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Title: Women involved in street sex work in the UK: An analysis of service need and provision
Authors: Degen, MM
Buckingham, S
Marandet, E
Keywords: Service providers;Women;Present lives;Street sex work
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: U-Turn Women's Project
Citation: Women involved in street sex work in the UK: An analysis of service need and provision, 2016
Abstract: Little is known, beyond the anecdotal, about the everyday lives and needs of women who street sex work. As a result, this research was commissioned to enable the funder, and the third sector in general, to identify and provide appropriately responsive services and facilities. It was expected that the results could be used to lobby successfully for broader structural and policy changes around sex work in the UK. The project’s research aims were: – to identify street sex workers’ experience of police enforcement; – to identify the services available for women who street sex work, and to examine what else they need to make well-informed, independent and safe decisions about their lives; – to investigate what has helped women to move out of street sex work. The qualitative data gathered through discussions and in-depth interviews with women involved in street sex work were contextualised through legal and literature reviews, and interviews with service providers. The research provides rich insights into the everyday lives of women who street sex work, and those who are at various stages of making the transition away from it. All but one of the women interviewed were, or had, been drug users. The women unanimously agreed that the decision to move out of street sex work, and the motivation to do so, is deeply personal (page 9). Services can support them once they have made the commitment, but cannot create the initial motivation, force the decision, or anticipate the reasons behind it. It is important to recognise that the process can be long and non-linear. Individual support staff were, however, credited with providing valuable practical and emotional support, particularly when they had an ongoing and nonjudgemental relationship with the service users (page 9). Conversely, services that fail to retain staff for the medium or long term, and/or where staff are judgemental, were seen as at best unhelpful, and at worst as negative (page 9). Services that are most valued include outreach (page 10), a sensitive and dedicated police unit (page 10), and ongoing and consistent therapeutic services (page 11). During the course of this research project, it became apparent that these services are particularly under threat of being cut. Boredom is seen as one of the main sources of stress in the women’s lives, and can disrupt their intention to leave street sex work (page 11). Activities that are seen as being meaningful, and those that are perceived as improving future employability, are valued and the interviewees made a number of suggestions (page 11). In particular, women who had left, or were in the process of leaving, street sex work wanted their experiences to be used to help others. Women who had not yet reached the point of managing their lives better, said that they would appreciate support from those who had experienced what they were currently going through. Mentoring, then, was discussed by a number of the women interviewed, both as potential providers and recipients (page 12). Accommodation was cited as being a severe problem by most interviewees – service users and providers. Hostel accommodation (particularly women-only) was seen as being valuable emergency accommodation and often as the only option, even when not appropriate. National changes to housing policy were creating severe and long-term problems and many women felt locked into hostel accommodation as a result (page 14). From an analysis of the research, a number of recommendations are made to help women involved in street sex work to make independent and well-informed decisions about their lives (page 16).
Appears in Collections:Dept of Social Sciences Media and Communications Research Papers

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