The Scottish government has provided £90 million for projects supporting women engaged in Commercial Sexual Exploitation for the financial year 2021/22.
The funding will help pay for vital services run by Victim Support Scotland, the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre and the Encompass Network. The funding – which brings the total spent during the pandemic to £170,000 - was announced as the Scottish government published the findings of Scotland’s first ever consultation on prostitution.
The Equally Safe consultation - which attracted over 4,000 responses - found the pandemic had exacerbated the harms experienced by women involved in prostitution and underlined the importance of a wide range of support to address their multiple, underlying needs.
Minister for Community Safety Ash Denham, said: “As this consultation shows, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profoundly negative impact on women involved in prostitution. There was clear evidence that in many situations women were already experiencing poverty or additional challenges, such as immigration status.
“The pandemic put women into further precarious positions with some reporting that they had no choice but to continue to sell sex. The stigma and the hidden nature of prostitution has created a further barrier to getting help through mainstream services.
“I am therefore pleased to announce this additional funding for specialist services designed specifically for women involved in prostitution.
“The Scottish government will build on the findings of the consultation and develop a model for Scotland to challenge men’s demand for prostitution, learning from other jurisdictions and international approaches.
“We will also bring forward a programme of work to engage with those with lived experience to help shape and strengthen services,” she added.
Victim Support will receive an additional £30,000 of funds for The Victims Fund to ensure continued availability for crisis funding for women engaged in prostitution.
Through their existing processes, Victim Support Scotland will work closely with other support agencies to ensure that funds are made available at the point of need to directly support those women most in need of financial assistance.
During the pandemic, the Victims’ Fund has been a lifeline for many and last year alone £280K of support was provided by Victim Support Scotland to over 800 women, men and children affected by crime in Scotland.
The Victims’ Fund has prevented many victims in precarious situations from becoming destitute by provided much needed clothing, food vouchers, housing costs and other essential items.
Kate Wallace, CEO of Victim Support Scotland, said: “As Scotland’s leading charity dedicated to supporting everyone affected by crime, Victim Support Scotland has built strong relationships with partner organisations to ensure that financial support reaches all those who need it. This has included those supporting women who sell or exchange sex.
“Through the Victims’ Fund, we have provided financial support at the point of need to all victims of all crime types experiencing financial hardship as a result of what they have been through. During the pandemic, this support has been a lifeline for many and last year alone £280K of support was provided by Victim Support Scotland to over 800 women, men and children affected by crime in Scotland. The Victims’ Fund has prevented many victims in precarious situations from becoming destitute by provided much needed clothing, food vouchers, housing costs and other essential items.
“With this announcement, we are looking forward to building on these partnerships and welcoming applications from all organisations supporting women who sell or exchange sex to ensure they can continue to access this vital support,” she added.
Co-ordinator at the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre Katy Mathieson said: “Women who sell or exchange sex often face immeasurable barriers, stigma and discrimination when it comes to seeking justice after an experience of abuse or violence.
“With this funding we will develop a pilot project which will enable us to identify the specific legal and advocacy needs of women involved in selling or exchanging sex and support them to exercise their rights,” she concluded.