Desperate British students “turning to prostitution”

LONDON, (Reuters) – Desperate British students,  faced with rising costs on the back of government austerity  measures, are turning to prostitution, gambling and other  dangerous pursuits to fund their studies, support workers and  student leaders said today.
The English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP), a welfare body  for sex workers, said it estimated the number of people  approaching it for help had doubled in the last year as students  struggled to make ends meet.
“(The government) know the cuts and the austerity programmes  and the removing of grants, they know when they remove those  resources they know it drives women further into poverty,” Sarah  Walker from the ECP told Reuters.
“The way that women survive poverty is often through sex  work. The government knows that and they don’t seem to care  frankly.”
Young people have been the hardest hit by economic slowdown  with youth unemployment now accounting for 1.03 million of the  2.64 unemployed, the highest level since 1992.
Last year, the government said it would scrap the  Educational Maintenance Allowance, a grant to older teenage  schoolchildren to help them stay in education, and allow  university tuition fees to treble to up to 9,000 pounds  ($14,000) a year from 2012.
With part-time jobs scarce and the cost of living being  squeezed with rising prices, the National Union of Students  (NUS) said young people were taking desperate and dangerous  measures to pay for their education.

“In some cases that’s sex work, but we’re also hearing about  clinical trials, gambling … dangerous work where there’s very  little, if any kind of employment rights,” said Estelle Hart,  the NUS’s national women’s officer.
“You often hear it’s very easy to get a bar job. Well it’s  not easy to get a bar job in this economic climate, it’s not  easy to get any job.”
A study by researchers at a London university published last  year found 16 percent of students were willing to engage in sex  work to pay for their education and 11 percent would work for  escort agencies.
Hart said a recent study by Leeds University in northern  England revealed 25 percent of strippers and lap dancers were  students. She said the government had a duty to investigate what  effect its changes and cuts to education budgets were having.
The prostitutes collective said women of all ages were  affected and they were working in brothels, as strippers, in lap  dancing clubs, and on sex phone lines.
“It’s right across the sex industry. With sex work, you can  work for maybe one evening a week and make enough money to cover  all your expenses,” Walker said.
“It’s younger students who are just starting out in  university and also women who are going back trying to get a  degree or increase their skills.”
She said the scrapping of the EMA allowance had badly hit  some mothers.
“When that money is cut, it’s the mother who often has to  make up for it,” she said. “That is something that is driving  women into sex work.”

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