4 July, 2016
By Tom Foot
Camden New Journal
A CLINIC that has helped sex workers for 28 years is moving to Fitzrovia following cuts to NHS funding.
The Central London Action on Sexual Health (CLASH), based in Warwick Street, Soho, was a unique service that offered advice, advocacy and took healthcare services and medication out on the streets.
Central North West London (CNWL) NHS Trust said it was moving the clinic into a building in Mortimer Street, Fitzrovia, where its work would “focus on Camden and Islington” cases.
Laura Watson, from the English Collective of Prostitutes, based in Kentish Town, said: “We have been in touch with the CLASH for many years and it is absurd to say they are going to be able to provide the same kind of service in the future when it moves out of Soho.
“They used to offer services like free condoms and had a holistic approach. They would help in things like highlighting the impact of criminalising the sex trade. They supported women if they ended up in court. But in the last few years the cuts had already had an impact on some of that work, they had ripped the heart of the service, even for practical things like free condoms.”
Last year, sex workers legally plying their trade in flats they were renting in Soho were raided by police. Police said the sex trade was linked to drugs and trafficking but a judge overturned the Met’s attempts to close many of the “walk-ups” in the courts.
The cuts to CNWL also threatened the future of the Margaret Pyke Centre women’s sexual health clinic, based in King’s Cross. That clinic is moving to Mortimer Market Centre, which is being refurbished during the next month.
CNWL said that outreach for sex workers would continue in the West End, but mainly provided by other organisations, and that a clinic for women sex workers would be open every Monday and Friday morning in Mortimer Street. CLASH used to run outreach in Piccadilly for male sex workers.
Chrissy Browne, from CNWL, said: “It is sad that we have left Soho, and I have many memories of our time there, but our former clients will still receive excellent services from our partners. It’s time to look forwards. We will focus our work locally within Camden and Islington, and deliver outreach to local sex workers, BME groups, homeless service users and men who have sex with men.”