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Rise of ‘survival sex’: Women are exchanging sex for living essentials over welfare reforms | UK News

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Women are being driven to “survival sex” as a direct result of welfare policy changes, the Work and Pensions Committee will hear.

On Wednesday, the committee will hold its first parliamentary hearing on evidence that welfare reforms, including Universal Credit, is linked to the rise in sex work.

It will hear evidence from charities and support organisations directly supporting people who are offering sex in exchange for living essentials, such as food or a place to stay, to provide for themselves and their children.

The parliamentary hearing follows the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty’s visit to the UK.

On his last day, Professor Philip Alston issued a damning interim report stating that poverty – including “staggering” child poverty rates – is causing “misery” to the UK.

He also concluded that welfare reforms have led to the “social safety net being systematically dismantled”.

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People are turning to sex work as a means of supporting themselves and their children

Using the Social Metrics Commission measure of poverty, Professor Alston calculated that nearly a fifth of the UK population lives in poverty.

He also 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 place to sleep, who have sold sex for money or shelter”.

Universal Credit, a social security payment in the UK, has long been the subject of criticism, with warnings people are being pushed into debt, rent arrears and a rise in food bank dependency due to delays in payments.

The National Audit Office maintains there is no evidence that Universal Credit helps people into work and is unlikely to provide value for money, dubbing the system inefficient.

Young people who started work in 2008 are likely to face higher unemployment
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Universal Credit has long been the subject of criticism, with warnings people are being pushed into debt

Lydia Caradonna, a member of the UK-based Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM), said it is important to recognise that more people become involved in the sex industry “when any kind of legislative changes mean that people find themselves in financial hardship”.

She told Sky News: “Universal Credit has been a particularly problematic change in this regard.

“Huge waiting times, bureaucratic issues and cuts in working allowances are pushing claimants who are already in crisis further into debt and destitution. It is no surprise that people are turning to sex work to be able to support their families and themselves.”

A spokesperson for Beyond The Streets, a UK charity working with women to end sexual exploitation, said: “We welcome the investigation in to failures in Universal Credit and the increase in survival sex.

“We know from the stories of women that the delays in processing universal credit and the drop in benefits is financially crippling. It is essential that the vulnerable are protected and their welfare is paramount.”

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Universal Credit payment delays have been blamed for an increasing dependency on food banks

Wednesday’s hearing will be the latest strand of the Work Pensions Committee’s work on Universal Credit as it looks at the emergence of “survival sex”, and whether, and how, it is linked to Universal Credit or other benefits and welfare reforms.

At 10.05am the committee will hear first from a panel of front-line groups who are leading the work directly supporting the people finding themselves in this position.

This will be followed by the committee drawing on the expertise of organisations who have traditionally been campaigning on sex work and the law around it, but who have now become involved in this emerging issue.

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