UK lawmakers to probe welfare cuts link to 'survival sex'

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

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LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — A watchdog group of British MPs said yesterday it has launched a probe into whether Government changes to welfare have led struggling claimants to turn to prostitution — dubbed “survival sex”.

The Work and Pensions Committee said it would investigate reports from charities that rising numbers of mainly women have got involved in “survival sex as a direct result of welfare policy changes”.

The inquiry follows UN poverty and human rights rapporteur Philip Alston describing people “who have sold sex for money or shelter” in his report last year on extreme poverty in Britain.

Alston, the United Nations envoy who conducted a 12-day fact-finding mission to the country, accused the Government in his report of being in a “state of denial” about the impact of its programme of austerity.

“We have heard sufficient evidence, and are sufficiently worried, to launch this inquiry... to establish what lies behind the shocking reports of people being forced to exchange sex to meet survival needs,” said Frank Field MP, the committee's chair.

Support organisations have distinguished so-called “survival sex” as women regularly offering sex for money but also for somewhere to sleep, alcohol, drugs, food or tobacco.

The new probe is part of a broader two-year inquiry by the House of Commons watchdog into Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) restructuring of welfare payments.

The reformed scheme, known as Universal Credit, is intended to encourage people to work but is deeply unpopular and its full implementation has been repeatedly delayed amid ongoing tweaks.

The committee began its latest probe with an appeal for people impacted to contact it by April 29.

“This is an investigation, and we do not yet know what we will uncover,” Field added.

“But if the evidence points to a direct link between this kind of survival sex and the administrative failures of Universal Credit, ministers cannot fail to act.”

A DWP spokesperson defended the reforms, arguing claimants receive an advance “on day one, meaning people are paid 13 times in a 12-month cycle”.

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