Women are being forced to sell their bodies for sex for just £5 because of benefit sanctions, a Doncaster charity claims.
Changing Lives says people are turning to prostitution to pay for gas and electricity because they are being left without enough money under current regulations.
The warning comes after police last week said the number of reported cases of prostitution in Doncaster fell last year.
But staff at prostitute outreach programme Project Amber warn a growing number of women are being pushed into the sex work because they have their benefits stopped for things such as missing job centre appointments or failing to attend interviews.
Project worker Mary Ellis said: “As many as 40 per cent of the girls I see out there have told me that one of the reasons they are out there is because of having their benefits sanctioned.
“A couple of the women I’ve spoken to told me they were only there to get £5 for gas or electricity, because they’d been sanctioned.
“They said they wanted to go home once they’d got what they needed.”
Project manager Paula Jackson Key added: “There are also a lot of girls out there because of drink and drug problems, but benefit sanctions do affect a lot of people.
“When we have given out food parcels before, there are some who go home straight away afterwards. Which shows that some really are just out there for food.”
Volunteers and staff from Changing Lives, based at the Doncaster Women’s Centre in Cleveland Street, patrol the red light area on Tuesday and Friday nights.
They aim to encourage women to give up a life of vice by offering advice and counselling sessions.