Last November, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty made an extraordinary visit to the UK, the fifth richest nation on Earth. On his last day here, he issued a damning interim report stating that poverty - including “staggering” child poverty rates - is causing “misery” in the UK, and that welfare reforms have led to the “social safety net being systematically dismantled”.
Using the Social Metrics Commission measure of poverty - which the Government agreed to adopt as its own official measure last week - Professor Alston calculated that nearly a fifth of the UK population lives in poverty. The Special Rapporteur 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 safe place for their children to sleep, who have sold sex for money or shelter”.
On Wednesday 22 May he will issue his final report on poverty in the UK: that morning, the Committee holds its first hearing in Parliament on evidence that welfare reforms linked to increases in that “poverty” and “misery”, including Universal Credit, are driving some women to exchange sex for living essentials - like food or a place to stay - because they have simply been left with too little, or no income at all, to provide for themselves and their children. This is the latest strand of our work on Universal Credit: looking at the emergence of this kind of “survival sex” and whether, and how, it is linked to Universal Credit or other benefits and welfare reforms.
We opened our inquiry on Universal Credit and Survival Sex: sex in exchange for meeting survival needs 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. On Wednesday and starting at the slightly later time than usual of 10.05, 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. Then, at approximately 11am, the Committee will draw 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.
Wednesday 22 May 2019, Thatcher Room, Portcullis House
- Laura Seebohm, Executive Director, Innovation and Policy, Changing Lives
- Dr Raven Bowen, Chief Executive Officer, National Ugly Mugs
- Sarah McManus, Chief Executive Officer, A Way Out
- Amber Wilson, Business Development and Marketing Manager, Basis Yorkshire
- Helen McDonald, Nordic Model Now!
- Blair Buchanan, SWARM
- Niki Adams, English Collective of Prostitutes
Image: Parliamentary Copyright