Basis Yorkshire very much welcome the outcome of the Independent Review and it’s finding that the Managed Approach (MA) should remain and be further evolved: the report is categorical in stating that ‘the health and safety of on-street sex workers has been greatly improved’. For nearly 30 years, we have remained steadfast in our commitment to women and their safety, with women stating that our provision was ‘life saving’’. Without a team of dedicated, passionate and committed staff & volunteers working daily with women over so many years, this would not have been possible. Basis are proud to have called for and enabled the full and active participation of street sex working women as equal citizens of Leeds, with involvement throughout the process to have their voices heard (including the selection of the research team and the methodology for engagement).
The findings show that the MA has been the ‘building block’ to develop relationships of mutual respect and cooperation between women and authorities, facilitated by Basis and Joanna Project after years of mistrust of authorities and abuse by perpetrators of street sex workers. Women speaking to the research team described the message the MA sent to would-be attackers‘…listen it’s a Managed Approach down there and the girls are allowed to do it and you need to be careful if you pick them up, it’s you that’s gonna get in trouble, not the girl and I think that’s what’s keeping them safe to be honest’. Despite the limitations of any ‘zoning’ initiative, the resources and commitment dedicated to the Managed Approach have ensured a reduction from incalculable risks to women’s lives (including physical and sexual violence) exacerbated by heavy enforcement, to the current compassionate response. In this way, despite the difficulties faced by women & communities where street sex work takes place, it shows how, working together, women can be safer, healthier and have their rights respected. Credit must be paid to the majority of residents who show care and compassion for women who they see on the streets where they live, as the report has shown.
Basis are proud to have spearheaded the improvements in policy and practice in Leeds through an approach based upon evidence and women’s inclusion and participation. Whilst our effective approach to reducing health inequalities has been recognised by health experts such as the Kings Fund (GSK Award) and the Royal Society for Public Health, we are pleased to see our efforts reflected in this review as well. The significant improvement in service responses identified in the review demonstrates our commitment to transforming responses within wider services; we are proud to have worked with partner agencies in joint efforts to improve outcomes and to offer our input into strategic developments in Leeds and nationally. Basis will continue to promote the use of evidence-based approaches, sharing this through our training and practice (locally and nationally) and strengthening work with partner organisations.
The report also offers constructive points for future efforts to improve and evolve the MA, with work to be done to improve mutual understanding and compassion within and between communities. Basis will support efforts made to further build trust with the community, while continuing to challenge the stigma that fuels the violence that many women face in their daily lives, preventing women from making positive changes. Feelings of fear and judgement based on misinformation, lack of understanding, mistrust and stigma need to be redressed with greater transparency, information and building on positive relationships.
Lastly, it is important to recognise the commitment and passion of our much valued funders who have supported Basis through many (often difficult) years where the survival of services critical to women was in question. From individual donors and small, local funders to national Trusts and Foundations, their investment in our service has been critical, enabling us to stay true to our ethos and deliver positive impact. And for that we offer our heartfelt thanks. Without their long standing support the Managed Approach would not have been possible. We know that, despite significant and welcome investment by local partners, our existing funders will still have a part to play in the imagining of an evolved future and enabling us to sustain the changes to our system that women most value and benefit from.
‘The current crisis is and continues to be extremely difficult for sex workers, not least due to the loss of income and particularly for those who are ‘clinically vulnerable’. However, despite the tragic and difficult circumstances it is showing what is possible in terms of the evolution of the MA building on the successes achieved so far. The removal of sanctions, threats and reversal of austerity measures have enabled women otherwise ‘written off’ by society to take opportunities opened up to them. However, the challenge remains to ensure this approach continues & improves, ensuring violence, poverty & housing are tackled and services such as criminal justice, drug treatment and mental health continue to offer the services that women deserve’
In memory of all sex workers who have lost their lives to violence and for those who continue to face stigma, abuse and discrimination
#sexworkerrights #pledgedecrim #IDEVASW #womenfriendlyleeds
Gemma Scire, CEO, Basis Yorkshire