Suffolk: County’s prostitution strategy could be a model for other areas, according to report

SUFFOLK’S strategy to tackle prostitution and sexual exploitation has succeeded in tackling crime while helping the vulnerable and could offer a model for other areas of the country, a new report has said.

The University of East Anglia conducted an in-depth study of the Suffolk Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation Strategy, looking at key areas including methods of helping people change their lives, preventing on-street prostitution and the strength of partnership working.

It found that the strategy has been successful in eliminating street prostitution and kerb crawlers in Ipswich, helping women make life changes to move on from prostitution and making effective inroads into preventing others from becoming involved in prostitution.

The strategy has also led to a reduction in the demand and costs on the criminal justice service.

The study is the second evaluation carried out by UEA, to cover the five years after the strategy was first created in 2007 following the murders of five women in Ipswich. Dr Fiona Poland, who led the UEA research team, said that the drive to cut on-street prostitution by targeting clients and not the sex workers themselves had worked particularly well.

“We found no evidence that the problem had moved on to the streets beyond Ipswich,” she said.

“The joined-up approach of all the agencies involved mean that they now have a clearer strategy to tackle off-street working, trafficking and to identify both young people at risk and their potential abusers.”

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The report found that the support given by the multi-agency Make A Change team to those caught up in prostitution had been crucial to the success of the strategy.

Their work with adults and young people county-wide, to prevent sexual exploitation and prostitution, made a real impact on their emotional and psychological well-being.

The study also found that those who had successfully managed to sustain routes out of prostitution had developed high-quality relationships with professionals and found meaningful occupation in their lives.

The regular communication about the strategy with communities around Ipswich made a real difference in local people feeling reassured and giving their support to the strategy.

However, Dr Poland said issues such as access to health services, particularly mental health, needed improvement for young, vulnerable adults. Also, for children and young people at risk, the most important learning point was early intervention.