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Women involved in prostitution

The challenge of change: Improving services for women involved in prostitution and substance use

A joint project between DrugScope and AVA (Against Violence and Abuse), funded by the Pilgrim Trust, the Challenge of Change research study has focused on policy and practice to address the drug and alcohol treatment needs of women involved in street-based prostitution.

While a number of research studies and policy papers have highlighted the relationship between involvement in street-based prostitution and substance misuse, and the barriers that can prevent women involved in prostitution from accessing services to change their lives and achieve recovery, there has been little research that has documented in detail the problems faced by this particular group of women, the extent and nature of current service provision and the adequacy of coverage.

Through a wide-ranging study – including an evidence review, interviews with women with a history of substance use problems and prostitution, an online survey of services and observational site visits – the Challenge of Change project has sought to fill this gap and provide a platform for the further development of services to meet the needs of this particularly marginalised group, who may fall into the gaps between services.

The Challenge of Change: Improving services for women involved in prostitution and substance use makes strategic and policy recommendations to improve interventions and outcomes for these women, as well as good practice recommendations for services. Key recommendations include:

  • Consideration of the specialist needs of this group when planning national strategies and local services, to prevent these women falling through the net, and to encourage them into services
  • More flexibility and awareness on the part of some drug and alcohol services in terms of opening hours, childcare arrangements, appropriate keyworkers and access to domestic and sexual violence support
  • More tailored recovery pathways for women who want to move out of prostitution, including support around housing and employment

DrugScope resources

The Challenge of Change: Improving services for women involved in prostitution and substance use (2013) (PDF)

The Challenge of Change: Press release

The Challenge of Change: Full research report (2013)(PDF)

Women involved in prostitution and problem substance use: Rapid Evidence Assessment (University of Greenwich) (PDF)