Support for LGBT during coronavirus – Minister blog
Blog by Christina McKelvie, Minister for older people and equalities
The coronavirus pandemic is affecting us all in a variety of different ways. I know that as the lockdown measures across Scotland continue, LGBT people may experience difficulties which are magnified by the inequality that they continue to experience. Many younger LGBT people may not be “out” in the home in which they are living, and therefore feeling deeply uncomfortable, distressed or unsafe. Suddenly, they are finding themselves more isolated and reliant on digital technology to connect with support networks.
As Equalities Minister, I am acutely aware of the significant challenges LGBT people face every day, now heightened as a result of COVID-19. The Scottish Government is doing everything it can to help people overcome these challenges. We’re working with national LGBT organisations to support people who need it during these unprecedented times.
We are taking action to get help to people as quickly as possible. Part of our £350 million wellbeing funding package has been made available to councils, charities, businesses and community groups, because they are best placed to respond to the specific needs of people in their local areas.
Over £55,000 of this additional funding is going directly front line organisations supporting LGBT people in Scotland to increase their services during the pandemic. this includes to:
- LGBT Health and Wellbeing to extend the National LGBT Helpline to an additional two days a week, now available Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 12- 9pm and Thursdays and Sundays from 1-6pm. A new tele-friending service will also support some of the most at risk and isolated members of the community.
- The Equality Network to help around 40 local and national LGBTI groups continue to provide social support to communities around Scotland with Zoom Pro accounts and training in how to use them.
- LGBT Youth Scotland to accelerate the development of a safe online community space for LGBT young people, and an online learning hub – this will be launched soon.
There are still resources available for organisations through the Wellbeing Fund, and I would encourage relevant groups to register their interest
LGBT people can also be assured that they can continue to access services and support at this time. Local councils can help you if you need support accessing food for example. The NHS remains open for anyone who needs it – it is important that people continue to seek medical support for any concerns they have as they would have done before COVID-19. I know that some trans people may be experiencing particular anxiety around their medical care, and anyone struggling to access their usual hormone treatments through the normal provider should contact the relevant Gender Identity Clinic.
As we deal with the pandemic, it is right that our focus must be on coordinating the current emergency response, maintaining effective public services and preparing for recovery. As we do this, we are also ensuring that equality and human rights are embedded throughout our response and recovery, to best serve everyone in Scotland.
Understandably, work in Government has halted – for now – on a number of planned Bills which were due to be introduced in the current Parliamentary term. This includes the Bill to reform the Gender Recognition Act 2004. I know that many trans people will be disappointed about this.
I want to be clear that the Scottish Government continues to have a strong commitment to reforming the 2004 Act and to improving the lives of trans, including non-binary, people more generally. I recognise that trans people in particular continue to suffer poorer outcomes relative to the wider population, and this needs to change.
We will continue to work to do everything we can to support LGBT people in Scotland, protect their health and wellbeing, and mitigate the wider social and economic impacts of this pandemic in the weeks and months ahead.
I know things will feel tough for everyone, and for some, life can feel very difficult indeed. But by staying at home and apart from each other, we are all doing our bit to slow the spread of the virus, to help the NHS and ultimately to save lives. So I want to say thank you to everyone across the country who is helping us to achieve those vital objectives. If you need help or if you have help to give, remember that we are all in this together – do not hesitate to reach out with kindness and understanding.
Latest guidance about COVID-19 from NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government, including social distancing and stay at home advice can be found here.
A new national helpline – 0800 111 4000 – has been set up to provide essential assistance to those who do not have a network of support but who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19. Anyone else looking for support should visit www.readyscotland.org.
For anyone are experiencing violence and abuse, the Scottish Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline and the Rape Crisis Helpline continue to operate.