Statement Basis Yorkshire re Managed Approach June 2021

As an organisation Basis remains firmly of the view that the Managed Approach including the Managed Area remains the best way of providing as much safety as possible to sex workers who work on street[1]. For this reason, we are very disappointed with the Councils’ decision to step away from what has been a pioneering and compassionate approach to on street sex work up to this point.

We recognise this has not been an easy decision. We also acknowledge the additional support and strengthened partnership working during Covid has enabled some women to access the support that they needed in order to address some of the issues that led them into on street sex work, we are also aware that this has not been the case for all, with some working in unsafe environments instead, either at home or on street in other (mainly residential) areas or at later times with less ability to seek support when needed in an emergency.

“Because I can’t work down there I’ve accepted riskier jobs at home”

The closure has also left women feeling unable to report crimes against them for fear of the consequences of breaking Covid restrictions. The lack of reporting ultimately has city wide consequences, with perpetrators of crimes against women not being prosecuted

 “I go out later into the night when police aren’t around as much “. 

While this may therefore appear to be a reduction in numbers, this is in fact more a reduction in “visible” on-street sex work; sadly, this goes alongside reduced safety for women in the majority of cases. In fact, our data shows that two thirds of women surveyed by Basis who had been previously working in the MA[2] would prefer to have the option to work in the MA if they needed and most likely would.

We also know that austerity plays a large part in some women’s decision to sex work as does access to mental health, substance use and being in abusive relationships. Whilst we have been able to mitigate some of these issues during Covid thanks to the support of funders (including the local authority, mutual aid initiatives led by SWARM and others) it is very likely that for some women issues around poverty or other driving factors will remain or even increase post Covid and potentially drive women to begin sex work, as a way of topping up benefits or poorly paid work.

Any use of legal powers against those seeking to purchase sex outside of residential areas will prevent sex workers from being able to earn any additional income and could have the effect that they turn to acquisitive crime instead, such as shoplifting, which risks criminalisation and further reduces their chances of employment or, if they are already in work, result in dismissal. It would also make women more vulnerable to exploitation and violence.

Moreover, while we appreciate the commitment of the council to continue to offer (additional) resources for women to help them reduce the need to sex work, we know that for many, such support is hardly ever a “quick fix “and can take significant input over a number of years despite the significant resources and commitment of all parties to work towards this

“I will work if I need to, Covid fine or not, Basis and Joanna can’t fund my drug needs “

We recognise that some members of the community are affected by on-street sex work in residential areas and the Managed Approach was designed to address this; we are concerned that this decision may lead to an increase of such activities.  We continue to welcome any engagement with any residents and we would like to encourage a dialogue that doesn’t seek to exclude sex workers as residents of the community.

We will shortly be resuming our vital outreach service (subject to ongoing Covid risk assessments) alongside the Joanna Project as this is key to establishing trusted relationships with women who we otherwise might never meet. We will use evidence and input from our staff and the women we support to recommend ongoing quality improvements and identify issues women sex workers across the city are facing. We will continue our 1 to 1 case support with key partners in the city including access to employment and/or training. We will support women to advocate for themselves, working alongside other stakeholders to produce ongoing evidence about the impact of the closure of the Managed Approach area and will present this before the end of 2021. We will continue our vital campaign work to end stigma against sex workers including the demand to end criminalization of buying and selling sex.

Moya Woolven

CEO Basis Yorkshire

June 15th 2021

[1] Indeed, the new proposal also does not follow the recommendations from the Safer Leeds commissioned Independent Review which were only made last year; “The MA was found to be more effective at reducing the impact of problems associated with on-street sex working than any other approach or model. There are currently no alternative models or approaches that promise to be more effective and which fit within existing UK law on sex working

[2] 30 women were surveyed who had previously worked in the MA

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