Vienna's prostitutes helped off the streets

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London (PA) - Prostitutes are to receive cash grants from the European Commission to help them get out of "the game" and find a better way of life. The scheme is part of a pounds 4.8m EU Commission plan approved yesterday to end "social exclusion" with dozens of projects from helping the prostitutes of Vienna to supporting London's homeless to rejoin mainstream society.

"Helping prostitutes is a perfectly legitimate thing for us to be doing. They are victims of social exclusion," said a Commission spokesman. The help they will receive ranges from counselling to encouragement to find alternative means of income to get them out of prostitution and into other forms of work. Only Viennese prostitutes need apply. The 85 other individual projects which will benefit from the cash involve other forms of "social exclusion".

In all, the Commission received nearly 2,000 applications for help under its scheme, with the highest number from the UK and Germany at about 400 projects each.

But Social Affairs Commissioner Padraig Flynn said the EU budget only had limited resources. He added: "I am delighted to have been able to supply such an excellent range of ... projects through this scheme. In many different and highly innovative ways, these projects will make their contributions to the fight against exclusion. I hope they will inspire many new projects and measures throughout the member states."

The Commission says it will be remaining in close contact with the beneficiaries of the cash to evaluate the projects so as to extract "the best possible benefit for excluded people and to draw valuable lessons".