HEALTH workers, social services and sex workers have joined forced on a scheme to tackle prostitution in Southend, which is set to be approved next week.

The Street Prostitution Strategy and Charter of Agreement has set out a five-point plan which will be assessed after 12 months.

The key elements will be adopting a ‘gender and trauma informed approach to delivering services’, providing safe and long-term supported housing, new education and training for staff, improving communication between services, and offering better information and guidance to sex workers.

Detailed proposals include having a ‘housing solutions officer’ to lead on clients with urgent housing needs, and have mental health workers regularly see rough sleepers.

In Ambleside Drive, female plain clothes police officers will speak to women to encourage better engagement.

The report says: “We will continue to speak with the women to understand if they are feeling heard and supported by the services that they choose to engage with.

“Trauma Alliance readiness assessments… will be completed by all organisations that sign the Memorandum of Understanding.

“These assessments will be used to develop a baseline of the organisation’s current level of trauma-informed practice as well as how staff and volunteers are impacted by work within the organisation.”

Work started on the strategy in June 2020, when concerns about women selling sex on Southend streets led to a meeting jointly hosted by the council and health bosses from the Southend Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Essex Police, housing services, health services and various charities were also involved from the beginning of the scheme.

The report will be considered on Thursday, January 13, at a meeting of Southend Council cabinet, and is recommended for approval.

‘People couldn’t wait to wash their hands of us’

SEX workers have spoken about how they feel people “couldn’t wait to wash their hands” of them.

And Southend Council has admitted that they have previously failed to offer adequate support to some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

Both statements come from the Street Prostitution Strategy and Charter of Agreement, which takes a candid looks at both prostitution and how Southend has tackled the issue in the past.

The report says: “The group of greatest and immediate concern (are) the vulnerable women involved in selling sex on the streets, this group have been poorly represented through Southend Borough Council strategies to date.

“This group are often high and dependent users of drugs and alcohol, other vulnerabilities may include mental health, depression, vulnerable housing status, domestic abuse and previous experience of the criminal justice system.

“They put themselves at risk of harm from sexually transmitted diseases as well as potential harm from violence and exploitation on a daily basis.”

There are currently 35 women who are registered with the local outreach services who support women who sell sex.

Four more women who sell sex in Southend engage with the service, although they are yet to attend the service.

It is particularly prevalent in the York Road and Ambleside Drive areas.

The report says: “Various police operations have succeeded in moving the women selling sex from one road to another and various organisations have tried to support women selling sex, but no intervention has had a significant impact on reducing the number of women selling sex or on the numbers of men buying sex.

“There is also a significant impact on the local community with high levels of anti-social behaviour as a result of the women selling sex and the men in the area who are pimping the women or buying sex, including drug-dealing, hazardous litter, and noise nuisance.”