Stand and Be Counted: Support Sex Workers During Covid-19 Now

As many of you know, sex workers are struggling to obtain the resources needed to stay housed, pay bills and self-isolate as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Plainly, people need to eat, feed their kids, support their families and stay mentally and physically well during this horrific time. Many populations who are marginalised are struggling to cope. Sex workers are getting evicted from their housing, are the targets of violence and abuse and, due to their lack of access to labour rights and recognition for the distinct needs of this population, many do not qualify for benefits offered to others who hold worker status.

Several sex worker led organisations have issued media statements calling for immediate action by government to protect sex workers, such as the Red Umbrella Fund, the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP), ICRSE, SWAI, Umbrella Lane, SWARM, alongside initiating hardship funds and organising both publicly and behind the scenes to get resources to sex workers who are in dire need. NUM have collated useful resources and media articles related to sex work and Covid-19  to fully understand the impacts on sex workers and to share information.

In addition to getting hardship funds to sex workers, various groups have developed comprehensive resources for sex workers during this time. See Umbrella Lanes’ Community Recommendations for a Collaborative Response to COVID-19  

The ECP released a recent article calling for support to women and mothers who are sex workers and also caring for many in their families. They are busy supporting applications to Universal Credit for those facing abject poverty; however, The Guardian documents that 500,000 thousand more people applied  over the past 9 days, with many calling UC up to 100 times a day, with no answer on the other end despite the Department of Work and Pensions’ (DWP) move to increase staffing in response to the pandemic.  

In a recent article in The Critic, sex workers and advocacy groups call for immediate assistance to sex workers with impunity. The article also notes a surge in camming on Adult Services Websites but this isn’t accessible to everyone especially those with children now at home all day or those without computer access. 

The International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) has published a list of demands in response to the pandemic, which we have endorsed. This includes income substitution and housing support, a moratorium on fines, raids and prosecutions, a commitment to health services and a long-term vision for the inclusion of sex workers as part of the economy.

What Adult Industries Can Do For Sex Workers Now

There is some support coming through from the Adult Industries. VivaStreet offered a generous £100,000 in match funding to directly support sex workers and other adult businesses have also made contributions to Covid-19 hardship funds. For example, Escort-Ireland have made 100,000 available to UglyMugs.ie in Ireland who are working hard to get money to sex workers through their emergency fund. Also, Escort-Scotland recently contributed to Umbrella Lane’s monthly Hardship fund, the first such fund to be made available for sex workers in the UK. Keep an eye out for their monthly call for donations to support Scottish sex workers. AdultWork.com contributes to NUMs core services, supporting sex workers who use their services via a trial partnership agreement that began in June 2019 and they have donated to all three existing hardship funds and are offering bonus credits to sex workers for during this pandemic. 

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We urge businesses that have sex workers as their customers and patrons to stand and be counted among those who are invested in the health, safety and survival of sex workers.  Whether that is pulling funds from operating budget items that will be under spent now that the world is on lock down or investing profits to those most in need. Donate these funds to sex worker-led groups through the hardship funds listed above or donate to NUM, ensuring that money gets to the people who need it most.

Some Adult Services Websites who are experiencing increases in revenue due to the increase of online web-based sex work and camming. We need you to make funding available today. Many sex workers do not enjoy labour rights, leaving them with no access to statutory sick pay (SSP), parental and annual leave or other such benefits of employment even under normal circumstances. Sex workers pay fees for adverts, house fees, they pay agents, photographers, security, hotels and travel and other entities during the course of their work. We at NUM see the unequaled rates of violence experienced by sex workers due to stigma, marginalisation and criminalisation.Sex workers need you now. Contact and donate to sex worker-led groups directly or contact NUM, if you would like support to help administer funds. 

NUMs Work with Existing Partners

NUM has existing partnerships with Adult Services Websites and some police forces/pcc’s to facilitate resources for sex worker safety and support as documented in our ‘Follow the Money’ page. We do not enter into these relationships lightly and we constantly review how partnerships and investment directly benefit the sex workers we serve. 

We have a longstanding relationship with Vivastreet that began in 2015 when they provided funds specifically to support sex workers who work online who become victims of harm.  Since then they have continued to contribute funds for Case Worker support and alerting features. In March this year, Vivastreet made £100,000 match funding available to sex workers in an unprecedented move to get money into the hands of sex workers who were experiencing hardship. We have used our existing relationships to provide administrative support to get this hardship fund directly into the hands of sex workers in their own communities through sex worker led groups. To date this has included the drafting of an MOU and negotiations to facilitate hardship funding to SWARM by leaders in all three organisations. Vivastreet issued a statement announcing the match funding to SWARM and other hardship funds.    

Recognising that there are challenges for sex workers and groups like SWARM in collaborting directly with ASWs, NUM offers support and resources to ensure that the hardship funds are disseminated to sex workers in need by the groups that they trust. NUM has also weighed the benefits and risks of formal partnerships with ASWs and, particularly given the Covid-19 pandemic, accepts funds from ASWs to ensure vital support to sex workers is not interrupted at a time when they need it the most. 

Calling on Government To Do More

Make Universal Credit Easier to Access and raise rates to livable income levels. Eliminate long waits and other strategies recommended by groups that testified at the Inquiry into Survival Sex and Universal Credit in 2019

Do What Sex Workers Have Asked: Decriminalise sex work and grant sex workers employment status and formally recognise sex work as work. The scrambling we are doing now to organise hardship resources to sex workers would not be necessary if sex workers were included as part of the workforce.

Do Something Right Now: Sign Petition to make Occupation a Protected Characteristic under the 2010 Equality Act.

Do What Your Own Research Recommends:  Adhere to the recommendations of the 2016 Home Affairs Select Committee Report that urged decriminalisation of brothel-keeping and other legislation that put sex workers’ at risk, contributes to social stigma and blocks their access to protections. Do this in addition to other measures that ensure sex workers survive Covid-19 and other threats to their lives and livelihoods.

 

What NUM Is Doing

  • Administering funds to sex worker led groups using existing partnerships. 
  • Applying for resources when they become available through grant applications or projects to secure and disseminate support to those in need;
  • Contacting the Adult Industries to see what additional contributions can be made by businesses, specifically those benefiting from any increases in webcamming and online sex industry work;
  • Applying for resources to engage in coordinated case support and advocacy alongside worker-led groups who advocate for labour rights and the equitable access to all state resources for sex working populations;
  • Asking sex workers about digital support needs, experiences using NUM,  and Covid-19 related needs and concerns through a Needs Assessment Survey (available to sex workers only);
  • Increasing the capacity of the R&D team to facilitate supports to sex workers;
  • Exploring Peer2Peer chat and web-based support on existing website;
  •  Accelerating digital transformation for a new platform;
  • The NUM case work team have restructured their work to be available to sex workers for both practical and emotional support in relation to the impacts of COVID-19.  Check our website and twitter for details of their availability;
  • Writing to members of parliament to demand support for sex workers financially: Rishi Sunak (Chancellor of the Exchequer), Therese Coffey (Secretary of State for Work and Pensions), Liz Truss (Minister for Women and Equalities), Priti Patel (Home Secretary), Dominic Raab (Foreign Secretary), Victoria Atkins (Minister for Women), Keir Starmer (Leader of the Opposition), Anneliese Dodds (Shadow Chancellor), Nick Thomas-Symonds (Shadow Home Secretary), Marsha De Cordova (Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities) and Jonathan Reynolds (Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions)
  • More to come...
-Special thanks to 'The Kizzer' for the image