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Adult Grooming

Grooming is a form of abuse that involves manipulating someone until they’re isolated, dependent, and more vulnerable to exploitation. Whilst grooming is not listed as one of the ten types of harm listed in the Care Act, many of the listed types of harm can happen as a result of grooming. An abuser picks their target, build up trust, and the actual abuse, which is usually sexual or financial, doesn’t come until much later.

It often starts with friendship. The groomer will look for ways to gain their target’s trust, often with gifts or promises. Eventually they’ll start to ask for something in return, and this eventually leads to abuse.

Grooming can happen in person, or it can happen online. Online grooming might be referred to as catfishing”, where the groomer pretends to be someone they’re not in order to gain trust.

Grooming can also result in radicalisation, in which case the groomer is simply working to win someone over to their cause. You can find out more through the Prevent Strategy.

Signs of grooming to look out for:

  • The person becomes withdrawn, or they may seem troubled by something but unwilling to talk about it. Alternatively, their emotions might become more volatile.
  • You notice them using or wearing something new, that you didn’t buy for them.
  • Groomers often aim to isolate their targets from their family or friends. If they seem reluctant to see you, or they refuse a visit, it might be because someone’s manipulating them.
  • You notice that sums of money have disappeared from the person’s bank account, or the person claims they cannot pay for food or bills.
  • The person might be spending more time on the phone, or online, than usual. But they won’t say what sites they’re visiting, or who they’re talking to.
  • They start talking about a new friend”, boyfriend” or girlfriend”, and it’s not clear who they are or how they met them.

Victims of grooming often don’t feel like they need help, and it goes unnoticed until it’s too late.

If you suspect that a vulnerable person is being groomed, please report this via:

  • Family Connect on 01952 385385 (Monday to Friday from 9am - 5pm)
  • Emergency Duty Team on 01952 676500 (Monday to Sunday after 5pm) or
  • West Mercia Police on 0300 333 3000 or 101.

On a national basis, for advice and action, you can also contact:

  • Respond is an organisation that provides a range of services to people with learning disabilities who have suffered from sexual abuse. You can call their helpline on 0808 808 0700.
  • Operation REPEAT is a campaign to address the problem of doorstop crimes and scam prevention. Not many people realise that these issues count as grooming. But you can report a crime, or share your concerns, by calling 101 or 999 in an emergency.
  • Small Steps can help you if you suspect that someone close to you is in danger of being radicalised. You can email them at
  • You can also give the Ann Craft Trust team a call on 0115 951 5400. Talk to them about your concerns, and they can let you know the steps to take to get help.