Statement Basis Yorkshire April 2023

In the past few weeks we’ve seen an increase in articles about the Managed Approach; though our workload is higher than ever we’ve taken the time to write this statement in the hope that it will offer insight into the complexity and nuance that the situation deserves and so often lacking in the articles we see.

Quite a few articles imply that women wouldn’t be working in the area were it not for the Managed Approach: simple research going to back to the early 2000’s would clearly evidence this is not the case: newspaper articles reflect issued raised by Holbeck residents then, referring to over a hundred women. At the time the police trialled a number of “solutions” including arresting the women, arresting the men, or both, but none of these strategies had a significant impact while at the same time making life less safe for women. The Managed Approach was a renewed attempt to address the needs of the community of Holbeck including sex workers.

Trust in the police prior to the Managed Approach  was at an all time low; these days mostly thanks to the time when the Managed Approach was operational, women are much more likely to report crimes directly to the police, with a much greater chance of prosecution of the perpetrators.  Whether this ultimately leads to a conviction will depend on many things including the courage of women to offer evidence (which ultimately might make them a target of reprisal), the patience and resilience to wait for the case to go to court and whether the jury will believe a sex worker. Nevertheless, without that initial trust in the police and the support of trusted agencies like ourselves, women wouldn’t even be willing to report.

Sex work doesn’t exist in a vacuum and for most simply “getting another job” isn’t an option if you have an addiction. Rehab is more than simply enrolling: it takes time and investment to make sure you are ready, to give you the biggest chance to succeed, it takes courage to step away from an addiction if this has been  a big part of your life including your social network for many years;  especially if you are using it to numb physical pain or the pain of childhood or other trauma.  We hope the woman we supported into rehab today after many weeks of preparation will be able to see it through as we know hard it can be.

Those who suffer from poor mental health (especially If this occurs alongside addiction) lack the specialist resources required to meet such needs as these as these are insufficient to meet demand.  These days most people understand how hard and dangerous it is to leave a violent partner;  its even harder for a sex worker: threats to out to you to family and friends or discouraging reporting to the police with the words “who would believe a sex worker” are made against the victim. Even if you did manage to leave where would you go: refuge spaces are hard to come by and even more so if you have an addiction; even without an addiction emergency accommodation, especially women only, is extremely limited.  Staying with the partner means you are more likely to sex work, either to fund joint addictions or because you are being forced to do so.

We too have noticed more women working in the residential area; we predicted this would happen as this was also the case prior to the Managed Approach (and was in fact one of the reason for its introduction in the first place). Women have told us that the message that the area is no longer open mean men no longer go to the area as much and ambiguity over whether women will be charged regardless of where they work means women are more likely to work in more populated and well-lit areas – despite the police still prioritizing safeguarding over prosecution.

Ultimately sex work is about earning money: whether this is to pay for your child’s  school uniform, or being able to afford food , the rent or  utilities, to pay for your or your partner’s addiction or to earn income for an exploitative gang leader or drug dealer. The cost of living has meant that many who were no longer sex working saw no other option than to return. Without being able to earn an income selling sex, women may become homeless, go without heating or food, lose access to their children or have to resort to shoplifting or other criminal activity-  at least working in Holbeck means you are less likely to be criminalized. If you were ready to find another job, this would certainly help. Without addressing this need,  women are significantly less likely to stop sex work.

We know this situation isn’t easy for those living in Holbeck, including sex workers. School girls should not ever be solicited, perpetrators of such crimes should be arrested: sex workers completely agree with this too yet they are often blamed. Articles that conflate the impact of sex work with the impact of drug dealing don’t help: women are further stigmatized and blamed for their addiction while they are often at greatest risk of harm, especially if they are drug dependent themselves.

We encourage residents to speak to us directly about the situation so we can share the perspectives of women who sell sex who too often are not heard and to share the work that we do alongside many other agencies. One thing is certain: complex issues are rarely solved by simple solutions; sex work is no exception.

More background info can be found in the below publications:

further queries please call the office  on 0113 243 0036 and ask to speak to:

Amber Wilson (Business Development)

Moya Woolven (CEO)


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