More action needed to help LGBT people accessing services
Research published today presents a worrying picture for many LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) individuals accessing both specialist and mainstream services, despite great strides in LGBT rights. The study, carried out by Anglia Ruskin University – produced by a partnership of LGBT organisations and funded by independent charity Trust for London – highlights growing concerns around prejudice, safety and poverty.
- 4 in 10 surveyed experience some form of prejudice on a regular basis
- Over one-third find maintaining physical safety a constant challenge
- LGBT specialist service provision unavailable for many people in need
LGBT service users are presenting increasingly complex and multi-layered issues to providers, including problems regarding mental health, primary healthcare, housing, substance abuse, safety and violence. These needs are set against a backdrop of inadequate targeted service provision, with the majority of respondents unable to access services within their locality.
Prejudice and fears over safety
The report, which surveyed 158 LGBT service users and 60 service providers in the capital, found that 40% of respondents experience some form of prejudice on a regular basis, with one-third reporting constant concerns over their physical safety, both at home and elsewhere.
Additionally, the majority of those surveyed are reluctant to reveal their sexuality and/or gender identity to mainstream service providers, for fear of the reaction.
Low pay and poverty, no matter education
The research also shows poverty amongst London’s LGBT community is a greater problem than perhaps initially thought, with over a third of respondents reporting to be earning less than £15,000 per annum – a figure significantly lower than the London Living Wage of £9.40 per hour.
The findings show an equal proportion of LGBT people who are educated to university level consider themselves to be of low income as those who are unqualified.
LGBT services under pressure
Service providers highlighted cuts to funding as a major barrier to delivering sufficient specialist services to London’s LGBT community. The report shows that decreased provision coupled with an increasing complexity of need amongst a proportion of the capital’s LGBT community has led to an increasingly difficult landscape. In many London boroughs, there is little to no LGBT service provision, with users often travelling significant distances across the city to access key services.
Providers did however report a number of activities they have engaged in to overcome the difficulties they face, including cost-cutting, entering into funding partnerships and challenging cuts to funding.
Beacons of best practice
Although the outlook for LGBT service provision is a troubling one, the report points to a number of ‘best practice’ examples, where providers have reached out to individuals and had a positive impact. One organisation, LGBT Jigsaw, offer an inclusive space for young LGBT people, addressing an array of issues around homelessness, mental health, domestic abuse and personal safety.
The activities of voluntary sector groups and funders should be benchmarked against such organisations.
The study, conceived out of a need to better understand the increasingly complex needs of LGBT service users in the capital, makes a number of recommendations to policymakers:
- There is a need to develop specialist service provision alongside more mainstream provision, fostering collaboration in terms of needs and geographical locations, where appropriate.
- Mainstream providers need to improve their engagement with LGBT people in order to tackle the reluctance, by many, to access services or reveal their sexual orientation or gender identify to service providers.
- Further consideration is needed of the demographic profiles of LGBT communities, the causes of poverty and meeting their complex needs.
- The Greater London Authority and regional bodies should improve evidence gathering, as well as develop solutions to support LGBT communities.
“The LGBT community in London is a diverse and vibrant one and its importance in London’s social and economic fabric cannot be understated. This study however points to a number of worrying trends amongst those experiencing multiple issues who require key services, particularly around safety, prejudice and poverty. Mainstream service providers must do more to ensure LGBT individuals with multiple and complex needs are accounted for in provision and collaboration between specialist and mainstream providers would help ensure this. There are examples of good work going on within the sector and these must be used as benchmarks for the activities of both statutory providers, voluntary sector groups and funders.”
“This research is both important and timely in equal measure. The recent demise of Broken Rainbow and PACE – two organisations who took part in this study – highlights the increasingly precarious nature of specialist LGBT service provision in London. The fact that 4 in 10 of those surveyed experience some form of prejudice on a regular basis is particularly concerning. As a sector we must recognise the challenges facing London’s LGBT communities and unify to develop and implement resilient and workable solutions. This includes developing specialist provision alongside more mainstream services, promoting collaboration and learning between the two. Additionally, it’s important that mainstream providers improve their engagement with LGBT individuals, to combat the reluctance felt by many to hide their sexual or gender identity.”
“Our research shows that while there have been many positive legislative steps forward for sexual and gender minorities, many LGBT people living in London face significant issues both in terms of access to services and their own personal health, safety and well-being. “At a time when public policy seems to be moving towards reducing the public services available for minority communities – we recommend that increased investment should be made in these supports.”