We are a little late with the blog this month because we have had to backtrack a little bit to collect our stories on ‘Named Supporter News’ and election hustings …. but before that our own update:
We are now a Company Limited by Guarantee (with an asset lock which means we are not-for-profit) – most certainly a social enterprise – hurrah. It has been a long haul but the registration went through on 14th May, shortly after our last SAND Action Group meeting. We are changing our bank account accordingly and will soon be in a position to set up a ‘Friends scheme’. Our cashflow is pretty low at the moment so this is all good news to pick up momentum on income generation. Our next meeting is replaced with an Away Day for the Group so we will be able to take a focused look at this stuff then.
We have reached that point when a ‘Fundraising Strategy’ has crept to the top of the list. It is fascinating how these things reach a priority and the folder fills up – we now have: A business plan, an action plan, policies on ethics, consultation, safeguarding and equalities & diversity, Articles of Association and the first stages of a marketing strategy. These are all essential parts of the solid foundations which we are trying to build!
At the moment it is all hands on deck for our impending event: Personal Lives – Personal Care. We have 40 people booked on so far with a few more places available so it should be a good one! We know we are on a slow burn to raise awareness about issues impacting on older and old LGBT people accessing health and social care services and are delighted with the sign-up list so far which includes people working in/for domiciliary care, residential care, CCG, fire service, Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK, CAB. We are keen to try out creative, innovative ways of relaying information – which is why we have asked Clare Summerskill to join us to help the messages find their way into different sectors. If you are due to come we intend to have the doors open by 2pm so come and have a browse around the displays and have a chat before we kick off at 2.30pm.
SAND is part of a project to look at safe housing for older and old LGBT people. We have been contacted by Surrey University Centre for Research on Ageing and Gender to be part of a pilot which will hopefully lead to a bigger study to give an insight into the questions that LGBT people have – and perhaps some consideration of responses. The pilot will take place towards the end of June and we’ll be putting some information out next week.
The L.O.L. (Lovely Old and Lesbian) Group is taking a break for June but will be back in July on the second Thursday of the month at the Two Fat Rascals in Shrewsbury (2 – 4pm). This is for lesbians over the age of 70 – or thereabouts.
Plans are now in motion for our SKA Night Fundraiser with the BC All SKAs on 25th July. Tickets are now available via eventbrite and the paper copies have arrived – we’ll be putting them in shops in Shrewsbury soon so check our Pengwern Books on Fish Street – we’ll definitely be putting some in there.
We have set up a new domain name which can be used for all our events: www.sandgig.co.uk.
SAND Named Supporter News:
During the election campaign, Nigel Farage attacked the number of foreign nationals receiving treatment for HIV in the UK. Bisi Alimi, one of our Named Supporters, responded in ‘The Independent on Saturday (4/5/15) with a front page photo: ‘If Nigel Farage had had his way, I would be dead’, followed by an interview, describing the remarks as ‘deeply offensive’. Bisi later travelled to Thanet South to help staff an anti-UKIP stall, at which he was verbally attacked by a UKIP supporter, who called him ‘a lazy immigrant’. To challenge perceptions, he decided to carry a placard, ‘I am an immigrant, hug me, or ask me a question.’ ‘[It was] a way of giving immigration a face’…’I faced my fear and stood with [the] placard for five hours…Many people told me they wanted to vote UKIP, but after asking me questions, changed their minds’.
You would be hard pushed to have missed the fact that our Supporter Sandi Toksvig has joined forces with Catherine Mayer and others to found the Women’s Equality Party – “a new non-partisan force in British politics bringing together women and men of all ages and backgrounds, united in the campaign for women to enjoy the same rights and opportunities as men so that both sexes can flourish”.Over 27,000 people have already ‘liked’ the main facebook page. It is all happening on Facebook while they get their website sorted out and there are local groups which will, presumably have local contacts. So far Ludlow seems to be an early adopter in Shropshire!
Election Hustings: our third key priority is about influence so it would be a nonsense to let an opportunity like the election hustings to go by without posing a question to prospective parliamentary candidates. This we did. We were unable to ask it at the hustings itself and so provided it in a written note – it is fair to say that all of the candidates were supportive of our work and said they would take it forward if elected. (We now intend to keep up the pressure on our MP and get him to ask questions of ministers/hold him to his promises!) We wanted to keep a copy of all the responses – see below. The question was:
‘There are approx. 6,000 older and old LGBT people in Shropshire. Despite huge changes in legislation, most LGBT people do not live openly. Given this, older and old LGBT people are even less likely to be open about their sexuality, as they lived through times of harsh laws, prejudices and very few rights. Bearing this in mind, what are the candidates’ views on current awareness, training and provision within the care service providers/care homes as regards older and old LGBT people? How do they think these services can become more inclusive?’
Daniel Kawczynski, Conservative:
In response to the important issues regarding palliative care and the LGBT community, you are right to point out that cultures and attitudes towards LGBT people in the UK are changing. The British Social Attitudes Survey shows that the proportion of people who think that sexual relations between adults of the same sex is always wrong has fallen from 64 per cent in 1987 to 15 per cent in 2013. The Government hopes these figures demonstrate that LGBT people are increasingly confident about declaring their sexual identity. Even with some of the strongest legislation in the world, some people may not feel able to reveal their sexual orientation due to prejudice or perceived prejudice. As cultures and attitudes change, the Government hopes that LGBT people feel increasingly confident to declare their sexual identity. I am pleased CPC, the lead charity of the Dying Matters Coalition, and the Consortium have put together the report titled “Open to all? Meeting the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people nearing the end of life” this highlights a subject that has long been ignored. I believe it is vital over the next Parliament we work to lay some light on this issue and plan if re-elected to approach the appropriate Minister whoever that may be to ascertain what they see as the best method for increasing inclusion. I’ve no doubts though that raising the profile of such cases will assist in improving the situation. If there are recommendations where legislation could work they must be considered, but my early investigations into this matter suggest the law is already in place to demand equality, however this is of course a different question as to whether it is being achieved in practice. I do hope though that whatever the local or national result come May the 7th we can see progress in this area. Charities, NGO’s, and organisations such as SAND can and will play an important role in this area and I am extremely pleased to see that a seminar will be taking place in Shrewsbury on the 21st of May.
Christine Tinker, Liberal Democrat:
I totally accept and understand that older and old LGBT people would not easily be open about their sexuality as they lived through times with harsh laws and often censure, and worse, from other members of society. Whilst I cannot pretend to be an expert in how carers and support workers are trained/should be trained in looking after LGBT people and made aware of their possible reluctance to disclose their sexuality, I think it is essential that training for all care service providers and commissioners should include this. I think events like the ‘Personal Lives Personal Care’ Seminar being put on by SAND and Age UK Shropshire Telford and Wrekin are essential to build care providers and commissioners knowledge and help ensure that suitable support is being provided. I would be very interested to know what proportion of such organisations do attend these events; what training, if any, is given to their workers and how the situation could be improved. To be certain that the proper components are included in any training, consultation with LGBT groups is essential and I am pleased to see that SAND is leading the way in this field and would be happy to work with them to establish suitable and realistic benchmarks for any training that takes place.
Emma Bullard, Green:
I support the aims of SAND – it is very sad to hear that so many older and old people do not feel able to be open about their sexuality, and it’s important to raise this issue as younger generations may feel that with changes in legislation and social attitudes there is no longer a problem with being openly LGBT. Equality and an end to discrimination is a key theme of all Green Party policy, and this is achieved not just directly through anti-discrimination policies but also through wider changes in society. If care workers are properly paid and valued, and given time to form relationships with the people they work with, it’s much more likely that respect and trust will be created, and an atmosphere where even if the old/older person does not feel able to be open about their sexuality they still feel secure and valued for themselves. There will also be a need for better training generally for care staff, as part of making the sector more highly skilled and improving services, and anti-discrimination policies should be included in this. I’m not aware of what training is currently provided for staff in Shropshire and whether there have been any cases of discrimination or homophobic abuse locally – if there have then these should be dealt with urgently and the provider in question required to take action. The following paragraph is taken from the Green Party manifesto page 27: https://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/manifesto/Green_Party_2015_General_Election_Manifesto_Searchable.pdf. “Joining up the policies: Anti-discrimination policies on their own aren’t enough. It’s vital to see the connections between one policy decision and its effects elsewhere in society. Cuts and austerity measures have a disproportionate effect on LGBTIQ people because of higher levels of reliance on public services due to family estrangement, societal and workplace discrimination, and specific healthcare needs. Likewise, cuts in youth, housing and social services are more likely to affect young LGBTIQ people, particularly those who are estranged from their families. LGBTIQ people are more likely to face unemployment and the impact of this can be much greater because they may not be able to rely on wider social networks. Cuts to services for older and disabled people will have a much greater impact on LGBTIQ people, who are less likely to have children and will be more reliant on public services. So, restoring the public realm contributes to equality and diversity.”
Suzanne Evans, UKIP:
I can understand how difficult it must be for older people in the LGBT community to ‘come out’ and indeed, I know a couple of people myself in this position and have every sympathy with their predicament. It is appalling that there is still so much stigma in this day and age. I know when I was doing my training with Nightline, the student version of the Samaritans some twenty-five years ago, we were taught to be sensitive to the LGBT issues even then and so I would hope that matters have only got better since? Of course, you probably know better than me so, if there are any particular gaps or discrepancies in training etc., and if you believe there is anything I can do to help, then do please let me know and I will be happy to.
Laura Davis (Labour) made positive comment verbally but did not provide a written response.
This Blog records what is happening at which point of SAND’s development.