Sex worker-led organisations and National Ugly Mugs have raised concerns following news that Sacro has been awarded more than £1 million to develop an app for sex workers in Scotland. National Ugly Mugs has released a statement raising concern that sex workers and sex worker-led organisations in Scotland, including SCOT-PEP and Umbrella Lane, were not consulted in the design of this project.
Last week it was announced that Sacro had been awarded £1,092,194 from the UK Government's "Tampon Tax" fund, in order to "reach out to women online, provide basic safety information and support and signpost them to specialist one-to-one support services". Sacro is a Scottish community justice organisation which provides services related to community justice, including housing the Another Way project, which provides outreach to sex workers. Sex worker-led organisations have since raised concerns that they were not consulted or involved in the development of this project, which risks creating a less meaningful service or duplicating existing services.
In today's statement, NUM calls on member organisations (which includes Sacro) to ensure sex workers are meaningfully included in any initiatives directed towards sex worker communities.
"NUM stands with sex workers in advocating for a new standard, where their leadership is a basic requirement, and is a non-negotiable element of effective service provision to their communities."
Dr. Raven Bowen, CEO of NUM, said: ‘Sex workers are capable of designing services and eliminating conditions that contribute to exploitation in their industries. We must use our resources as directed by sex workers. Sex workers use the organisations and the services that they trust. They are not service resistant, they resist their exclusion.’
Over the last year, NUM has established a new Research & Development team, led by sex workers, to evaluate and influence all of NUM's activities and services. The group will lead on community education and advocacy work towards NUM's goals. The statement says that going forwards, organisations and services wishing to be accredited by NUM will need to centralise the voices of sex workers. "We have made adjustments to centralise the voices of sex workers at NUM, and as we forge ahead with the R&D team, this will become an additional criteria for any services wishing to be accredited by NUM. This respects the expert position of sex workers, increases the efficiencies, reduces duplication, and supports a robust evaluation by users."