The Managed Approach to street sex work in Holbeck is set to change as the Council and Safer Leeds change their strategy.
The toleration of soliciting at set times and in the so-called Managed Zone, which has not operated since March 2020 due to the pandemic, will not be reintroduced when social distancing rules are relaxed. However, existing support measures will remain in place including:
- Dedicated policing team and reporting phone number
- Dedicated cleansing service
- Social and health support for sex workers
Safer Leeds is also looking to implement a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) in Holbeck to address anti-social behaviour, such as on street drinking, associated with the sex work problem. A PSPO would make it easier for Police to address these issues by giving them extra powers to intervene.
The moves are being made because there are significantly fewer women involved in on street sex work in the area now than there were when the Managed Approach was introduced in 2014. Asked if that reduction was not just a result of the pandemic, Paul Money from Safer Leeds said:
“The reduction in the women that we’ve seen has been a sustained reduction since 2017. We have to acknowledge that the pandemic and the lockdown restrictions have had an impact. There is a risk that we could see an increase (when restrictions are lifted) but our intelligence is not telling us that that will be a significant increase.”
On the issue of trafficked women he said that a lot of work had been carried out, some visible in Holbeck, but much behind the scenes.
“Whilst we have historically had issues of trafficked women working in the area, at this moment in time there isn’t intelligence to support that assertion.”
Chief Superintendent Damien Miller, the Leeds District Commander commented:
“The message to men is that they are not welcome within Holbeck if they are there for the purposes of kerb crawling.”
Councillor Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s executive member with responsibility for Safer Leeds, reiterated that the Council’s objectives had not changed:
- To reduce the problems caused by street prostitution to residents, and businesses which currently suffer from such nuisance.
- To better engage with street sex workers to improve their safety and health, with a view to enabling them to exit this way of life.
- To reduce the prevalence of street-based sex working.
In a statement, Cllr Coupar said:
“Having assessed our strategic and operational plan and taken into account intelligence and data, listened to feedback from our partners and taken into account recommendations from the Independent Review and Listening Well reports, we feel that we are now in a position to implement further changes to our approach to tackling on-street sex work in Holbeck. This reflects the current picture of on-street sex work in the area and will help ensure that we can continue to sustain the improvements that have been made whilst also remaining flexible to circumstances if or when they change.
“Included as part of the strategic and operational alterations is the decision to not reinstate the operating hours and rules that were in place through the now withdrawn Managed Approach concept before the introduction of restrictions to tackle coronavirus in March 2020. This reflects the lower number of sex workers that are now regularly operating in the area compared to previous years and also the reduced impact from on-street sex work on residents and the local community from what we have seen previously. This will be supported by an operational plan to prevent the sale or purchase of sex. All tools will be used as appropriate to tackle specifically those individuals coming into the area seeking to pay for sex.
“Providing meaningful support to the local community remains a key priority for us in terms of our on-going approach to tackling sex work in the area. I’d like to reassure residents that these changes will not result in any loss of bespoke services we have introduced. Also not changing is the package of critical and meaningful assistance and access to vital services we will be providing on a daily basis to sex workers, which has achieved some positive results. We remain committed to taking any steps that are necessary to tackle sex work wherever it may be in Leeds. Many of the lessons and strategic plans and strategies we put in place through the Managed Approach have provided us with a much needed base in which to move forward with confidence. Many aspects developed through the Managed Approach will be incorporated as part of our city-wide strategy moving forward.”
The plans will be discussed by Leeds City Council’s Executive Board next week and then by the Safer Leeds Board. If approved they will be implemented as soon as practicably possible.