How the managed approach to prostitution affects children in Leeds

How the managed approach to prostitution affects children in Leeds

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All parents are cautious when it comes to the welfare of their children.  However, the parents of Holbeck and Beeston in Leeds have a very different level of awareness of the risks.
Here in Leeds, just going to the park or local play area needs to be carefully supervised due to the discarded needles, condoms and sex industry litter.

Prostituted women can be seen stepping into the road to try and flag down motorists and even having sex in the local phone box.  All of this during the day when children are watching.

Read the words of some local parents below as we look at how prostitution affects children in Leeds…

“I don’t let my oldest (11 years old) play out. He’s a sweet, sensible lad, but I wouldn’t want to risk him accidentally touching a used needle or condom. I also don’t want him to witness seeing a prostitute looking for business, or one staggering around either drunk or high on drugs. These kind of situations are always a risk, if I’m there or not, however if I am there, I know how to deal with these situations, an 11 year old would not, and should not know how to deal with this. So everywhere he goes, I’m always there with him, and I’m genuinely afraid of not being there.

When I visit family in different parts of leeds, I feel much more comfortable letting him be outside, playing with friends etc. But in this part of leeds, he sadly is missing out on this part of childhood.
We used to walk to school, but unfortunately witnessed countless girls being picked up and dropped off, so we now drive to school every day, simply because I don’t think children should have to witness this kind of thing in their day to day lives.”

“I have had to explain to two 6 year olds about prostitutes. How does one explain to their primary school aged children about these women selling their bodies? We also can’t use the park because of all the needles and other paraphernalia strewn about.

We have no other option but to walk and I am constantly on my guard. They’ve also witnessed people openly taking drugs on the benches while walking home from school. This is not a life that any child should have to face.”

“We are constantly seeing condoms, wrappers and some needles whilst out and about and I don’t let him run around as much unless I have checked the surrounding area! He is 4, he should be able to run where he wants and not worry about coming across things like this.  Also we see prostitutes around his school at various times of the day and around the local area, he’s now noticing them more and asks why they don’t have clothes on or why they are trying to stop cars!”

“I appreciate that my experiences are nowhere near the same magnitude as the local residents but my experiences just show how it affects the wider areas also. I’m in Beeston but I travel with my kids through Holbeck on a near daily basis. I have to tell my girls we cannot visit the park they are so desperate to play on… that the women trying to flag my car down don’t need help… that the women are dressed the way they are because they are going to a party. I am constantly lying to them to protect their innocence and being the “bad guy” for saying that they can’t play on the park. I hate it and mine are minors I really don’t know how residents cope with it all so close to home.”

“My granddaughter was approached at 3:15pm in the afternoon in her school uniform by a punter looking for sex.”

“My daughter doesnt play out. She has been called names and even had a death threat. ( the police were informed) I’m scared to walk my dog as I have had the pimps have a go at me coz im putting customers off.  I have had to explain to my daughter about things she shouldnt know about. Im quite lucky now as I dont get that much. However the school she attends has had to put a mesh fence up as they were finding needles and human waste and condoms on the school field. She has to walk under the fly over and there is always all sorts about. I dont go to the park anymore. Why would you? Its awful. I dont use any local shops, I would rather drive somewhere else or go without as I dont want to be anywhere near that side of the park. Its gutting to see what’s happened over the years to Holbeck.”

“My daughter was followed home from school by a man making rude comments and trying to touch her. She is now 18 and has been approached after going to the cash machine at Kasa and asked for money by one of the women. She may be 18 and now works part time but I no longer want her to walk home after work and we now pay for taxis.”

“A group of children playing out after school saw a couple having sex in the phone box!”

“I won’t use the park with my 2 children.  I worry setting off at 7.30 on a morning walking the streets with my 2 kids.  We see girls with practically nothing on drinking strong lager and flagging cars down while we’re stood waiting for a bus on a school morning. I use the bus stop that has most CCTV surrounding it as I don’t feel safe stood at others. We see condoms, packets of lube & needles on a daily basis.  I don’t even let my 8 year old play in my fenced garden because of the vulgar behaviour by some of the girls out side my local shop. I actually hate living in holbeck and when summer comes around I think it gets worse. Men scouting the area looking for working girls… I won’t wear my shorts or a skirt in fear I’ll be mistaken for a working girl!”

“My 16 year old son just told me that today whilst walking home from school, he was asked if he wanted business by a prostitute outside the kings arms. Because he said no thanks she decided take the piss out of him and tell him she’s “shagged his grandad”

“My son sees things he shouldn’t & just thinks they’re normal now”

Prostitution affects children in Leeds.  Do you feel this is acceptable?  Add your own experiences of living near the “managed approach for prostitution” in the comments section below…

Laura Walton on local issues and why she’s standing for election as councillor for Beeston Holbeck ward

Laura Walton on local issues and why she’s standing for election as councillor for Beeston Holbeck ward

What brought you to Holbeck?

I was born & grew up in Beeston. I attended Matthew Murray school then moved to Holbeck aged 19 when I wanted to spread my wings and get a place of my own! I didn’t move far really! My parents still live locally and it’s great to have so many friends and family in the area.

What do you love about Holbeck?

The people! I’ve lived here 20 years now and have met so many wonderful people. I worked at Ingram Road primary school for 11 years as a teaching assistant and loved it. Made a lot of life long friends. Holbeck is an amazing community. When my daughter was young everyone knew each other, we used to pop into each others homes on the street for a cuppa while the kids played.

The change from being a teaching assistant to owning your own shop seems quite a leap. How did that happen?

I had a fall at home one day and hurt my back. It was a long and painful recovery. I eventually had to find a new occupation as I couldn’t manage working at the school any more. I got bored at home and started selling things on ebay to fill my time which turned into quite a hobby. Late in 2016 I walked past and saw the shop was empty… in that moment my eyes lit up! I jumped at the chance to run it and contacted the landlord straight away. “New to You” opened in January 2017.

It’s become more than a shop though, it’s also a community hub where people come for support, help and even just a chat. It’s great to be able to offer help and support to my community.

I’ve heard rumours about you being a crazy dog lady?!

I confess, it’s true! It’s not just my three gorgeous dogs though! I’ve also got a cat, a rabbit and some fish. My own mini petting zoo!

The next big step for you is standing as a candidate in the May 2018 council elections. What prompted you to do that?

Being a Leeds City Councillor is about local people representing their own communities. I’ve spent my life here in the Beeston & Holbeck ward. I want residents to have a voice – I want to make sure we are heard and our wishes are taken into account.

I’m concerned that some of the things that have happened here are not in our best interests. I want to play my part in making sure that whatever is added to this area or taken away from it is good for the community. I have no previous political experience, I just want to be someone residents can trust to look after their interests.

Possibly the most controversial thing that’s been added here is the “managed approach for prostitution.” What are your thoughts on that?

I believe the zone shouldn’t be here. We need to put something in place and work with other agencies to prevent street prostitution affecting our lives to this extent. It’s not just the residents who suffer, the women who are being used don’t seem to have any quality of life. We’d all be better off if we could end street prostitution across the area. It’s the shameful exploitation of women in our community. A national disgrace. It’s not just the women though – kerb crawlers and drug dealers need removing too.

What other issues particularly concern you?

We need to make sure residents are not inconvenienced by excessive noise and dirt from construction projects. For example, the building work on the IcePak site must be monitored to avoid too much disruption for residents.

With the redevelopment of Leeds South Bank we have a lot of construction to live through over the next 10 years. At the same time, we need to work together to ensure the wider community benefits from the huge investment that is coming. The most important thing for the next 2 weeks is to support the Neighbourhood Plan vote on Thursday 1st March. Our Holbeck Neighbourhood Forum will be well funded compared to many others. By voting “yes” on 1st March we can put 25% of the “community infrastructure levy” the developers pay the council right into the hands of our community. We can have a say in how it’s spent!

In Beeston, one of the main issues is the park & ride scheme. Pollution levels & congestion must be monitored.

Litter is a problem in Holbeck. There are not enough bins. We need urgent action to eliminate sex industry litter. Some streets are lined with hazardous waste like used condoms and drug addicts syringes & needles.

Cottingley residents have issues including no parks for children, poor bus service and local amenities . These things are taken for granted by residents in other parts of Leeds and should be available here too.

What’s your vision for the future? For you personally and for the area?

I’d like be able to run the shop as a successful business to support my family. My daughter is now 18, she’s at college in Leeds. She aims to study criminal psychology at university so it’s an exciting time for us as a family.

For Holbeck, I want to bring back some of the old community spirit and make it a better place to live. A safe, family area again. Make it an area where people are proud to live… I can’t be the only person who gets funny looks when they say they live in Holbeck now. The reputation of this area has been destroyed. I want to be part of the solution. Holbeck & Beeston have so much potential. I’m looking forward to the South Bank regeneration, hopefully that will play a big part in turning around the problems we face at the moment. One day when I say “I live in Holbeck” I want people to reply “Oh it’s lovely there!”

One day when I say “I live in Holbeck” I want people to reply “Oh it’s lovely there!”

Laura Walton will stand for election as a “Save Our Beeston & Holbeck” independent candidate on 3rd May. This year, due to boundary changes in Leeds, each voter will have 3 votes and all 3 local council seats will be contested.

Follow Laura on Facebook here

Interview by Paula at Save Our Eyes.