As a result, the LGB&T sector as a whole is still a relatively ‘young’ and emerging sector.
At present, there are around 70 registered LGB&T charities in England, with a combined annual income of less than £10m. This is equivalent to just 0.0003% of all charitable income for LGB&T communities who represent between 6% and 9% of the general population. Of the 68 charities, only five are based in the North West to represent the estimated 612,000 LGB&T people in the region.
The vast majority of the LGB&T voluntary and community sector (VCS) in the North West consists of small and unfunded community groups which, in nearly all cases, are run by dedicated volunteers. Historically, these groups have not attracted the investment and support that other equality-based groups have. This has often been due to a lack of internal resources, capacity, understanding and evidence base, as well as the external barriers of biphobia, transphobia, homophobia and heterosexism.
Attitudes towards LGB&T communities have been slow to change, but the last two decades have seen the most rapid progress. One of the early milestones was the recognition in 1992 by the World Health Organisation that homosexuality was not a mental illness. There have been significant changes in legislation over the last decade to create equality for LGB&T people nationally, and this is starting to be recognised on a regional level in funding decisions.
The advances have contributed to the creation of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (in October 2007), who have been tasked with advancing the wider equalities agenda.
In addition to this, a piece of legislation, commonly referred to as the Single Equality Bill, is currently awaiting parliamentary assent. This Bill aims to bring together the extensive rules, regulations, guidance and legislation that currently exists around discrimination.
The North West LGB&T strategy should be considered in the context of this piece of legislation once it has been passed. The Lesbian and Gay Foundation (LGF), through funding from Capacitybuilders awarded in mid-2008, are able to provide increased support and capacity to LGB&T community and voluntary groups and access to specialised and mainstream services for individuals.
The LGF implemented a consultation process, consisting of an initial email consultation and then a series of events across the North West with members of the LGF’s Rainbow Partnership. This is a membership network of LGB&T voluntary and community groups as well as statutory and other organisations.
Through this, it became clear that there is a cycle that restricts establishment, growth and sustainability of LGB&T specific services.
Arising from the consultation, the strategy has three main components:
- Strategic aims.
- Key barriers that affect all service provision and funding for LGB&T equality and their implications for service providers, commissioners and funders.
- Specific areas of need that statutory and other organisations should consider regarding LGB&T issues.
The strategic aims below are intended to guide and influence the work of organisations working within, for, on behalf of, and in partnership with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans communities of the North West region. They should inform the work of all those organisations over the next five years.
Strategic Aim 1 - Develop the evidence base
We will continue to lobby for funding to develop the evidence base. We will also provide the LGB&T VCS and public sector supporters access to the evidence available and guidance on how best to use it.
Strategic Aim 2 - Increase the knowledge and engagement of policy and decision makers
We will provide information about LGB&T people and their needs to policy and decision makers across the North West. In doing this, we will increase awareness and engagement with partners and ensure the needs of LGB&T people are accurately communicated.
Strategic Aim 3 - Increase the capacity of LGB&T voluntary and community organisations
We will provide support to increase capacity of the LGB&T VCS in the North West to ensure that the diverse needs of these communities are met. We will seek to equip the sector to make it well resourced and self sustainable.
These are the 32 recommendations of this strategy:
Key Barrier: Limited knowledge and understanding of the needs of LGB&T people
Develop an evidence base of LGB&T residents’ needs:
- The ONS should not continue to exclude LGB&T questions from the national census. If this is the case, alternative research needs to be funded that provides robust baseline data.
- Statutory service providers, commissioners, funders and others should seek knowledge and intelligence about their LGB&T populations and their needs. An important part of this is to introduce sexual orientation and trans status monitoring to all services, particularly those funded out of public monies.
- Decision makers, including those within commissioning and service planning, must commit to funding and producing the evidence base so that priorities and policies can be made on the basis of knowledge.
- Decision makers should engage with the LGB&T VCS to develop methodologies that provide evidence acceptable to commissioners. These must be achievable within small and often hidden populations and mostly with very limited VCS capacity.
- Consultation with LGB&T communities should be undertaken in a sustainable way for those involved, recognising there is a financial, as well as human, value to their knowledge and involvement.
Key Barrier: Invisibility and (mis)representation
- Wherever possible, pressure should be placed on media sources for fair and equal representation of LGB&T people, with lessons learnt from the approaches taken to the public representation of other marginalised groups.
- Statutory services should ensure that their own materials are inclusive of LGB&T people, including positive and diverse imagery of the communities they serve.
Key Barrier: LGB&T issues often given low priority
Inclusion of LGB&T communities within policies and strategies:
- Statutory service providers, commissioners, funders and other decision makers should urgently recognise LGB&T needs in all their strategies, policies and actions in equal measure to other equality strands.
- Statutory service providers, commissioners, funders and other decision makers should actively adopt a quality assurance scheme which ensures that LGB&T equality is given the same recognition as other equality strands.
Key Barrier: Focus is often restricted to the sexual health of men who have sex with men.
Recognising the diversity of LGB&T communities:
- Service providers, commissioners and funders, both within and outside of the health sector, should continue to support the excellent work that is taking place around HIV and sexual health, but should not do this to the exclusion of other LGB&T needs. They should assess the full breadth of their activities and ensure they are relevant and accessible for all issues affecting LGB&T people.
- Policies that are jointly aimed at the LGB&T communities should take into consideration the distinct needs of each community and ensure these are addressed equally. Policies aimed at addressing LGB&T issues should be split into component parts, and address each of these communities seperately, where appropriate.
Key Barrier: LGB&T equality is not yet established as a basic right.
- Service providers, statutory organisations and others should urgently ensure that equality of outcome for everyone is accepted as a right throughout their organisation and that, through all their activities, this right is extended to all LGB&T people. The proper use of Equality Impact Assessment should be considered here.
- Service providers, statutory organisations and others should urgently recognise the need for LGB&T specific services to be provided to encourage individuals to seek assistance and access to services when they are needed.
Area of Need: Hate crime
- A high profile zero tolerance campaign is required – all hate crime including against LGB&T people, needs to be seen as unacceptable.
- To improve reporting by and support for victims, partnership working is needed between the police, public services and voluntary and community groups.
- Biphobic and transphobic hate crime should be separately monitored to homophobic hate crime.
Area of Need: Young people
- Action against biphobic, transphobic and homophobic bullying within schools is urgently needed to ensure that young people are safe. This has to be delivered with knowledgeable teams and not solely depend on the teachers and staff, who may also be the perpetrators of the bullying.
- Curriculums must be developed that represent all people – within a framework of equality.
- All organisations involved in delivering services to young people need to ensure that services are accessible and safe for all young people. This should be a co-ordinated approach which includes experts from education, Children and Young People’s Services, LGB&T experts and other key stakeholders.
Area of Need: Housing and homelessness
- Safe housing options are needed for all LGB&T people – including emergency accommodation.
- Mainstream services need to ensure that their policies take due account of the violence and harassment that LGB&T people can encounter within the family and in their homes. This is of particular importance in policies that establish housing need.
- Until mainstream provision is truly equitable, specialist services need statutory support and funding.
Area of Need: Workplace
- All employers must ensure that workplaces are safe and free from harassment for all employees. This should include a proactive approach to equality.
- All employers should publicly display a statement within the workplace that discrimination on any grounds, including sexual orientation, is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the workplace.
Area of Need: Healthcare provision
- The right to equal outcome of services has to be made real within healthcare.
- Through training and enforcement, it must be made clear to all practitioners that the patient’s rights are paramount.
- Trust building must be undertaken with LGB&T communities. This has to be built upon more accessible mainstream services and specific services that are responsive to need. The aim must be reducing health inequalities for all.
Area of Need: Legislation
- All organisations should fully implement the LGB&T legislation – indeed move beyond the legislation to equity with other equality strands (if relevant).
- Implementation must be enforced – and be lobbied for.
- Full legal equality must be achieved for all LGB&T people.
- Organisations should train staff on the application of the legislation and its practical effect, combined with sexual orientation awareness training.
- Organisations should review their policies on gender recognition to achieve equality of outcome and processes that respect the privacy and dignity of their service users/clients.