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.”