Sex workers are incredibly skilled and talented; however, many face challenges due to the economy, financial insecurity, criminalisation, and discrimination. Therefore, it is vital that sex workers have the freedom to explore career options in safety and without judgement, along with the resources and support needed to aspire for work both within and outside of the sex industry.
That is why Vivastreet has partnered with National Ugly Mugs (NUM) to bring vocational support and mental health and well-being resources to Vivastreet customers.
What is National Ugly Mugs (NUM) membership?
We are fast-tracking membership to NUM for Vivastreet Customers using your Vivastreet User ID. Individual NUM membership is free. Once you are a registered member of NUM, you will be able to access features including the NUM checker tools, safety information, reporting and alerting system and direct access to the Case Work Team. These resources can help you screen potential clients before meeting them, report any incidents of crime or harm you experience so that we can share information to warn the wider community, and access caseworkers for individual support.
You will also have access to the NUM members’ area for sex workers only where you will find additional resources and opportunities to offer feedback and participate in supporting sex workers’ safety as well as membership to NUMbrella Lane (Glasgow), a well-being space for industry workers in Scotland.
What to expect from NUM’s Vocational Support Services
NUM’s new vocational support services are free and confidential, and as with all of their services have been developed by, for, and with sex workers. As a result, this innovative service provides the resources and support you need to make your career goals a reality wherever you are on your journey. Whether you are contemplating leaving the sex industry altogether or looking to reduce industry work by blending it with mainstream jobs, education or other pursuits, there is something for everyone.
Your journey will begin with a series of five digital workshops to identify your skills, better understand the mainstream market and what employers are looking for and prepare you to deal with obstacles you may face. Each workshop will be run for approximately 90 minutes.
Vocational Support Digital Workshops
NUM’s digital workshops and vocational support services are based on their recent research with London-based sex workers about the barriers they face in changing careers.
During the first workshop, you will have the opportunity to find out what London-based sex workers told NUM about barriers they face in changing careers in a recent research study, Leaving the Game*. As a group, time will be taken to further explore shared experiences, motivations and barriers for sex workers changing ways of working. Then NUM’s vocational experts will work with you to improve your understanding of your own personal career values and how to use this knowledge to find a career and lifestyle that truly meets your needs.
The second workshop will help you prioritise your mental health while planning for change. You can expect an introduction to NUM’s mental health and wellbeing resources, as well as wellness exercises that you can call on throughout your journey to boost your confidence, help with anxiety and manage change.
The third workshop is specifically designed to tap into the talent of sex workers, holding transferable hustle skills up to the mainstream competency frameworks that mainstream recruiters are so fond of. You will then align your lived experiences and skills with traditional competencies of leadership, negotiation, customer satisfaction etc. NUM’s vocational experts will show you how your existing skill sets can help you land your next opportunity.
Building on the transferable skills already identified in the third workshop, you will find out how to develop a powerful CV showcasing your talents from lived experience and mainstream careers. NUM’s vocational experts will introduce a new CV style that is perfect for freelance workers, dismantling some of the myths around CV writing, filling gaps, and sharing some tips and tricks to make the CV writing process easier.
The last workshop brings together all of the learnings from previous sessions alongside the importance of goal setting to achieving your vision. You will learn how to plan your career journey, prioritise your objectives and measure short, medium and long-term successes. Wrapping the whole workshop series up with a framework to create a personal development plan that is authentically you.
After Vivastreet customers have completed the workshop series you can continue on your own or meet with a vocational support expert to develop your plans. After which you will be entitled to a small bursary of £100 to help you on your way to success as you define it.
Note: In order to qualify for the vocational support bursary, individuals need to attend at least three workshops and meet with the vocational support case worker.
NUM’s peer-to-peer digital vocational support groups are a safe space where sex workers can network with fellow industry workers, including both current and former. These sessions can provide an arena for sharing experiences, learning from others facing similar struggles, and gaining valuable tips and strategies for success as you define it.
Finance and Budgeting
NUM can also work with you on financial planning and budgeting, providing advice and practical assistance on applying for funding and grants, including universal credit. An online budgeting tool will help you budget for your future, as well as set achievable savings goals based on your personal income and spending. Assistance with emergency support for those fleeing violence, or needing to take emergency breaks from sex work, is available through the casework team.
Mental health and well-being support
Sex workers have expressed challenges with mental health, namely depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost of living crisis. As part of this new partnership, you will have access to affirming, understanding and informed mental health and well-being support specifically aimed at sex workers, tackling key issues faced by the community in a supportive way.
This range of support measures to enhance emotional and psychological welfare includes:
- Therapy sessions: Vivastreet customers are offered three free therapy sessions, either in-person or virtually from professionals listed in NUM’s directory of sex worker-friendly therapists. These therapists have experience working with sex workers in non-stigmatising ways and will ensure that you receive support in a safe and understanding environment, addressing your specific needs and experiences.
- Online resources: NUM has developed online materials and youtube videos explaining how they can be used. We also have videos from our in-house hypnotherapist including mindfulness and relaxation, and guidance around common mental health stresses, including, building your self-confidence, preparing for change, reducing anxiety and many more. These resources promote self-care and emotional balance, empowering sex workers to prioritise their well-being.
- Wellbeing drop-in sessions: NUM collaborates with therapists to hose digital mental health drop-in sessions that create a space for sex workers to seek guidance and discuss mental health topics that are important to you (we ask that all attendees of these sessions are members of NUM to ensure the space remains sex worker-only).
Supporting you with your vocational aspirations and well-being would be a great honour for us at Vivastreet and NUM. NUM’s team includes over 80% of staff members with experience in and from sex industries who understand the benefits and challenges of sex work.
National Ugly Mugs and Vivastreet are excited about providing vocational support for customers. We plan to learn alongside you and look forward to hearing about your experiences with this project and your insights for improvements.
Are you interested in taking advantage of these services? If so, you can sign up and find out more in your Vivastreet Account area. Click here.
NUM prides itself on prioritising the voices, interests and experiences of sex workers in shaping programming and advocacy. The now completed ‘Leaving the Game’ research project with London-based sex workers explored the barriers and obstacles faced by sex workers when leaving the industry or reducing reliance on sex work. This research was used to develop services to support sex workers in making decisions about working practices which will help them to achieve future goals in education and employment within and outside of sex work.
NUM has developed new services to support sex workers who are contemplating changes to their sex work involvement and sources of revenue. Some may desire to leave sex industries altogether; others may want to reduce industry work by blending it with mainstream jobs, education or other pursuits. We called this project ‘Changing the Game’ because we believe services for sex workers must directly respond to what they have asked for and done with their consent. The project will compare what sex workers have asked for with what’s available to them, and identify gaps and opportunities for joint advocacy to decision-makers for policy changes and input into how resources are directed.