Safer Leeds has changed the Managed Approach to street prostitution in Holbeck in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Sex workers and men seeking sex are advised that the Government’s advice on social distancing applies to them and that soliciting in the Managed Approach area, or the surrounding residential area, will not be tolerated. Safer Leeds stress that these measures have been introduced solely due to the Coronavirus situation and are not a permanent change.
The Managed Approach is currently under review with a report commissioned from the University of Huddersfield due to be published in the summer.
Councillor Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s executive member with responsibility for Safer Leeds, said:
“The updated measures outlined by government were unequivocal in terms of the steps that everybody needs to take to tackle the spread of coronavirus. From a Managed Approach standpoint, we will be utilising every power at our disposal to make sure that these measures are properly adhered to with regarding to street based sex work. Just as importantly, we will also be ensuring that the variety of meaningful support which has been put in place through the initiative to protect the health and welfare of all sex workers continues.
“The coronavirus presents a very real and potentially life threatening health risk, and we welcome that a very high number of sex workers have listened very closely to the guidance, and also advice provided by partners within our partnership and refrained from on-street sex working. A very small number of sex workers now remain and are operating in the area covered by the Managed Approach. Working with partners, we will through direct engagement and if necessary enforcement, use every legal power at our disposal to stop anyone wishing to sell or buy sex. Teams will also be in operation in residential areas to ensure that sex work does not have a detrimental impact on local residents and businesses in so far as we can.
“Further announcements regarding any subsequent strategic or operational changes to the Managed Approach will be made as appropriate and guided by government guidance regarding coronavirus.”
The full statement from Safer Leeds is reproduced below:
Alterations to strategic and operational administration of Managed Approach in response to COVID 19
On Monday 23 March 2020, the Prime Minister announced that new restrictions would now be place on public gatherings and movement in the UK to tackle the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19). These would principally focus on ensuring safe social distancing is maintained between people in order to reduce the risk of infection.
It is clear that allowing women to solicit for sex at a certain time in a public place is contrary to national health and scientific guidance associated with Covid-19, and as such the delivery and strategic and operational administration of the Managed Approach must change immediately.
In response, the Safer Leeds partnership (Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Police) having fully assessed the impact of these restrictions, has temporarily changed the delivery and strategic and operational administration of the Managed Approach immediately to meet this new guidance. The key objectives of the Managed Approach will remain in terms of the support mechanisms in place to protect the health and welfare of all sex workers, whilst also reducing any adverse impact of sex work on residents living in local communities as much as possible. These changes fully reflect guidance from government regarding the coronavirus, and will only be changed when any alterations to the restrictions in place are announced and we are satisfied the health and wellbeing of sex workers could in no way be negatively impacted from Covid-19. To be clear, these temporary changes have been implemented to tackle the spread of coronavirus and not because of any other unrelated issues relating to the management of the Managed Approach.
Q: What changes to the operational delivery have been made to the Managed Approach?
The following changes to the operational delivery have been implemented in the area covered by the Managed Approach to meet the challenges presented by coronavirus. This strategy will be made up primarily of engagement, but if necessary, an enforcement approach will be undertaken to seek to ensure that sex work does not take place and the health and safety of all is protected.
- Sex workers and men seeking sexual services will be engaged with a view to preventing such activity taking place. Support will be provided by third sector agencies and charities to communicate this message to sex workers and to emphasise the importance of not working at this time. Support to leave the area and go home will be provided. Pathways to access services including accommodation will continue to be offered and provided.
- No soliciting offences will be allowed to take place at any time in the area. If any soliciting is identified then positive action will be taken using legal powers at the disposal of the police. In doing so we will be following government guidance on coronavirus and utilising, where appropriate, emergency powers granted to maintain temporary restrictions, in a proportionate manner, to address this.
- The Managed Approach police team and partners will continue to be in operation every night to manage the changes. As part of their work, proactive patrols will be undertaken to try to prevent sex work moving into residential areas. This will be supported by Safer Leeds uniformed security patrols during the evening. Existing CCTV will also continue to be in operation.
- Recognising the above, all powers will be used to prevent the sale or purchase of sex in the area.
Q: Will you be stopping or reducing the support services available to sex workers now that no sex work can take place in the area covered by the Managed Approach?
Absolutely not. One of the key objectives of the Managed Approach is providing meaningful support to sex workers to tackle a range of complex issues, including addiction and this will remain. We are continuing to work closely with many different council services, charities and support agencies to provide a wealth of support. This includes a lot of work being undertaken to meet any specific challenges that may exist due to the coronavirus. These types of support will be coordinated and if necessary measures will be put in place to stop sex workers from operating at this time.
Q: Will services that were implemented as part of the Managed Approach be withdrawn or reduced from communities as part of changes to the operational delivery?
Current intelligence has seen significantly less sex work activity in the area. Calls for service and associated crime has reduced along with sex-related litter picked up by Leeds City Council’s cleansing team. Safer Leeds will continue to assess deployment of services in the community on a day-to-day basis and any changes will reflect the current situation. The coronavirus is continuing to have an impact on all council services and partners, and changes may have to be made to reflect this.
As highlighted, the police team’s deployment and patrol will be informed by current intelligence and will include relevant areas associated with the Managed Approach, ensuring that any displacement of on street sex work into residential streets is prevented. The dedicated police team will be supported by Safer Leeds uniformed security patrols.
The dedicated mobile contact number to the Managed Approach police team will continue to be staffed from 7am-11pm each day and all calls will be responded to appropriately.
We are also currently communicating changes to the Managed Approach to residents, businesses and all relevant stakeholders.
Q: When will the previous operational management of the Managed Approach resume?
We will continue to monitor closely the guidance from the Government in terms of the coronavirus. Any changes from the updated approach will be reflective of this guidance. Given the on-going challenges of the public health crisis, it is impossible to give a date when the operational delivery of the Managed Approach will be subject to further review.
Q: Has the Coronavirus impacted on the timescale of the planned Independent Review of the Managed Approach?
As of this moment, the researchers undertaking the Independent Review report that the current timescales have not been extended, and the report is expected early summer. These timescales may however, be subject to change due to the range of challenges created through the coronavirus.