Prostitutes Amsterdam
Sex workers and supporters demonstrate on 9 April 9 against the closure of window brothels by the municipality in the Amsterdam's Red Light District.Getty

Barclays Bank has teamed up with the Terrence Higgins Trust to sponsor a scheme that will help 35 London-based sex workers retrain for different jobs.

The Sex Workers and New Ambitions Project (Snap), which is run by THT, offers "support and training to achieve your employment goals alongside or outside of sex working".

Successful applicants will get one-to-one mentoring, professional skills coaching, support with work experience and volunteering and CV and job application training.

Funding for the project has been provided by Barclays, and the scheme's model is based on the Terrence Higgins Trust's Work Positive programme, which helps people living with HIV who are long-term unemployed find ways of getting back into work.

It will be run by the Trust's Swish (Sex Workers into Sexual Health) project, which has two sexual health clinics in London that specifically cater for the needs of sex workers.

Non-judgemental support

Dr Rosemary Gillespie, the trust's chief executive, said the scheme was designed to offer non-judgemental support to sex workers looking to begin a new career path, rather than "save" sex workers.

"Our entire philosophy at Terrence Higgins Trust is that we are non-judgemental about sex work," she said. "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."

There have been mixed reactions to the scheme, with some concerned that the issue of decriminalisation was not being addressed.

The English Collective of Prostitutes, which campaigns for the abolition of prostitution laws and economic alternatives for sex workers, told Gay Star News that were unsure that the scheme provided answers to the problems that many sex workers face.

"As LGBTQ sex workers, we need money to live on. Are THT and their Barclays sponsors offering bankers-style bonuses or zero-hour contracts?" a spokesperson said.

"Many of us are mothers supporting families. If we want to leave prostitution, jobs are few, wages too low, or we are blocked from them by our 'criminal record' or our immigration status.

"If THT wants to support sex workers, they can back our call for decriminalisation so we can work more safely, and back our demand for a living wage for all workers, including mothers and other carers."