Centre Deputy Director argues for better ways of approaching vulnerability

Vulnerability & Policing Futures Research Centre Deputy Director Dr Kate Brown has taken part in a panel discussion about regulation aimed at protecting people presumed to be vulnerable.

27 September 2023

The discussion was one of several sessions that took place as part of an event on ‘vulnerability in regulation’, hosted by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

In the discussion, Dr Brown argued that ‘vulnerability’ has become a new way to draw distinctions between the deserving and undeserving in society. She highlighted that we need better ways of approaching vulnerability than simply relying on moral inclinations. She also reported research findings on how those deemed ‘vulnerable’ think about vulnerability and experience regulation.

The panellists spoke about different regulations aimed at protecting individuals presumed to be vulnerable, especially in relation to trafficking. They covered the challenges of addressing ‘vulnerability’, particularly in social care and asylum settings where the hostile environment exacerbates harm, making protection impossible. The panellists emphasised the importance of co-designing policies with ‘vulnerable’ people.

The event also featured a panel discussion that looked at how different public sector organisations have tried to address vulnerability at system level, and how different accountability frameworks might support this.

Dr Brown said, “It was fantastic to be part of this LSE event. There were some really valuable discussions which connected different domains where vulnerability policy has been growing, from human trafficking to energy regulation.

“We know that ‘vulnerability’ is a contested and sometimes problematic concept. How organisations define ‘vulnerability’ can lead to services implementing vastly different programmes and targeting very different people. This is one key area of research our Centre is investigating, particularly through our Q Methods Study of Vulnerability. By focusing on one city [Bradford], we can analyse the different points of view that exist around ‘vulnerability’ and how these shape policies and practices.”