29 April 2019 ~ Call for evidence re. Universal Credit and Survival Sex: sex in exchange for meeting survival needs – Work and Pensions Committee

The Work and Pensions Committee is calling for evidence  –  from anyone affected or with experience of this issue – about a possible link between  Universal Credit and “survival sex”.

Changing Lives, a charity supporting women working in prostitution, distinguishes “survival sex” from other forms of sex work (such as escorting), and defines it as:

Women regularly [exchanging] sex to meet survival needs, monetary or otherwise. Alternative currencies include somewhere to sleep, alcohol, drugs, food and tobacco.

The Committee has opened this phase in its Universal Credit inquiry in response  to reports from charities and support organisations that increasing numbers of people—overwhelmingly women—have been getting involved in “survival sex” as a direct result of welfare policy changes. These include the roll-out of Universal Credit.

In his recent report on extreme poverty in the UK, the UN Special Rapporteur, Professor Philip Alston, described meeting people who:

Depend on food banks and charities for their next meal, who are sleeping on friends’ couches because they are homeless and don’t have a safe place for their children to sleep, who have sold sex for money or shelter[.]

Through its work on different aspects of Universal Credit over the last two years, the Committee has identified number of features of the policy that may contribute to claimants having difficulty meeting survival needs.

For example:

  • The wait for a first payment, which is a minimum of five weeks but can be a lot longer;
  • The accumulation of debt: for example, as a result of third-party deductions to benefits or taking out an Advance Payment at the start of a claim;
  • Sanctions, which are applied at a higher rate under Universal Credit than under the system it replaces.

Chair’s comments

Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“We have heard sufficient evidence, and are sufficiently worried, to launch this inquiry to begin to establish what lies behind the shocking reports of people being forced to exchange sex to meet survival needs.

This is an investigation, and we do not yet know what we will uncover.

But if the evidence points to a direct link between this kind of survival sex and the administrative failures of Universal Credit, Ministers cannot fail to act.”

Write to us 

We’d like to hear from you if you’ve had to exchange sex for basic living essentials, like food or somewhere to live. This will help us to understand what is happening and to make the right recommendations to the Government.

We understand that telling your story might be difficult. You can ask for your evidence to be anonymous (we’ll publish your story, but not your name or any personal details about you) or confidential (we’ll read your story but we won’t publish it).

The Committee is inviting anyone with experience of or affected by this issue, in any capacity, to send us a written submissions on any or all of the following questions:

  1. What features of Universal Credit might drive people into “survival sex”? How does Universal Credit compare to the previous benefits system in this respect?
  2. How widespread is this problem? To what extent are any increases in prevalence directly attributable to Universal Credit?
  3. Are some claimants at particular risk of turning to “survival sex”? If so, who are they and what are the risk factors?
  4. What changes to Universal Credit could help tackle this problem and better protect claimants?
  5. What role should Jobcentre Plus play in supporting claimants who are involved in “survival sex” or sex work more widely?

You can share your story or evidence – we’d like to hear from you by Monday 29 April 2019.

We will also hear oral evidence in Parliament later in this inquiry.

See also:

March 20, 2019

Domestic abuse bill needs cash injection – Law Society

New legislation targeting domestic abuse is likely to have precious little impact if not accompanied by significant additional money, the Law Society of England and Wales warned in response to a parliamentary inquiry.

“Sadly, domestic abuse is still a widespread problem throughout England and Wales – particularly for women – and costs the UK economy an estimated £66 billion a year,”* said Law Society president Christina Blacklaws.

“The bill has the potential to change millions of lives but without a significant cash injection, legislation alone is not enough to end domestic abuse.”

The draft bill contains several key measures against domestic abuse such as;

  • The inclusion of children aged 16 and 17 in the statutory definition of domestic abuse
  • The recognition of economic abuse as a form of domestic abuse
  • Prohibiting the cross-examination of domestic abuse victims by their abuser
  • The appointment of a domestic abuse commissioner

According to Women’s Aid, over four hundred referrals to refuges in England are declined every week and an average of two deaths a week occur due to domestic abuse.**

“Cuts to frontline services and the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) have had a devastating effect on the support available to victims,” said Christina Blacklaws.

“Refuges are turning away hundreds of women every week and, due to legal aid criteria around shared property ownership, domestic abuse victims can find themselves both ineligible for legal aid and without housing.

“For the draft domestic abuse bill to be effective in its protection of victims, the government must put the necessary funding into legal aid, support services and policing and give domestic abuse victims the access to justice they so deserve.”

Notes

Part of a longer press release at https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/news/press-releases/domestic-abuse-bill-needs-cash-injection/

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Young Women’s Film Academy – Seeking two Trustees to support and develop a young and unique charity

The Young Women’s Film Academy (YWFA) is unique in being the only dedicated film academy for young women in the UK, and is based in Newcastle. The YWFA includes both short-term outreach film projects working with young women in communities across the North East, as well as an on-going Saturday Club enabling young women aged 12 years and over the opportunity to be introduced and eventually well-skilled in filmmaking. The films produced are then used to highlight issues of oppression or difficulty to other young women in the region.

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