General News

Barclays fund innovative ‘SNAP’ sex worker project at THT

Graham Robson May 28, 2015

HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), in collaboration with Barclays, has launched a ground-breaking skills and employment training programme to help sex workers transition into alternative employment.

Dr Rosemary Gillespie
Dr Rosemary Gillespie

THIS comes as London’s oldest sex worker support service SWISH, celebrates its 30th anniversary.

The Sex Workers and New Ambitions Project (SNAP) is offering 35 sex workers in London the opportunity to join a free professional training programme and subsequent work experience. The project offers one-to-one mentoring, professional coaching, support into volunteering or work experience, training on CV writing, looking for a job, financial management, and life skills development.

Dr Rosemary Gillespie, Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “This month we are celebrating 30 years of SWISH and SNAP is the perfect way to mark the anniversary. Our entire philosophy at Terrence Higgins Trust is that we are non-judgemental about sex work. People engage in sex work for a whole variety of different reasons and it is vital we continue to provide services that reflect the different needs of our clients. SNAP is a perfect example of this. For clients who are looking to begin a new career path, our programme can help them achieve their goals and we are absolutely delighted to have the generous support of Barclays.”

Funding for the project has been provided by Barclays as part of their 5 Million Young Futures commitment and the model is based on THT’s successful Work Positive programme, which helps people living with HIV who are long-term unemployed find ways of getting back into work.

Founded 30 years ago this month and run by Terrence Higgins Trust since 2004, SWISH is London’s oldest sex worker support service.

Originally established as SW5 (formally Streetwise Youth) in 1985 by Richie McMullen and Father Bill Kirkpatrick, the aim was to provide support, advice and care to young men selling or exchanging sex. This was initially through provision of a Drop-In service in a flat of one of the founders. The service first developed in London’s Earl’s Court as there was a large visible group of often homeless young men selling sex in and around this area.

Today, SWISH has expanded to meet the ever-changing environment of sex work. Fewer of its clients identify as homeless and male workers are far less visible selling or exchanging sex on the streets. Business is conducted more through mobile phone and online contact, via cafes, bars, adverts in the press and through internet escorting sites.

SWISH runs clinics in Earls Court, Soho and also in Coventry. Services still meet the needs of individuals that may have had less choice or have been coerced into selling and exchanging sex, but SWISH also attracts male and transgender sex workers who had made more choices to become involved in selling or exchanging sex.

Twenty per cent of clients who use SWISH in London are transgender.