Learning From Other Projects
LGBT Foundation laises regularly with other schemes in the UK that are working to develop housing for older LGBT people. For example, Tonic, who have announced the purchase of shared ownership apartmentsin London, Project Freedom in Leeds and London’s Older Lesbian Co-Housing project. The charity sector can be "notorious for competition", but we should take every opportunity to share learning and develop a strategic community response so that more older LGBT people throughout the UK have a better range of safe housing choices.
For this to be achieved there needs to be more engagement with LGBT communities about the housing they need and want, and better infrastructure to deliver our own solutions.
National Framework, Local Approach
Whilst there is a growing evidence base about the housing needs of older LGBT communities in specific cities, such as London and now Manchester, to enable the development of further extra care schemes, a national framework should be developed. This should include a clear set of principles for extra care housing that LGBT charities and housing organisations can publicly support and promote, and a ‘checklist’ of questions to support localised evidence gathering. Whilst there will be similarities in LGBT older people’s needs and experiences nationwide, there will inevitably be localised factors that will have an impact- from population density to socio-economic make-up. This means that gathered data can be directly compared and contrasted to help build up a national picture, whilst enabling and supporting the development of schemes which meets the needs of local residents.
Homes England’s Community Housing Fund ends in March 2021. This has been a vital fund to ensure LGBT Foundation has been involved in the development of the scheme and to plan for future engagement. Who will pay for the ongoing engagement that will be the key to the success of this scheme and that will be needed for schemes in other parts of the country? Local authorities and registered providers should invest in the engagement with the LGBT voluntary and community sector to develop co-production strategies, and not rely on our goodwill without payment for our time. Co-production must not be seen as an add-on, but as a critical part of a scheme’s success.
Knowing Our Worth
Charities and VCSE sector organisations must ensure that our value and worth in the development of LGBT extra care schemes is asserted and recognised at every stage. Being close to the communities we serve, we often see emerging needs or issues before the health system becomes aware. We hold the trust of the communities we work with in a way that mainstream services often struggle with, due to LGBT people’s past poor experiences or discrimination within public services. We also have the cultural competence to recognise and address issues at an early stage- for example, potential tensions between different parts of the LGBT population, or the need for specific facilities for trans and non-binary people. This knowledge is specialised and valuable and the engagement of LGBT organisations should be seen as central, not optional, to extra care schemes. We must therefore assert the value of our knowledge, our ability to connect with our communities, and our ability to foresee and avoid problems, at the earliest stages of scheme development.
LGBT Community Sector
Currently, there are no LGBT registered housing providers in the UK. We should learn from BAME housing associations and how they gained support from the Housing Corporation in the past to build their own communities’ housing associations. LGBT organisations need similar funding so we can construct our own community assets and invest in our own futures.
We will be discussing specific aspects of the scheme which will inform future updates to this journal. Subjects will include:
- Community Assets – what services and development opportunities will be available for LGBT organisations through the process?
- Future funding – how will engagement be funded after Community Housing Fund?