An investigation was launched today after a care home admitted inviting in prostitutes to offer sexual services to disabled residents.
The street workers regularly meet with vulnerable guests for sex sessions – known in the home as a ”special visit”.
Staff have been ordering the prostitutes by phone who then visit disabled residents at Chaseley, a nursing home caring for 55 people in Eastbourne, Sussex.
Sex workers meet residents in a special room and a red sock is put on the door handle so staff know not to disturb them.
Bosses say many physically and mentally disabled people have no other sexual outlet – and become so frustrated they often resort to groping staff.
Care workers say the ”sex surrogates” are ”therapeutic” and experts claim they are a ”basic human right”.
But East Sussex County Council has launched an urgent investigation into possible ”exploitation and abuse” of vulnerable people.
Sue Wyatt, Chaseley’s manager, has confirmed prostitutes are welcomed at the home but say staff no longer make the calls ordering them directly.
She said a ”third party consultant” was now used to contact the sex workers – and says the disabled guests ”have needs” which the hookers help meet.
Mrs Wyatt said: ”People have needs, so sometimes we might need to be set up a room in a certain way. We are there to help.
”We use a private consultant who arranges everything. They are an independent person who works in the home. She puts people in touch with people.
”We respect our residents as individuals so that’s why we help this to happen.”
The practice at the home was revealed by its former manager Helena Barrow.
She said: ”The fact is, sex workers are allowed by law to sexually enable people but care workers are not.
”So, if someone asked, we would often call in a professional, someone trained to do that. It’s known as the resident’s ‘special visit’.
”If you have a resident who is groping staff, one way of resolving that problem is to get a sex worker in who is trained to deal with that situation.
”But most of the time, these are people who feel frustrated by a primeval need they cannot fulfil.
”So we would help them with the phone, dial the number, or use the computer to contact someone who could help.
”If we refused, we would not be delivering a holistic level of care.”
Mrs Barrow, who now manages another care home in St Leonards, Sussex, insisted residents always paid for the call girls themselves.
She said staff at her former workplace would often telephone sex workers and invite them to the home.
Staff would dial the number and hold the phone to the disabled person’s ear so they could make the call themselves.
She said the calls were welcomed into the building and escorted by a member of staff to a room where a resident was waiting.
Staff would then put a ”special red sock” on the door handle to make sure the couple were not disturbed before checking on them every 15 minutes.
On one occasion, local strippers were invited into the home to perform a ”special show” for residents.
Chaseley is an ex-military nursing home which now houses a mix of residents whose places are funded by private arrangements or by social services.
A spokesman for East Sussex County Council said the local authority had been unaware of Chaseley’s policy of inviting prostitutes on site and ”did not welcome” the idea.
He said: ”We will examine our concerns through the Pan-Sussex Multi-Agency Policy and Procedures for Safeguarding Adults at Risk.
”This has the potential to place vulnerable East Sussex residents at risk of exploitation and abuse.”
But other senior health workers welcomed Chaseley’s decision to actively help its residents have sex.
Denise Banks is director of social care provision at Chailey Heritage Foundation which has been working with the Sexual Health and Disability Allliance, a national group that campaigns for disabled people to be allowed access to sex workers.
She revealed the foundation had contacted Chaseley to help develop a policy where prostitutes could be found for residents if needed.
Mrs Banks said: ”The work they [Chaseley] are doing is certainly pleasing.
”If someone asked us to contact a sex worker for them, we would have to be open to that. If we resisted we would be going against the Human Rights Act.
”We would try to facilitate that somewhere else to protect that individual’s privacy and dignity. It’s a much nicer way to do it. But we need to develop a proper policy.
”We do have to be very careful because when you are working with very vulnerable people you have to make sure they are not being pushed in a certain direction.
”It’s really down to an individual approach. We want to allow people to express their sexuality. It’s completely within the law but of course there has to be boundaries.”
Dr Tuppy Owens, convenor of the Sexual Health and Disability Allliance, said: ”Many disabled people are living in perpetual frustration.
”If someone wants to access a sex worker and they can’t make the phone call then they should be allowed to do that. There’s nothing illegal about it.
”What’s illegal is for disabled people to be denied their human rights.”
But other experts raised health and safety fears around allowing vulnerable people access to sex workers without proper checks.
Nick Tapp, chief executive of East Sussex Disability Association, said he thought it posed ”certain problems”.
He said: ”Allowing them release in this way would appear to be a good thing.
”However, there’s always an issue of risk which is for local authorities and health authorities to look into.
”How do you know the sex workers are not carrying infections? There are certainly safety issues there.”
The Care Quality Commission (CQC), the care watchdog, refused to reveal whether it was aware of prostitutes being invited into care homes.
A CQC spokeswoman said: ”Where an individual care need is identified, we expect care plans to reflect that, and for all the appropriate safeguards to be in place to ensure that the individual concerned and others potentially affected are protected against the risk of abuse.”
The practice of ”sex surrogacy”’ is currently in the spotlight following the release of a new Hollywood film, The Sessions.
It confronts the sexual needs of the disabled and the controversial role sometimes played by surrogates in order to fulfil them.