POLICE AND CRIME COMMISSIONER FOR BEDFORDSHIRE
Title and Reference – PCC/D/102
Subject: Allocation of MoJ Funding for Sexual Exploitation Support 2023-2024
Report of: Police and Crime Commissioner
Sexual Exploitation Support – MoJ B992 – £40,000
Description of Service:
A service to deliver support to improve the welfare of people who are involved in the sex trade and suffer sexual exploitation.
The service should include elements of Drop-in support, providing a safe space with the opportunity to rest, get hot meals, clothes, and food to take away, wash their clothes, have a shower, and take part in creative activities. It is a vital part of the service offer to provide a safe space in which to build trust with the service provider.
The must develops trusting relationships with service users, seeking to empower them to understand their choices and encourages them to access more in-depth support. The service should not only support victims emotionally but also work practically with them supporting them to take positive steps regarding housing, health, access to addiction rehabilitation and relationships.
Azalea, a Luton Based charity are funded in 2022/23 to deliver support to improve the welfare of people who are involved in the sex trade and suffer sexual exploitation. This opportunity will be a continuation of funding for vital support services in this area, however the support will be extended to include male and female victims and to offer a county wide service.
In the year 2021/22 98 women accessed Azaleas service, reducing isolation, and improving their basic health, they built stable positive relationships with the team, their self-confidence grew, and for many it was a key starting point in their journey away from exploitation. Of these women, 22 women progressed to accessing further support and ultimately help from other agencies, beginning to tackle addictions, question exploitative relationships and settle in safe accommodation. In 2022/23 the service is already supporting 79 victims.
At a national level 105,000 individuals in the UK are believed to be involved in prostitution – the vast majority of whom are women (Streetlight UK, 2019). The nature of prostitution and the fact that sex work is often hidden means that data can be difficult to gather and prevalence hard to estimate. The stigma often associated with prostitution and sex work means that some involved in prostitution and sex work may not identify as such, while others may not be in touch with services and support organisations or be willing to participate in research for free of reprisal. Offences recorded by police are also not a useful indicator for estimating prevalence as this will only include elements of the industry that come to police attention and constitute an offence. Increase or decreases may be due to policing priorities and funding rather than actual changes to prevalence.
Sex work and prostitution span a wide range of activities, each setting has different characteristics and those involved face different issues. The expansion of the internet has transformed the industry in recent years and while online activity is more hidden and understanding of trends is more tenuous the facilities make it easier to promote and manage work independently. Regardless of the services offered the majority of advertising is certainly online with independent workers running their own websites or use social media or dating apps. Some independent escorts do not advertise but respond to buyers adverts in order to protect their anonymity. Both the trend towards independent working and anonymity are likely to increase risk for sex workers as there is less visibility, accountability, and potential safeguards of a group setting. Respondents noted that those working as independent escorts are mainly women and to a lesser extent men. It was noted that men, trans men and trans women are more likely to work independently then in a managed brothel setting.
On the other hand, while ‘on street’ prostitution is more visible and easier to identify hotspots and understand impacts where there is a 3rd party involvement which may offer a greater security as there is and oversight of clients and services, it can also be a source of increased risk should the 3rd party be associated with gangs, pimps, and traffickers as is often the case.
Street prostitution mainly involves women individuals selling sex, but some areas have male street prostitution with all groups mainly sell sex to men. Street workers have often experienced acute circumstances in childhood and adolescence, later homelessness or leaving care may facilitate entry into street work. According to Streetlight UK 75% of the women they have supported have been through the care system in their childhood or adolescence.
Many female respondents to the University of Bristol research, who were working in prostitution at the time of answering identified a high risk of physical and sexual violence.
They identified other risks and challenges include:
– Robbery/counterfeit payment
– Being held against their will
– Stalking or obsession by clients
– Psychological harm/emotional labour (of pretending to be interested in clients, sometimes for extended periods of time)
– Emotional numbness and negative views of men
– Preoccupation with body image e.g., use of steroids by male sex workers
– Clients with poor oral or genital hygiene
– Development of Dissociative Identity Disorder.
– Sexual health and STI’s
– Chemsex, particularly among male sex workers and their clients
– Drug or alcohol dependency
– Legal environment, meaning sellers who are victimised are unlikely to report due to fear of the consequence. This was identified by some as ‘empowering perpetrators’
– Social stigma was commonly identified as a source of harm and anxiety
– Fear of being ‘outed’ to friends, family, social services in relation to child custody etc.
– Stigma and the law (including any convictions) which make it harder to find other employment and exit the industry.
– The exchange of for shelter, rent, drugs, alcohol, food or transportation and the implications of creating this dependency on clients for general wellbeing
Police and Crime Plan:
Police and crime plan priority 4.1 is a commitment to uphold the entitlements within the Victims Code of Practice and states that ‘It is crucial that each individual is supported appropriately throughout the criminal justice system and beyond.’
The Police and Crime Plan details the commitment to the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) agenda under priority 3. The VAWG agenda pledges to support survivors of domestic and sexual violence in Bedfordshire. Whilst the police respond to reported incidents, the OPCC also pledges funding to aid survivors in overcoming the barriers to support by making Bedfordshire communities safer for women and girls.
Considerations of Partnership Work:
The provider will be required to work the network of other local providers to ensure colleagues are aware of the referral route to this specialist service. Partnership work may also be required with OPCC Internal projects, Safer Streets initiatives and projects via the Bedfordshire VERU.
Route to Market/Delivery:
A competition will be held with a bidding limit of £40,000 for a service provider to receive 12 months of funding to provide a pilot service to support victims of sexual exploitation.
Long Term Considerations:
Utilising data captured through the 12-month agreement with a provider, a tender process will be completed with the view to commissioning longer term services.
Long term considerations include whether this specialist support should be commissioned as a part of wider sexual violence support services.
In November 2022, the Commissioning and Income Generation Lead and Commissioning Officer prepared a decision paper for the financial year 2023-2024 following completion of a needs assessment of the Community safety Fund and funded organisations in 2022-2023.The decision paper was presented to the Police and Crime Commissioner as part of due process and approval was given in November 2022. A specification was drawn up according to the decision paper and the opportunity was released on 2nd December 2022, with a deadline for responses by 9th January 2023.
In response to the sexual exploitation funding opportunity there were 3 applications submitted, 2 of which were discounted at show stopper phase for providing a female only service which is not compliant with MoJ stipulation within their grant agreement to the OPCC. The 3rd organisation was successful to evaluation stage, where they were evaluated according to agreed criteria as detailed in the specification, however due to the nature of the bid response and the lack of consideration for outcomes, objectives, sustainability, awareness of local strategies and risk analysis, it was not appropriate to award.
A decision was made to advise all three organisations of how they faired in the evaluation, providing suitable feedback as to why they were unsuccessful. Furthermore, a decision was made to ask all three organisations whether they would consent to a meeting with all parties to discuss the opportunity in the hope of establishing a consortia response, meeting the MoJ requirements.
A meeting was held on 30th March 2023 with representatives from each organisation, Azalea, Link to Change and Penrose (Social Interest Group). During the meeting, the Commissioning and Income generation lead chaired a meeting, discussing the specification, advising of reasons why the opportunity was not successfully awarded at evaluation stage and proposed a collaborative working opportunity. Feedback was provided by each organisation against the opportunity. Feedback was given by all three organisations, advising that the funding allocation was not sufficient to support multiple cohorts and there was not a willingness to adapt support provision to include other cohorts such as males as this could reduce engagement and could pose risks to current female victims.
To note decision
Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner
I hereby approve the recommendations above.