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Empowering Women, Changing Lives
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History:
MASH (Manchester Action on Street Health) is a registered charity that has been in operation since 1991. Back then the service was a small van that provided condoms and clean injecting equipment with a focus on HIV awareness. Since then we have grown into a holistic service that enables women to access help to make long-term changes.
The need:
In Greater Manchester we have very strong economic drivers leading women into the industry and a high demand from “punters”. The two main beat areas for street prostitution in the city, are in the area surrounding the MASH Centre on Fairfield Street and in Cheetham Hill to the north of the city centre. Both are non-residential areas and to an extent this is as a result of conscious work by the police and local authority to manage and contain sex working.
Legality:
Buying sex and selling sex are both legal in the UK. A number of related activities, including soliciting in a public place, kerb crawling, owning or managing a brothel and pimping are illegal.
The women we support:
We refer to the women as ‘involved in sex work’ or as ‘sex workers’.
A majority of the women we support sell sex on the streets, or in massage parlours, and for many of them leaving sex work feels impossible. Complex issues related to poverty and deprivation leads them to feel they have no other options.
Aims:
MASH’s aim is to: ‘Work with female sex workers to promote sexual health, well-being and personal safety whilst offering choice, support and empowerment to promote individual positive life changes’.
MASH Services:
Some of the women worry about being judged or are unable to attend appointment based services due to their chaotic lifestyles. MASH breaks down the women’s barriers to accessing support by providing a service that is flexible and non-judgemental.
The emphasis is on self-help. MASH offers the information, access to appropriate health services, practical advice and one-to one support to empower women to make changes themselves.

Services include:
• Sauna Outreach – teams visit saunas across Manchester and Bury offering on the spot sexual health advice and testing, condoms and general advice.
• Street Outreach – MASH Staff and volunteers take the MASH Van out onto the streets of Manchester City Centre and Cheetham Hill. They go out 3 times a week, late at night, reaching the women who work on the streets. They offer free condoms, use of a needle exchange, refreshments and access into emergency accommodation.
• Drop-In Centre – Is situated in ‘the beat’, the area where women work on the streets. At the MASH Drop-In Centre we bring local agencies together, combining their services with our own expertise, to offer a ‘one-stop-shop’ dealing with physical and sexual health, housing, offending, meaningful use of time, drug and alcohol use, community, emotional health, money and family relationships.
• Case Work – case workers work 1-on-1 with the women, and have various specialisms including sexual abuse, homelessness, domestic violence, substance misuse and criminal justice issues.
• Sexual health Nurse – offers sexual health services at the Drop-In and proactively visits women working in saunas.
MASH’s professional staff team ofnine (many of whom are part-time) are supported by 65 well trained and dedicated volunteers who deliver many of the services alongside staff
The women:
MASH support women who sex work on the streets, in saunas and as escorts.
In 2015 – 16 MASH supported 884 women including:
• 350 women who came to the Drop-In Centre
• 250 women whoaccessed the Outreach Van (this does not mean there are this many women working on the streets of Manchester at any one time. We saw these women over the course of 12 months).
These figures cover a range of interactions from one-off contacts to intensive case work support.
The number of women was similar to the previous year. Over the last couple of years we have seen a 21% increase in the number of women accessing the MASH Drop-In.
We have found that the recession has had a significant impact recently. We have seen women, under huge financial pressure, starting to sex work for the first time, and also women who had previously exited sex work making a return.

 

Contact:
Helen Clayton Fundraising and Marketing Officer
helenc@mash.org.uk
0161 273 4555
We can work with the media on stories that raise the profile of the work of MASH, influence a more positive view in society of our clients or influence policy and practice in other agencies working with our client group.
We can request quotes from women, and from staff. We request that quotes from service users are kept anonymous.

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