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Abstract

This qualitative, exploratory research examines the barriers that prevent women in sex work in Ireland from accessing co-ordinated health and social care services. Using an adapted voice centred relational model (VCRM), the study examines the experiences of women engaged in sex work. The study underpins a feminist standpoint epistemology theoretical framework, and gives voice to minority groups who remain excluded from research, policy and practice. The findings indicate that women involved in sex work are primarily working indoors, hold precarious legal status and are in Ireland as a response to global migration and economic necessity. Street based sex work too, remains evident with a strong link to family breakdown and addiction. The women discussed their experiences of their health and well-being and the impact of minimal health and social care supports available to them. The research highlights the need for further health and social care service development throughout the country of Ireland that is respectful to the various social determinants which impact on the lives of women in sex work. This study contributes to Irish knowledge and, in particular, pertaining to the psychosocial experiences of women involved in sex work and the Irish health and social care service. It has profound implications for future studies in the field of Irish sex work and proposes a strong case for qualitative research as a tool to address practice and policy change, alongside, extending the debate on sex work both nationally and internationally to include the perspectives of women involved in the sex industry.

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