Universal credit in the UK: single mums are forced to escort jobs and other erotic jobs
Alison, a 28 year old single mom from Scotland says she 'was forced into' escort jobs as a last resort after being left short of money by universal credit. Her story is becoming familiar to the group of MPs looking into "survival sex" - women being forced into sex work as a result of the changes to benefits.
I would drop my son off on a Friday and start to get goosebumps thinking, 'I know what I've got to go and do tonight - says Alison. Being short on money is a horrible feeling, but at the end of the day you do what you have to in order to feed your child.
Universal credit helps with living costs, replacing six benefits including housing benefit and child tax credit. But since its introduction in 2013, it's been accused of making things harder for people receiving it in the United Kingdom. Alison had her son - who is disabled - when she was 18 years old and has relied on the benefit system to support them both, but today she has to work as an escort girl to pay the bills and eat.
Escorting is a hard job and you need to be strong if you want the money
She says making money to support herself and her son was always the priority and she choose escorting because of the high incomes, but admits the experiences have left her traumatised. Being an independent escort girl and not working through an escort agency makes things even more dangerous for her, especially that her relatives all live in Ireland, so nobody would notice if something happened to her and she wouldn't go home one night.
I always have lots of showers. Once there was this guy, I could smell him on me afterwards - a big, disgusting man. He said he deliberately didn't wash for a week because he wanted to be near a woman that's clean. It's disgusting.
Alison says having a disabled son to care for makes it harder for her to find a job that fits her schedule and so that is why adult jobs were the only option for her. The government needs to get a system in where they can put enough money in people's banks. They really need to understand we're not like them - we haven't got loads of money and they force us into erotic work - says Allison.
Universal credit problem debated in the Parliament
Mrs Allen and Frank Field have been "humbled" by what people have shared with them around the UK. Both will be making recommendations to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd. 'What changed my mind was hearing the testimony of some of the women in front of the committee," says MP Will Quince, a minister for family support at the Department of Work and Pensions.
His job isn't safe either but he says that won't stop him from raising awareness.
"Don't underestimate our determination - even if I'm on the back benches we will continue to be a champion on this and other issues because we feel strongly about it." Alison has not given evidence to the inquiry over fears of social services being alerted - which the commission has reassured won't happen. However, she says she's stopped doing adult work due to being in a loving relationship. She says she is still on universal credit, but her partner helps her with everything, looking after her and her disabled son. When asked if she would ever return to working as escort, she agrees, saying that she would have no choice is her boyfriend left her.
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