A report has been published which provides an insight into Cumbria’s sex markets and confirms they are far less extensive than in other areas in the country.
The study, undertaken during 2010/2011 by independent researchers found evidence of around 180 male and female sex workers operating in Cumbria on a regular basis.
But unlike some cities and towns which have a ‘red light’ district, Cumbria’s sex industry takes place mainly behind closed doors in hotels, people’s homes and other locations.
The report was compiled to provide a picture of the situation in Cumbria to help identify where local organisations can work together to improve existing support, and develop other services for those involved in the sex industry.
It explores the issues of survival sex work - where individuals exchange sex for accommodation, cigarettes, drugs and alcohol, food or other resources - and sexual exploitation.
Researchers found a strong relationship between survival sex and drug and alcohol use.The most common currency for female survival sex in Cumbria was heroin and money. Most males exchanged survival sex for money and accommodation.
As a result of the research findings, the adult and children’s safeguarding boards have agreed to build on the work they are already doing to ensure that staff in all agencies are able to identify those at risk of sexual exploitation at the earliest opportunity, intervene appropriately, provide support, disrupt and prosecute perpetrators.
Dr Rebecca Wagstaff, Cumbria’s Deputy Director of Public Health, spoke to ITV Border she explained that the low figures do not mean there's no problem in Cumbria, she also explained how everyone can play a part in helping people who are being exploited.
Assistant Chief Constable Michelle Skeer from Cumbria Constabulary explained to ITV Border that any allegations of sexual exploitation in the county will be robustly investigated she added: