Prostitution claims denied by care bosses in Norfolk

SOCIAL services bosses in Norfolk have hit back at claims they would allow vulnerable people in the county to use taxpayers’ money earmarked for their care to pay for prostitutes.

It was claimed that, through the personal budget scheme – money which is given to people eligible for social services care to spend as they choose – one local authority permitted the money to be used to pay for a prostitute.

Norfolk County Council denies this is the case in Norfolk, but it has approved a personal budget being spent on fees for a dating agency and on foreign holidays.

The council defended the dating agency decision as helping prevent somebody’s emotional and mental wellbeing being put at risk because of social isolation.

They said people did occasionally use their money to pay for holidays – which in most cases is cheaper than formal respite care.

A national newspaper quoted Di Croot, Norfolk County Council’s assistant team manager for learning disabilities in north Norfolk, as saying requests for visits to prostitutes would be looked on “favourably” with staff encouraged to be “as free thinking as possible”.

Zoe Grace Couzens, a consultant who penned the council’s policy on learning disability and sexuality, was quoted as saying the council had a duty of care to ensure those with learning disabilities were not being exploited financially if they paid for prostitutes and that it might involve care workers phoning to check what rates sex workers were charging.

However, the county council today said Ms Croot had been misquoted, that personal budgets would not be used to support the payment of sex workers and that Ms Grace Couzens was not directly employed by the county council and the policy she wrote for the council completely contradicted the statements attributed to her.

Social services bosses said they had never given the green light for people with personal budgets to use them to pay for sex workers – and never would.

Harold Bodmer, director of community services at Norfolk County Council, said: “We have a very clear policy regarding the use of personal budgets. They cannot be spent on anything illegal or anything that would bring the council into disrepute.

“No approval has ever been given for personal budgets to fund sex workers, as this would be an entirely inappropriate and unlawful use of taxpayers’ money.”