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A scheme to support off-street sex workers who may be vulnerable to human trafficking or modern slavery is being launched across the county thanks to funding from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk.
The West Norfolk-based charity the Pandora Project – which works with women and children affected by domestic abuse – will be delivering the service over the next three years.
The newly named ‘Phoenix Project’ is one of two being funded under the Hidden Victims’ Fund which aims to support hidden victims of crime and reduce vulnerability.
The St Giles Trust has also won funding for an initiative to work with children and young people at risk of involvement in gang activity – namely those in danger of modern slavery, child sexual exploitation and criminal exploitation in connection with county lines.
Tracy Mahoney, who founded Pandora in 2013, said: “We are thrilled with the funding we have received from Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner’s Hidden Victims’ Fund. This amazing opportunity will enable us to continue expanding our services, offering support to vulnerable women.
“Phoenix will be offering a specialist support and advocacy service to female indoor sex workers across Norfolk. We will provide advocacy, offer support and advice around safety, whilst also looking at emotional care and practical needs. We will also work closely with Norfolk Police to identify and support women who are victims of trafficking.
“Support from Phoenix will empower women, providing the tools for them to remain in control of their lives. Safety is paramount, and we will work to increase the safety of this very vulnerable client group.
“We believe that every woman has the right to be safe and free from abuse.”
Pandora will receive £214,687 from the fund which will include the funding of support workers covering areas including Norwich, Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn.
Off-Street sex working often means women are more isolated – particularly in rural parts of the county – unknown to services, and therefore more vulnerable to exploitation. The scheme hopes to provide one to one support for female sex workers who are currently, or likely to be victims of trafficking – up to 80 clients a year.
The Phoenix Project will also provide peer to peer support.
The St Giles Trust will receive £89,028 under the Hidden Victims’ Fund and a further £87,737 under the Home Office’s Early Intervention Youth Fund to run its SOS+ Norfolk Project to help young people at risk of criminal exploitation – over the same time period.
Headed by a lead facilitator, a team of volunteer peer advisers will provide 120 preventative sessions to around 8,600 schoolchildren across Norfolk – offering intensive one to one support for those deemed at high risk.
Awareness raising sessions will also be delivered to around 7,700 parents and 2,130 teachers in the county.
Nicky Park, Senior Manager at St Giles Trust, said: “We are very much looking forward to working with young people in Norfolk to help them make informed choices around issues such as drugs, weapons carrying and county lines.
“St Giles Trust’s SOS+ project uses trained individuals with first-hand experience of having been involved in these or similar issues.
“They are highly credible and can offer young people the tools and resilience they need to stay safe. We are very grateful to Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner for funding this work.”
Launching the £450k Hidden Victims’ Fund last summer, Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner Lorne Green, said: “Supporting victims and reducing vulnerability in Norfolk is a main priority for me as PCC and is also a core aim of my Police and Crime Plan.
“This major fund aims to help prevent some of those ‘hidden’ crimes which are traditionally under-reported and, crucially, to support those who are victims of such crimes.
“Crimes such as modern slavery, stalking and harassment and hate crime for example, are often under-reported and we need to do more to support and encourage victims to come forward. This is a significant investment, but one which I believe is hugely important for Norfolk and I am proud to be able to make such a commitment.”
A total of £303,715 has been allocated to Pandora and St Giles Trust under the fund with other potential projects in the pipe-line.
Lorne added: “My office is delighted to be working with both Pandora and St Giles Trust in delivering such vital projects for the county – together we can work to make a real difference.”
Norfolk Constabulary’s Assistant Chief Constable Nick Davison, added: “The PCC’s Hidden Victim Fund is most welcome and these projects will be invaluable in helping to support some of the most vulnerable adults and children in our communities.”