The Nelson Trust is a Gloucestershire based charity, established in 1985. We provide a range of services that support those affected by drug and alcohol dependencies, criminological behaviours and challenging life circumstances. We recognise the complex constellation of previous trauma, abuse, substance misuse, severe disadvantage and offending which impacts upon whole families, often perpetuating problems from one generation to another.
In 2010, we developed gender-responsive community services and established a Women’s Centre in Gloucester, which offers holistic support based on a relational, trauma-informed approach. In 2013, after receiving a national award of best practice for our innovative support for women in the community, we were commissioned to replicate this service in Swindon. Across the two centres, we support over 750 women annually. We have refined and expanded our services including the delivery of social inclusion interventions to women in Eastwood Park Prison and through the gate interventions and intensive resettlement support to women returning to both Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and now Somerset.
In March 2015, the Lankelly Chase Foundation awarded The Nelson Trust £150,000 over 3 years. This important investment underpinned the strategic development for the Sex Worker Outreach Programme (SWOP) in Gloucester and Wiltshire. The grant has enabled The Nelson Trust to positively influence public attitudes, policing, service provision and social policies. This was in order to achieve a reduction in the number of vulnerable women street sex working, and those harmed and exploited while off-street sex working in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.
Sex workers are stigmatised, socially excluded, victimised and often coerced. Street sex working is a strong indicator of severe and multiple disadvantage, and is hard-to-reach. Our experience shows that sex working is strongly associated with Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and abuse, substance dependency, disrupted emotional development and mental health issues. Given that its roots so often lie in adverse childhood experience, it may be considered a manifestation of inter-generational abuse and deprivation.
The Lankelly Chase Foundation enabled The Nelson Trust to increase their existing outreach and support services offered through their award winning Women’s Centres’ After work with a senior practitioner, The Nelson trust was able to effect change in public policy, statutory provision, and working practices in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire to reduce the number of individuals involved in street sex working and off-street sex working. A system of coordinated identification, support, exit strategies, demand-side policies and improved early interventions for girls and young women at risk brought about these changes.
We know women involved in sex working face several challenges in many areas of their lives. We are learning that for our clients, involvement in sex work is linked to addiction and trauma.
Survivors of trauma are more likely to experience depression, mental health disorders and homelessness (Hidden Hurt, 2016)
This is the cycle of chaos and limited life choices women involved in sex working experience every day. SWOP, through strategic and front-line action is making a difference to these women’s lives:
- Implementing, maintaining & refining multi-agency working
- Developing fast track pathways into main stream services.
- Drug / Alcohol Treatment in a residential, female-only setting.
- Emergency, female-only, supported housing provision.
- Domestic and Sexual Violence Support.
- SARCS and Sexual Health.
- Working with mental health teams.
- Access to public health and emergency health provision, without stigma.
- Working within a trauma-informed & strength based model.
- Providing night-time, out of hour’s duty teams.
The SWOP team understands working within this model increases the opportunity of women to make positive change when the window of opportunity arises.
The project provides holistic, practical, and emotional support through a variety of means:
We provide day and evening outreach, drop-in, prison in reach and 1-2-1 key working. We also work alongside statutory and voluntary partners to create fast-track pathways and advocate about the complexity of need for this cohort of women.
We believe that through continuous promotion of the SWOP model, those who make operational decisions will begin to adapt their service delivery to align with the needs of the clients.
We learn from the women we work with every day, from their resilience and survival skills. We’ve learnt that women have a complex constellation of needs that intersect, feed into each other and act as barriers to positive change. This means that a holistic approach looking at all areas in a woman’s life is a viable way to support a woman make positive progress. Women entrenched in substance misuse and street sex work need intensive, casework support, from a range of professionals in order to exit sex work and enter recovery.
The outreach work provided by the project has enabled prosecutions to take place. A recent high profile outcome is that of the male who was arrested for Trafficking, rape, drug supply and other offences:
Due in June 2018 an evaluative report exploring the impact of SWOP coordinator role funded by Lankelly Chase.
We’ve learnt that when we establish respect, trust, and safety, we can focus on a woman’s strengths and build relationships that support lasting, positive change.
New specialist sex worker interventions
Delivery of specialist treatment programmes for sex working women have been introduced to community and residential services. The programmes, developed by a Nelson Trust employee, Kirsty Tate, are evidence-based (http://www.thegriffinssociety.org/losing-my-voice-study-barriers-and-facilitators-disclosure-sex-working-women-residential-drug) developed through the exploration of barriers & facilitators to disclosure for sex-working women in residential drug treatment.
Sex Worker Specific Interventions Across all Phases of Recovery
These programmes are currently being accredited and will be made available as training programmes soon. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org FAO: Centre of Excellence.
Which of the “System Behaviours” is the work connecting to at the moment?
We are working towards achieving a common perspective and shared vision across our partnership work and within the communities that we serve. The Nelson Trust recognise that statutory social and health care systems are under pressure. Alongside our local & national partners (Policy-makers and health and social care leaders) we are individually and collectively searching for approaches that can deliver better-quality, safer services and improve health at a reduced cost. Lankelly Chase’s support for the SWOP Coordinator role is helping to redesign how services are delivered including improved co-ordination around the needs of the individual who will almost certainly be part of the solution.
Publically The Nelson Trust is combating the stigma and myth that surrounds street and off street sex working. We find that often journalists rush issue based articles that are responding to negative news that they argue is in the ‘public interest, but does little to raise positive community awareness.
These articles often place blame on the women and do not address the societal challenges or complex trauma that the women face every day.
We have invested time in working with the local press, Judiciary and council officials to encourage understanding and compassion when responding to and reporting on news about street sex working. We have helped them to support our efforts of reducing stigma and redirecting blame away from vulnerable women.
In line with this, we have recently been featured in an article on Glos Live and have enabled a turnaround of attitude with local politicians who have up to now been very negative towards our cohort of women. https://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/news/gloucester-news/heartbreaking-story-sex-worker-streets-1450043
Recently there was a community meeting concerning the area where women usually work. It was requested by a local councillor Bhaimia, following some residents’ concerns around street sex working and drug use. The Police Sargent spoke about the multi-agency approach around working with the women and recognising that they are victims of serious crime and vulnerable due to their addiction. The community appeared to understand the sensitive nature of this area of work and we continue to work with the community and the police around this. (http://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/news/gloucester-news/residents-demand-action-prostitution-barton-117438 )