Below we have summarised the key findings of three major pieces of research which are extraordinarily relevant to the work of The Lesbian & Gay Foundation.
Θ Equality & Human Rights Commission, Nov. 2009
Traditionally, sexual orientation has been seen as a private matter and not the business of wider society.
But without clearer evidence on where lesbian, gay and bisexual people live, where they work, what their experiences and needs of public services are, we are missing a vital part of the jigsaw when it comes to developing and making public policy.
Evidence is the key to making services reflect everyone’s experiences and meet their needs. Therefore it is vital to start collecting more robust data.
In 21st Century Britain, despite legal advances, homophobia still has an unacceptable everyday impact on the lives of millions of LGB people. Prejudice and discrimination still limit people’s choices and chances in life.
Ultimately the full spectrum of sexual orientation should be a public matter because for LGB people there is a vital difference between privacy and invisibility.
The absence of reliable statistical data is a major obstacle to measuring progress on equality for LGB people.
There is currently no baseline dataset on the LGB population, meaning there is currently no way of reliably determining whether LGB people experience inequality of economic outcomes and life chances, and progress cannot be monitored.
Θ North West Development Agency, Oct. 2009
Despite the size of the LGB&T population, policy makers have a limited knowledge and understanding of the needs of LGB&T people.
The LGB&T population is very often invisible within equality programmes and initiatives, and there persists a perception that LGB&T issues are given low priority status.
LGB&T communities have a long history of experiencing discrimination, and there is no evidence to suggest that they have equality with the other equality strands or causes. This is especially true with regard to the level of investment with LGB&T communities and its voluntary and community sector.
There is however evidence that the sizeable LGB&T communities are underemployed and unable to participate fully in the economy or contribute to GVA, (gross value added) to the fullest extent due to the discrimination they experience.
There is a tendency within LGB&T communities to ‘opt-out’ or withdraw from those areas where they perceive they are likely to experience discrimination. This could be in areas such as particular employment or education sectors or in accessing particular public services such as healthcare.
In spite of the notable efforts of LGB&T voluntary organisations there seems to be less emphasis on tackling the discrimination faced by LGB&T communities than for other equality groups within public sector organisations.
This is potentially linked to the level of investment made to those community organisations who serve the LGB&T population.
There is both a business case and moral case for public sector organisations to engage with LGB&T communities, which asserts that this is good for prosperity. The Public Sector, as a likely consequence of the Single Equality Bill, will be given increased legal duties in relation to tackling discrimination and promoting including equality for LGB&T communities.
Tackling the discrimination faced by the LGB&T population will need to be done in partnership with VCS organisations. The voluntary sector represents the best mechanism currently available to deliver community led approaches designed to tackle the issues.
The findings of this research fully endorses the findings and recommendations contained within the LGF’s ‘Breaking the Cycle’.
‘Breaking the Cycle’ Supporting the Delivery of a Sustainable Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Sector
Θ Lesbian & Gay Foundation, Feb. 2009
Following a wide-ranging and comprehensive consultation process with key stakeholders, ‘Breaking the Cycle’ attempts to begin collectively to define the needs of LGB&T communities; highlight the barriers to growth; and propose pragmatic and practical actions that can be undertaken to improve the lives of LGB&T people.
The Strategy provides a roadmap to create an inclusive environment where all LGB&T people can reach their full potential.
It is intended to be an accessible and usable document which will enable both individuals and groups to lobby for better access to support, inclusion and resources (including funding).
Whilst implementing the recommendations within the Strategy has both moral and economic grounding, the introduction of a Single Equality Act and the Duty to Involve will also significantly add to the legal imperatives. Doing nothing will no longer be an option. The public sector will have a responsibility to gather further knowledge and intelligence about their LGB&T residents.
Additionally, LGB&T people will have a responsibility to stand up and be counted when monitoring of public service delivery extends equally across the equality strands.
LGB&T people can no longer afford to remain invisible.
Currently there is very little information available on LGB&T communities in this country. One of the main purposes of the Strategy is to provide strategic direction to the LGB&T sector and promote the support that is required to sustain this.
The consultation process identified a cycle that restricts the establishment, growth and sustainability of LGB&T specific organisations, services and support.
Proactive action is needed in all of the following three areas – no one part is seen as a stand alone item that could break the cycle in isolation.
Rather each should be tackled simultaneously:
1. Develop an evidence base
We will continue to lobby for funding to develop the evidence base.
We will also provide the LGB&T voluntary and community sector and public sector supporters access to the evidence available and guidance on how best to use it.
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.
In doing this, we will increase awareness and engagement with partners and ensure the needs of LGB&T people are accurately communicated.
3. Increase the capacity of LGB&T voluntary and community organisations
We will provide support to increase capacity of the LGB&T voluntary and community sector 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.
Most of the people interviewed and involved in the development of the Strategy stated that they found this cycle impossible to break out of.
The issues are overwhelming for any one organisation or individual, and there is a clear need for a combined partnership approach to be adopted.
Change in all communities only comes about through concerted and continuous collective action, on commonly shared goals.