East London Project: A New Research Project into Sex Work

The East London Project is a new participatory research project which intends to see how removing police enforcement against sex work could affect sex workers’ safety, health, and access to services in East London. We will use the results to advocate for evidence-based policy and practices which protect the safety, health, and rights of sex workers in the UK and internationally. We’re a multidisciplinary team of health and social scientists, sex worker rights activists and practitioners, based at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), University of York, University of Bristol, Imperial College London, and Homerton University Hospital. Our key partners are Open Doors and National Ugly Mugs, and some of our co-researchers are SWARM members. The project is led by Dr Lucy Platt and co-led by Pippa Grenfell.

The project involves carrying out neighbourhood walks and interviews, and a two-part survey, with sex workers working in Hackney, Newham, and Tower Hamlets. We are also interviewing other adults who work in the sex industry (e.g. maids, receptionists, security) and people who work with or make decisions that affect sex workers locally. We will use these results, together with routine data on the total number of arrests of sex workers and clients in the boroughs, to develop a computer model – designed to resemble the “real-world” using mathematical equations - to predict how removing enforcement could affect sex workers’ health, safety, and access to services over time.

Since August we’ve been accompanying Open Doors on outreach, attending clinics and drop-ins, and getting in touch with people online, which have been great ways to meet people working in the boroughs. We are still interviewing people working in the boroughs, so if you’re interested in knowing more or possibly in taking part, please do get in touch using the information below.

We’ll soon be reaching out online, by phone and on the street to invite people to participate in the two-part survey. For the survey we will be inviting people to complete a questionnaire and we will offer testing for Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, and HIV. We will also provide information about local services, and each participant will receive £20 cash to thank them for their time.  

We also plan to hold events to present our findings to the community, and encourage people to keep in contact via Twitter, Facebook, and our website where we will publish progress updates and news about our events. Our website also provides information about other services operating in East London and nationally that can provide advice on a range of topics including housing, law, sexual and reproductive health, benefits, and immigration.

To find out more about the project and keep up-to-date with our progress check out our website: blogs.lshtm.ac.uk/eastlondonproject.

If you’d like to find out more, or are interested in taking part, you can get in touch by email on elp@lshtm.ac.uk, or contact Pippa on 07948 906026. You can also tweet us @EastLdnProject and like our Facebook page @EastLdnProject.