Reaching Out: Older LGBT PeopleSchool of Health Professions – Age Concern Eastbourne
There is anecdotal evidence which suggested that LGBT elders are often isolated in the community. The project will bring together the University of Brighton with local charitable and community groups and organisations to discuss issues of social exclusion and inclusion of older LGBT people living in and around Eastbourne. From these discussions plans for a further long term project will be developed which will train and support volunteers to befriend and support socially excluded and isolated older LGBT people.
Reaching Out: Older LGBT people report May 2012
Reaching Out: Older LGBT People
This ‘On Our Doorsteps’ project will contribute to the University of Brighton’s (UoB) objectives of social engagement; complementing the School of Health Professions Healthy Eastbourne Project. The population of Eastbourne is approximately 90,000 of which 26% (23,400) are of pensionable age (www.eastbourne.gov.uk/eastbourne/). Stonewall estimates that the UK LGB population to vary between 5%-7% (www.stonewall.org.uk). This means that potentially 1,170 (5%)-1,638 (7%) retired people in Eastbourne are LGB. The number of people who are transgender is difficult to estimate because of reluctance to ‘come out’ to official surveys due to concerns of discrimination. Also for transgendered people the issue of who is being counted arises; those who have had surgery, transitioning or considering transition (East Sussex County Council – Adult Social Care: Assessment of the needs of LGBT people, 2011).
The proposed seed fund project (Phase 1) will be mutually beneficial in bringing together community groups and members of the UoB with an interest in working with older LGBT people in their local community. This project will enable the sharing of expertise, knowledge and resources between community organisations and the UoB to discuss and plan for the development and sustainability of a longer term project (Phase 2) to support isolated older LGBT people.
This proposed project fosters partnership between: University of Brighton (UoB) academics, AGE Concern Eastbourne, Bourne Out, Eastbourne Rainbow, Eastbourne Borough Council, Eastbourne Homes Plc, East Sussex County council, Terence Higgins Trust Eastbourne, UoB Active Student and UoB Development & Alumni Office The local groups are involved in providing services and support for the elder LGBT community in Eastbourne.
The partners consider ‘neighbourliness’ in relation establishing an effective level of communication with UoB and community partners, fostering partner learning of the potential of each group, cultivate collaborative practice respectful of each partner’s expertise, and enable effective discussions and planning to take place. Together the partners can join resources to support each other and devise a larger project to reach into the local community to provide contact and support for isolated elder LGBT citizens. We believe the seed project has a neighbourly focus in promoting community partnership towards a greater joint community goal, and that the larger project will epitomize neighbourly and community partnership working for a disadvantaged group.
We have had three meetings of the steering group. Additional members have been recruited to the steering group to enhance inclusiveness. There has been active discussion in each meeting. We have debated; the issues concerned with locating and contacting lonely/ isolated LGBT people, the need to always be aware of confidentiality and that people may choose to restrict their involvement in the community. Our knowledge of the services available to people, and the challenges and benefits of a service directed at older LGBT people is growing within the group and for individual members. We are sharing our knowledge and expertise. We have established an active network of interested people who appear willing to work together and help each other.
- We are conducting a needs assessment of the older LGBT community in Eastbourne in June. We hope to recruit a sample of 15 people who are representative of the Eastbourne older LGBT community. From this we hope to have a better idea of the type of befriending service we should propose.
- Two members of the Steering group are going to visit the organisers of ‘Open Doors’; an Age UK LGBT initiative in Camden. We hope to learn from Camden’s experiences.
- One steering group member is going to a conference in Oxford regarding loneliness in later life. This is to gather facts and feedback to the steering group.
We have three more steering group meetings planned.