The LGBT+ Network for Change contacts the CEO of the UK Prison Service on it’s experiences of engagement with Portland Prison and the Avon & South Dorset HMPPS

The LGBT+ Network for Change has had to contact the CEO of the UK Prison & Probation Service (HMPPS), Ms Jo Farrar further to its experiences of engagement with Portland Prison on LGBT support issues across a number of months. The revelations on the real state of the UK prisons and young offender institutes (YOIs) where LGBT, and especially LGBTQ, inclusion, safety, and mental health in HMPPS institutes have been extremely important, on showing the nature and scale of the challenges involved. The Network is very pleased to be engaged in support in this area to all those in UK prisons and YOIs who are LGBT or LGBTQ, both staff as well as inmates/residents.

We have through the formal representation to the CEO of HMPPS raised both major concerns about some aspects of the prison referred to and Avon & South Dorset HMPPS communication & support requests experience encountered by the Network, and on the other, some very positive experiences and opportunity for HMPPS enabled through our work.

We will provide more specific particulars here or on a follow up news article soon, but are pleased to confirm that formal confirmation of receipt of our representation has been received by the Network from the office of the HMPPS CEO.

ONS Census 2021 data analysis to inform policy and government services provision Consultation

The Network has provided it’s submission to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) Census 2021 data analysis consultation.

This consultation has the scope and influence to be one of the most important consultation’s within the last 10 years, as Census 2021 data analysis will inform Government departments policy change and scrutiny of Government agencies through to public services and local authorities priorities, funding, and policy interpretation and implementation across all domains of life and equality, inclusion, and anti-discrimination where our LGBT+ and LGBTQ+ communities are concerned.

By taking part (our submission confirmed as received) the Network has provided a service of major importance to our communities, and especially our more overlooked, vulnerable, and poorly supported LGBT sub-population groups (such as BAME LGBTs, LGBT asylum applicants, LGBT homeless, LGBT community members in prisons and YOIs including inmates/residents and HMPPS staff who are LGBT) as well as community members working in the NHS and beyond. We have included too major reference to support on mental health issues and related services improvement.

The consultation participation relates too and builds further on the findings and recommendations on our Census 2021 questions analysis report: https://lgbtnetwork4change.com/network-census-2021-report-provided-to-the-national-statistician-appreciation-for-report-and-for-working-with-the-ons-on-census-data-utilisation/

LGBT+ Network for Change provides submission to historically important Parliamentary inquiry into Home Office immigration & Diverse Communities

The LGBT+ Network for Change has today (Monday 8th November 2021) successfully submitted it’s input to the House of Commons Women and Equalities Select Committee’s formal inquiry into the experiences of Diverse Communities (Protected Characteristics) accessing Home Office asylum related immigration services.

This inquiry is of historic importance to the UK, Parliament, accountability and transparency of Whitehall/UK Government civil servants actions and performance in this very important area for our community across the world and in the UK. For many years the Network has been playing a key catalyst and lead role where the perceived anti-LGBT discriminatory and often brutal and life-threatening conduct of the Home Office/UKVI and Immigration Enforcement, and the Immigration Tribunal, have been concerned.

There is now at last realistic probability of Parliament through the Committee’s inquiry, being able to effect major reform and shine strong light into some very dark places where the anti-LGBT dimension of the ‘Hostile Environment’ is concerned.

We have contributed over recent years a number of subsequently published submissions to related inquiries by WOMEQ, and the Joint Committee on Human Rights. We believe the greatly respected evidence and particular points we provided in these have played a very real part in the movement of alarm in Parliament on the issues involved, that has now culminated in this inquiry. Example questions from the inquiry included:

Are those with certain protected characteristics more or less likely to be granted asylum in the UK? 

What is the nature and extent of UK asylum claims based on discrimination or persecution relating to the protected characteristics? 

What is the nature and extent of the dangers for those with protected characteristics who are seeking asylum in the UK? 

Is the UK asylum process safe and fair for those with protected characteristics? 

Are individuals with certain protected characteristics more at risk of harm or unfair treatment when going through the UK asylum process?

We are delighted to share that earlier today our submission (that included particulars on our direct support/intervention in regard to our Ugandan LGBT community) was confirmed as being successfully received, with thanks, by the Committee.

Network LGBTQ+ homeless initiative update — DPCC and Dorset Police support + BCP homeless partnership advance

The LGBT+ Network for Change (new, working name authorised by the Charity Commission, for the LGB&T Dorset Equality Network) is very pleased to share two major developments for the implementation of our LGBTQ+ homeless and hidden homeless community.

Following a recent meeting with the Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner, Mr David Sidwick, and a senior Dorset Police officer who part of the Dorset OPCC team, and Network Lead Officer, Alan Mercel-Sanca, some groundbreaking outcomes resulted on the police dimension of the Network initiative. These concerning development by the Network of police frontline officers focused LGBT & homeless and hidden homeless (especially LGBT ‘sofa surfing’) issues and needs. These around crime prevention in the areas of abuses and exploitation. We will keep you posted on this development — a very important component on the Network initiative — which is unique, or almost unique in the UK in regard to policing and police & crime commissioner remits.

In addition, further to major effort and work by the Network over many months and helpful engagement with the lead officer of the BCP Council Homeless Partnership/Forum, on the need to have a clear dedicated component of the work of the latter where the distinct, particular issues and support needs of our LGBTQ+ homeless community is concerned, so that all within the Partnership/Forum can have a clear understanding of those needs and their particular backgrounds and characteristics.

A new Diverse Communities sub-group for the Partnership/Forum, has a result been established and will in addition to LGBTQ+ community support mechanisms, also include the particular issues and needs our BAME homeless community encounter, AND same for our Intersectional LGBT – BAME homeless community. The BCP based Community Action Network (CAN) voluntary and community sector support organisation is leading on coordination of the new sub-group with support from the Network, Dorset Race Equality Council (with whom the Network has also had valuable discussions on LGBT BAME community issues collaborative support), Shelter, and other organisations, in conjunction with the BCP Council Homeless Partnership/Forum.

We will keep you posted with more news on these breakthroughs as they are taken forward.

Important update on Network organisation evolution:

The Network is very pleased to announce that the Charity Commission has approved important adjustments to our organisation’s constitutional Objects and the charity’s working/public name. We shall as a result in the next few weeks be adjusting our organisation logo, website address, Twitter handle, and finally with effect by the end of November, our email address.

These changes have been made to reflect our pan-UK (and in some areas, international) activity and effectiveness on challenging and informing policy change at government and public service organisations and agencies level.  We however shall continue to have within our work (and this reflected in the new constitutional Objects) a pan-Dorset & BCP conurbation dimension.

Education, mental health, and the purpose of achieving a new phase of the crucial LGBT+ & LGBTQ+ ‘Allies’ development, will remain at the centre of the Network’s activity, with enhanced emphasis.

In the next two weeks/by mid-November we will update this news article to provide the new public/official working name of our organisation with accompanying details of logo change, website address, Twitter handle, and email address.

Network LGBTQ+ homeless initiative UPDATE

Update (September 11th 2021). The Network is delighted to update that it’s LGBTQ+ homeless support multi agency initiative has now completed it’s first phase of implementation. This week we completed work with Dorset Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to provide dedicated LGBTQ+ homeless community training & awareness support resources to the Trust’s Steps 2 Wellbeing healthcare professionals and admin (a first component for video training support has been completed and is about to be added too).

In addition after many months of campaigning and representation, including support by a prominent Councillor and Out member of our LGBT+ community in the Bournemouth Poole Christchurch area, the conurbation’s council, homeless forum cane to back our request for developing with us the first ever LGBTQ+ homeless support platform. In addition we have engaged the Dorset PCC to strongly support the Network initiative developing guidance and involvement to the Dorset Police force on the numerous aspects particular to LGBTQ+ homelessness and hidden homeless ‘sofa surfing’ safeguarding and predatory/exploitative very real, well-documented, dangers.

The anchor to this major breakthrough remains of course the mental healthcare support from the NHS in conjunction with the community (as a progression from Network, NHS awareness resources and training that have led to a marked jump in community confidence using Dorset Healthcare’s Steps 2 Wellbeing services).

Having reached this stage, and having completed detailed thematic support resources, mental healthcare & NHS support orientated BUT of value to all who care about making a meaningful change in supporting our LGBTQ+ homeless community, we have a sufficient project first phase experience and implementation base to take to other parts of the UK.

Network Census 2021 Report provided to the National Statistician — appreciation for report and for working with the ONS on Census data utilisation

The Network — which has developed it’s new ‘working’ name ‘LGBT+ Network for Change’ (unanimously supported by a recent Trustees Board meeting) reflecting our ethos and national level work — has received a very positive response from the Office of National Statistics, National Statistician, Professor Sir Ian Diamond regarding our important report (Census Analysis and Feedback Report), the first of it’s kind nationally, and much needed.

Below we include excerpts from the National Statistician’s letter confirming appreciation for our Report (in which are provided a set of Census questions of major to minor LGBT+ & LGBTQ+ community importance, analysis: these for reference as Census data starts to emerge at the end of this year) and of welcome for collaboration going forward.

We are very pleased about this as it is clear that on a number of points much work still needs to be undertaken where such important data gathering exercises are concerned for more excluded or vulnerable sections of our community: our report has identified these and provided through the report details, awareness to the ONS at National Statistician level.

Letter from the National Statistician

Dear Alan and the LGBT+ Network for Change,

Census analysis and feedback report from the LGBT+ Network for Change

Thank you for your letter and feedback report of 16th August 2021.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank you and the LGBT+ Network for Change for the support you gave to the Census collection operation that took place earlier this year. …

… I am keen we maintain and build upon the working relationship developed between ONS and the LGBT+ Network for Change. I want to ensure that LGBT+ communities are engaged in plans for the future of the census as well as wider statistical developments.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Sir Ian Diamond

We will be utilising the report where needed in feed-in to national government departments, agencies, local authorities and public service organisations, going forward and to Parliamentary Select Committees work.

Network support to Uganda LGBT / Lesbian community — request to British High Commission (Kampala) regarding ravaging of Covid 19 in Lesbian safe house:

The Network is taking action in regard to a deadly Covid 19 outbreak in a Lesbian safe house in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. We were contacted via Twitter late last week y the lead of the safe house who was calling out for help internationally to our LGBT+ community, as the Coronavirus had broken out in the safe house, with one person dead so far and others very ill.

As many readers of this news announcement will be aware Uganda is one of the most brutally homophobic countries in the world with an infamous record on torture murders and public humiliations of LGBT people and those suspected of not being heterosexual or cisgender: the source of the problem being religious / Christian fundamentalist views of virulently anti-LGBT kinds. The country has anti-LGBT laws that have ultimately been derived from the influence of the latter, meaning there are no legal protections for community members; in fact the reverse.

For more on the terrible realities of what it is like to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans or non-binary in Uganda, please visit this searing article by Pink News that the safe house lead provided to us at the Network: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2020/05/11/lgbt-uganda-homeless-shelter-arrest-coronavirus-laws-kampala-sky-news/

Consequently those at the safe house face a double peril: from the virus, and from the fear of the authorities and vigilante Christian extremist gangs that seek out LGBT and suspected LGBT people to persecute, torment, and often murder. For this reason help has not been able to be sought from the authorities regarding the Covid 19 outbreak. Only instead by a desperate and very courageous outreach to the international LGBT community to make us aware of the plight of those at the safe house.

The Network has therefore advised the basic, protection action and safety measure of the safe house lead contacting the British High Commissioner (BHC) of Uganda, Ms Kate Airey. We are following up directly on this with Ms Airey, and are asking for the BHC to provide all possible assistance to those at the safe house (the request made by it’s lead being for Covid 19 related PPE, testing, etc.).

The Network follow up to the British High Commissioner involves Stonewall having direct awareness of the situation and the Network request. We believe that in this way a from the UK LGBT+ community (and community support organisations such as the Network and Stonewall), much more deepened relationship with the BHC in Uganda can assist our community members there, and of course the BHC itself. We are aware of some infamous anti-LGBT ‘Hostile Environment’ cases by Home Office, UK Immigration (UKVI) in regard to Ugandan LGBT community members, so it is important that the relationship mentioned be developed, to assist both community and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

In our email to the British High Commissioner, Uganda we also request information on exactly what the BHC (FCDO) has been achieving and involved in regard to direct LGBT+ community engagement and support: this information once provided will assist us and every party concerned.

Census 2021: the Network provides analysis & feedback Report to the National Statistician and the Office of National Statistics (ONS)

The Network was at grassroots and strategic engagement level from the start of 2021 actively engaged in preparation to support maximum outreach and participation of our LGBT+ & LGBTQ+ communities in the South of England and beyond. Our particular interest being to engage more marginalised, disempowered, overlooked sections of our communities.

Because of this priority we undertook major evaluation at detailed question by question level of the Census 2021 — delivered by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) — online and hard-copy versions so we could better advise community members about the community-relevant questions (and there were a number of these, Not only the two new sexual orientation and gender identity ground-breaking questions the ONS introduced to our and all LGBT+ rights & equality supporting organisations) in the Census.

This work led to creation of a valuable resource that the Network has provided (16th August) formally to the National Statistician (Sir Ian Diamond) and ONS, as the priority of the Network is to see maximum use of Census data to inform much better quality and extensive LGBT+ & LGBTQ community supportive services at national UK Government departments policy and public services delivery level.

We are delighted to share that we have received confirmation of receipt of the Report from the Office of the National Statistician, who will be studying the findings and recommendations.

This will enable us to be able to follow up with those government departments, public services providers and local authorities where relevant on their use of the Census data used to inform LGBT+ & LGBTQ+ communities members engagement and support where policies and services planning and delivery are concerned, and strengthening too work in this area by organisations such as Stonewall.

The Network has also been invited by the ONS to join their Census 2021 Engagement Group, which we are now a part of.

Network LGBT & LGBTQ+ homeless community, NHS engagement & multi-agency initiative:

With the initiative having from the outset national level use, and relevance to any given city, town, county, district, the Network, that originated in the BCP area has been able to over the past six months (from February to August 2021) run a very valuable key relevant stakeholders outreach & engagement exercise, which is now [mid-August 2021] complete.  The intension was to gain experience that would be valuable in multiple different locations across the UK.

Bournemouth in particular has a for its population size, major homeless community, and is recognised to have the fifth or sixth largest LGBT+ population in England.  As such, in principle, the BCP conurbation offers the best possible national replication test conditions factors for a concerted multi-agency coordinated linked-up approach to LGBT homeless & hidden homeless support.  Equally it presents nationally relevant factors that to date have prevented such a joined up approach. 

The conurbation also has a dedicated Council led Homeless Partnership, which has the potential to be the ideal mechanism for the multi-agency coordination.  We first approached the Partnership over a year ago in regard to establishing within it a dedicated group or section that would include committed homeless support organisations and the local authority’s housing department. 

There was from the Partnership lead instant enthusiasm concerning this, yet with it being very well-known that a) LGBT homelessness is a distinct phenomenon (24% of the total younger homeless population are from our LGBT & LGBTQ community) separate to that of the broader homeless community, and b) that as a distinct phenomenon clear dedicated solutions were and are required, a year on – A YEAR ON — no action on setting up a dedicated LGBT homeless support sub-group in the Partnership has been taken despite polite but clear reminders on this provided to the Partnership lead by the Network. 

This indicates either unstated opposition within established elements of the Partnership, or that the needs of the LGBT homeless and at risk of homelessness are Not a priority for the Partnership.

The Network became a member of the Partnership over a year ago, and found after the initial enthusiasm and promise for action, the promise was progressively diluted (we must and are intending to set up a minority communities sub-group and an LGBT dimension within this will be provided, etc. etc.) to an aspirational, inactive level, and eventually no contact. 

This is a valuable experience for it will have parallels across the country. The Network concern is that embedded in such traditional, conventional homeless support partnerships there are many religious-based/associated organisations, that de-facto have dynamic active association with religions OR forms of religions that have major, historic associations with persecution of LGBT people, and ‘conversion therapy’ approaches to LGBTQ youth in particular. 

Homeless support organisations and charities that have such associations would be looked to have minimal interest in effective support to the LGBT homeless community as such support clashes with core more non-inclusive traditional religious values and perspectives where same-sex love is concerned. 

As such, this experience indicates valuable learning relevant to any part of the UK where going to such established traditional homeless support collaboratives are concerned.  The main lesson is that such traditional multi-group homeless support partnerships cannot be the main focus for effective support to our LGBT homeless community. In contrast the three component model below negates such factors, and meets all of the key support needs for our community members who are homeless or at risk of homelessness due to family rejection/anti-LGBT oppression, conversion ‘therapy’ type abuse, etc.

It is our hope that the Partnership can reassess its communication and support record in regard to the necessary actions. It must be stressed that the Partnership is a BCP Council based/strategically linked one.

Council Housing Department record dimension:

The Network has found a comparable record of inaction and ‘pass the parcel’ (one official passing to another, to another, etc. from the same Council’s Housing Department). This record of many months standing has been very disappointing given the size of the conurbation’s LGBT community. The Network had asked in early 2021, to the Council’s Housing Department: a) what dedicated LGBT community safehouse emergency accommodation does the Council have and if none or minimal what signposting to demonstrated LGBT dedicated or LGBT safe & proven to be competent in LGBT support third parties do you signpost. After an enormous amount of time spent by the Network seeking answers to these basic questions, a meeting was arranged with the relevant Council housing department officer, by the Partnership admin/office lead (who attended the meeting). The outcome was still that no clear answers could be given to the two

Conclusions: at best we have to-date (and e absolutely wish to see a real change now from both take place with Action not evasiveness and timewasting) found that where the Partnership (and in this we are speaking about leadership/admin only not the concept of the Partnership itself or it’s membership per se) is concerned there is still an inability to answer those basic questions beyond a non-timelined aspiration that Diverse Communities particular needs, including LGBT are going to be looked into and in a year or so potentially clearer support may be possible. For those in crisis from our LGBT community this de-facto indolent approach is not credible or acceptable. The Network has received cases from LGBT homeless community members on the frontline of this failure. In states of major crisis they too found their hopes crushed and precious time wasted. In one case we learned from a client that they had to leave the area, and eventually found a local authority that was supportive, but some 200+ miles away.

Other: national dimensions

Parallel to the above, the initiative covered national level agencies and supportive organisations from within the LGBT+ community and broader homeless community support sectors.  This dimension to the initiative is continuing and we will be providing more information on this in October.

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About the Network initiative:

The initiative in support to our LGBT+ & LGBTQ+ homeless and hidden homeless communities has been developed to provide:

  1. ‘Need to know’ knowledge on the origins, characteristics/dimension, and solutions information resources for all those with interest in or obligations & commitments to support the communities from both preventative as well as assistance to move into positions of safety and progression to being free to lead full and fulfilling lives for those community members who have been homeless. 
  2. The core primary support need being mental healthcare services orientated one, our initiative has developed information resources for NHS mental healthcare service providing organisations, with focus on mental healthcare professionals foremost, and admin staff that take the initial often life-breaking or life-making calls from LGBT+ and especially LGBTQ+ community members who have been driven to become homeless for their safety or mental health preservation reasons.
  3. Beyond NHS healthcare provision support, the preventative and alert to potential vulnerable individuals (commonly in the 14 – 16 years of age group, dimension of needed awareness our initiative identifies is in the college / Further Education age range. Information on the LGBT homeless phenomenon causes and mental health dimensions provided to these education service providers constitutes the next core level of approach and support the Network initiative provides. 

These education providers to have the information resource referred to for relevant staff awareness & dedicated training and/or intranet use derived from the latter, and with annual LGBT community celebration and awareness calendar fixtures (LGBT History Month, Pride Month, IDAHOBIT, Transgender Day of Remembrance, Mental Health Awareness Day, etc.) always featuring the LGBT homeless phenomenon to staff and students.

  • For given local area LGBT organisations, such as especially Prides, and also LGBT businesses (especially clubs, bars, cafes) to be involved to promote ‘go to’ signposting and direct support organisations, particularly NHS, LGBT homeless support services, and connection to the education sector (2.). 

The Network initiative involves emphasis on the above, with NHS services provision as the anchor.

  • A model for broader homeless support sector multi-agency working across stakeholders involved in the homeless support sector based on the three fundamentals above

The Network LGBT homeless initiative information resources have been created and disseminated broadly, and as our first priority for implementation these resources concentrate on mental health care support services in partnership with the NHS. 

Regarding this work on deployment of the resources is currently taking place for healthcare professionals and admin staff assistance and related training with the pan-Dorset Dorset Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. 

This of course is the core, anchor work of the Network’s initiative, as mental healthcare credible LGBT appropriate and LGBT competent delivered NHS mental healthcare for our LGBT homeless and at risk of homelessness is the primary level of support needed to make a real difference to members of the latter. Without it the secondary and tertiary levels of support cannot be effectively engaged.

From October 2021, this LGBT+ & LGBTQ+ communities supportive Network – NHS (DHC) work will be complete and formally launched for the benefit of all LGBT homeless community and at risk of homelessness due to anti-LGBT prejudice, violence, oppression in the pan-Dorset area through DHC services.