevant data and information

How We Help

Access to a national pool of subject matter experts

Updates on new and emerging practice from areas across the UK

Effective practice, funding opportunities and latest Home Office updates and projects

How We Help

We Support

Local areas and partners to promote collaboration, for example, establishing co-located Violence Reduction Units to address safeguarding and vulnerability issues

Local areas and partners improve performance towards relevant KPIs

Local areas and partners to proactively integrate relevant new legislation and policy

Local areas and partners better understand local drug markets and how they drive violence

How We Help

Local areas and partners in working more effectively with local schools and academies to reduce exclusions and identify and support those at risk of criminal exploitation and offending

Local areas and partners integrate Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) recommendations in strategic planning and delivery

Senior leaders and managers in local areas understand the importance of multi-agency collaborative working to tackle serious violence and criminal exploitation. New or strengthened connections and shared resources and knowledge leads to effective collective response

Where We Help

Where We Help

Over the past 6 years, the VVU has worked in every region of the country by undertaking Locality Reviews and Strategic Framework Reviews.

culminating in the annual publication of the VVU’s National Summary Report.

Where We Help

To begin with, the work was mainly focussed on helping local partnerships identify the signs and indicators of ‘county lines’ exploitation activity using local intelligence and data to create a fuller picture of how organised crime networks were impacting on their local communities.

With the widespread publicity that ‘county lines’ exploitation has received in the national media, coupled with the changes in personnel in local partnerships, the Unit has revisited many of these areas to provide ongoing support to the partnerships in the creation of local action plans and strategies and look at ways they can be improved, using the growing evidence base of effective practice.

Where We Help

The review work became an iterative and dynamic process with each new locality review contributing to the national intelligence about how criminal exploitation networks develop and change, culminating in the annual publication of the VVU’s National Summary Report.


Rachel Phelps
Local Government Association
Policy Adviser (Safer and Stronger Communities Team)

The Violence and Vulnerability Unit has provided invaluable expertise over the past years to the Local Government Association, with its extensive knowledge and understanding of county lines and wider criminal exploitation. With thanks to Simon Ford, who has presented at a number of our events and conferences, including our LGA Annual Conference and our Tackling County Lines Conference. The VVU draws upon its experience of working directly with local areas to help improve the response to serious violent crime and helps to share good examples of best practice and partnership-working across local government, the police and wider partners. We look forward to continuing to work with the VVU in years to come.

Vickie Maroki
Brighton and East MASH Hubs
Detective Inspector

Back in 2018 Brighton and Hove experienced an escalation in the number of children and young people showing signs of being criminally exploited. We, the MASH team identified there was a lack of awareness and understanding of these issues and professionals had no practical toolkit to tackle this concerning landscape across agencies within our city. Thankfully we were able to successfully liaise with Mick and his team to secure our locality review in Brighton, (match funded by the Home Office) for a vast range of key stakeholders, including Brighton and Hove Albion Safeguarding team. This event was very well attended and received, comments around the room included it being a light bulb moment, resulting in the formation of a local violence and vulnerability strategic partnership action plan. Our team then participated in nationwide conference calls, led by the VVU, to cascade good practice and encouraged us to arrange relevant multi-disciplinary training events and immersed us all in working together to counteract the challenges of child exploitation. Improvements in our multi agency processes, (including intelligence sharing) are ongoing and continue to galvanise both frontline practitioners and senior leaders on all aspects of violence and vulnerability..

Lee Newman Detective Inspector
National County Lines Coordination Centre

The NCLCC are working with the VVU to help understand the
growing issue of criminal exploitation in universities across the UK
and help identify opportunities to improve their response to
prevention , diversion and early intervention. Their expertise in
helping local authority areas understand and tackle this agenda
has been essential

Graham Hall
Darlington Borough Council
Head of Community Safety

We have recently completed a Violence and Vulnerability Unit (VVU) Locality Review in Darlington which attracted over fifty professionals from a wide range of backgrounds.
The review proved to be a most valuable and positive experience where practitioners exchanged relevant knowledge and information, focused on key issues and identified areas for future work.
The facilitators from the VVU were well-informed, extremely professional in delivery and stimulated excellent debate with most productive outcomes.
Overall, an exceptional and thought-provoking event which will serve us well as we tackle future challenges around County Lines

Paula Mason
Community Safety Lead Basildon

With the impending Serious Violence Duty being placed on Community Safety Partnerships, the Safer Basildon Partnership commissioned a workshop to better understand the impact of violence and vulnerability in the Borough and how agencies can work together to improve the outcomes for young people and the local community. The one day event was facilitated by leading experts on the impact of violence and exploitation on the local community, offering the opportunity to explore the national, county and local picture of gangs and countylines, utilising the public health approach to serious violence a delivery plan was developed based on the 4P’s: Prepare, Prevent, Protect and Pursue. The workshop, delivered virtually, was acknowledged as a success by all partners but of particular value was the opportunity for this agenda to be viewed through both a strategic and operational lens. All in all a very valuable day


 Simon Ford speaks to ITV News 


Current Offers and Services

The VVU can offer bespoke support to local areas, statutory agencies such as police, probation, social care, education and voluntary sector.  The VVU can also support private sector companies and any other organisation interested in expanding and improving contextual safeguarding delivery through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Social Value Commitments.

Click to view all current offers as PDF

Online Training

Responding to the request from many local practitioners at all levels and across a diverse range of agencies, for training and support to provide a basic working knowledge of the county lines/gang phenomenon, the VVU has developed an online training facility.

The training is a knowledge based course which takes participants through organised youth violence explaining how the system works, the terminology and how to recognise the signs.

Participants are invited to apply their knowledge to a number of scenarios to test their learning.

This demonstrates the participants developing understanding and the results are recorded and fed back to training managers.

Visit the VVU training site for instant access to our training packages or login as a guest for your free trial

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