ECP to give evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee Inquiry on Survival Sex

Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, Kentish Town, London NW5 2DX

Tel: 020 7482 2496 Email: ecp@prostitutescollective.net

English Collective of Prostitutes to give evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee Inquiry on Survival Sex, 22 May 2019

The ECP is a self-help organisation of sex workers, working both on the street and in premises, with a national network throughout the UK. Since 1975, we have campaigned for the decriminalisation of prostitution, for sex workers’ rights and safety, and for resources to enable people to get out of prostitution if they want to.

Niki Adams, who will be giving evidence to the Inquiry said:

“We are hearing daily about the terrible impact of Universal Credit on women. It is brutal to make women wait weeks before they get any money and to cut women’s income when they are already living on the edge. We are appalled that the government can deliberately make people destitute and then deny any connection between its policies and the fact that more women, particularly mothers, are going into sex work to survive.”

Our evidence will focus on:

  • The impact of austerity on levels of prostitution in the UK. Of the approximately 72,800 sex workers in the UK — 88% are women. Austerity cuts, 86% of which have fallen on women, have meant that more women, particularly single mothers, have been pushed into sex work to survive and feed their families.
  • The impact of Universal Credit. Women in our network report problems with the deliberate built in delay before they get any money; draconian sanctions; having their money cut because their children with disabilities get less and there is a two child limit; being put at risk of violence because the benefit is paid to the head of the household, a judgemental and hostile benefit staff.
  • Survival sex work extends beyond those impacted by Universal Credit. For example, women asylum seekers get £36 a week if they get anything at all and many are exchanging sex for a roof over their head or food.
  • Criminalisation of sex workers has been prioritised over poverty reduction. One example is Redbridge, one of the poorest areas of London where 639 women have been given prostitute cautions in a two-year period and draconian civil orders are widely used. Migrant, trans and women of colour are particularly targeted by the police.
  • Sex workers’ safety is paramount – decriminalise prostitution. The ECP campaign #MakeAllWomenSafe highlights the issue of sex workers’ safety and the key injustice that whist sex work is legal it is illegal for women to work together, which is safer.
  • Support for mothers and a living wage. Esther McVey, the former Work and Pensions Secretary, callously responded to reports of women being driven into sex work by Universal Credit by suggesting there were “other jobs on offer” to these women. Research comparing sex work with other jobs traditionally done by women show endemic low pay in non-sex work jobs.