A PROSTITUTION task force intended to help women in Swindon's sex trade has disbanded after discovering another group already does a similar job.

The Community, Housing and Special Overview Committee of Swindon Council took the steps after discovering a group called Sex Workers Multi Agency Strategy Meeting was already dealing with the problem.

It was unclear who sits on the other group, but once councillors had heard about it they decided formally to disband their committee.

But before the meeting closed the councillors heard from a representative of the agency group about the ideas they had to help Swindon's vice girls.

Proposals include a series of programmes to help women away from drugs and secure affordable housing - while they try to get other jobs.

Other agency plans include a community safety bus parking in some of Swindon's problem areas and acting as a safe haven for women looking for refuge.

The bus would be somewhere women could go to make contact with support agencies and to be medically checked.

During their meeting councillors also heard how the agency planned to take a victim-based approach to their work in the community.

Councillor Bob Wright (Lab, Central) said that women working in prostitution were caught in a vicious cycle and need to be treated as victims rather than being vilified.

He said: "Prostitution is a form of slavery for these people, either they are from other countries or it is a pimp who is forcing them to do it.

"They aren't in it for the money but for the drugs, or they are being forced to do it.

"A victim-based approach is an appropriate one to take because these are highly vulnerable people we are dealing with.

"The two main problems are usually the drug use and the lack of housing for the girls."

Councillor Sinead Darker (Con, Central) said: "The problem with street prostitution is that these girls are having sex in cars in back alleyways.

"And there are syringes and condoms being used in these areas.

"People in these neighbourhoods are also being approached and being propositioned for sex."

The committee has requested to be brought up to date on work by the agency in one year's time.