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Regard is the UK’s national Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) for the LGBTQI community. Regard was founded in 1989 by LGBTQI disabled people, and is run by LGBTQI disabled people. We work to increase awareness of LGBTQI issues within the disability community; to increase awareness of disability issues in the LGBTQI community; to combat social isolation among LGBTQI disabled people; and to campaign on issues that particularly affect LGBTQI disabled people.
As with 90%+ of the LGBTQI voluntary sector, Regard receives no regular funding and has no paid staff. Instead, the organization is run by the members for the members, the majority of whom are LGBTQI disabled people themselves (although we also offer associate membership for organisations and allies). For funded projects, we employ disabled LGBTQI people as freelances where necessary.
Regard works in the following ways:
• Our Executive Committee is made up of members representing particular areas of our community or work, such as People with Learning Difficulties, Trans disabled people etc. Representatives self-identify as a member of their group.
• Executive Committee members represent the interests of LGBTQI disabled people on committees of organisations such as the Care Quality Commission and the Social Care Institute of Excellence, as well as at Prides and other LGBTQI and disability related campaigns and events.
• We operate a daily email group for Executive Committee members to report back on their work, make decisions etc, including discussing this submission.
• Wherever possible, we work in partnership, e.g. we are currently working with the University of Bristol, Stonewall and SCIE to conduct a major research project into LGBTQI disabled people’s use of self-directed social care in the home. We have also discussed this submission with Stonewall who have provided additional statistics etc.
• We operate a daily email news feed for members, along with a Facebook page, a Twitter stream and a website that is in the process of being substantially updated.
• We meet as an organization three or four times a year in London, including our AGM.
Regard’s current priorities are social care; hate crime; and access to the ‘scene’, all of which are interlinked too.
Regard is a Disabled People’s Organization, and supports the DPAC and Disability Rights Watch UK Shadow Reports. Our submission is additional to their recommendations.
LGBTQI* issues are central to the experiences of many disabled people.
[Article 5: Equality and non-discrimination; Article 7: Children with disabilities]
LGBTQI disabled people are over-represented as social care users and have been disproportionately affected by cuts to services.
[Article 19: Living independently and being included in the community];
Article 28: Adequate standard of living and social protection]
LGBTQI disabled people receive poorer levels of service than other disabled people, and often feel unsafe to be ‘out’ in their own homes to support staff.
[Article 5: Equality and non-discrimination; Article 25: Health]
LGBTQI disabled people are more likely than other disabled people to be socially isolated.
[Article 9: Accessibility; Article 19: Living independently and being included in the community; Article 30: Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport]
LGBTQI disabled people face greater barriers than other disabled people to a home and family life. [Article 23: Respect for home and family]
LGBTQI disabled people experience the highest level of hate crime of any UK group.
[Article 13: Access to Justice; Article 16: Freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse]
REGARD RECOMMENDS THAT:
• the specific rights and needs of LGBTQIQI disabled people of all ages are included in all work related to the UN CRPD, including the work being done by the UN itself, and should be included in all Equality Impact Assessments.
• the UK Government implements its commitments under Article 8 as a matter of urgency, including specific work about LGBTQI disabled people.
• the bedroom tax and the requirement to pay at least 20% of council tax benefit are immediately abolished. Sanctions for claimants should be ended.
• child benefit, child tax credit and universal credit are reinstated for third and subsequent children and cuts to young people’s housing benefit are scrapped.
• there is a freeze on extending Universal Credit to other regions.
• the cap on how much benefit income a household can receive is lifted with immediate effect.
• there is an immediate review of social care, with the aim of ensuring equal access for disabled people across the UK to appropriate social care.
* LGBTQI = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex
MAIN FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
LGBTQI issues are central to the experiences of many disabled people
[Article 5: Equality and non-discrimination; Article 7: Children with disabilities]
There is a higher proportion of disabled people within the LGBTQI community than the UK community as a whole: one in three compared to one in four across all age-groups. LGBTQI disabled people also tend to be younger on average than the disabled community as a whole, where two-thirds are over the age of 60. This is partly because of the impact of HIV, but mostly because of the impact of homophobia and transphobia on mental health from childhood onwards. The impact of discrimination on mental health also leads to self-harming behaviours such as addiction, which in turn cause further impairments. Disability can also be directly related to violent hate crime, for example head injuries from assaults, and wheelchair use following the Admiral Duncan bombing and other attacks.
• University of Cambridge research for Stonewall in The School Report (2012) – which surveyed more than 1,600 LGB young people – found that 55 per cent have experienced homophobic and biphobic bullying at school.
• Metro Centre’s Youth Chances Survey (2014) found that 28 per cent of trans young people have experienced physical abuse at school.
• Almost 99 per cent of gay young people hear the phrases ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘you’re so gay’ (The School Report, 2012).
• Metro Centre’s Youth Chances Survey (2014) found that over half of the 7,000 LGBTQI 16-25 year old respondents had reported mental health problems. 44 per cent had considered ending their lives.
• An online survey of nearly 900 trans people across the UK for GIRES’ Trans mental health study (2012) found that 84 per cent of respondents had considered ending their lives, with 35 per cent attempting.
• A Stonewall and Sigma Research study of nearly 7,000 gay and bi men across Britain for Stonewall’s Gay and Bisexual Men’s Health Survey report found that 13 per cent of gay and bisexual men were experiencing moderate to severe levels of mixed depression and anxiety.
• A Stonewall and Sigma Research study of nearly 6,000 lesbian and bi women across Britain for Stonewall’s Prescription for Change (2008) report found that five per cent of lesbian, bi women have attempted to take their own life.
RECOMMENDATION: Regard recommends that the specific rights and needs of LGBTQI disabled people of all ages are included in all work related to Article 8 [Awareness raising] We believe that the Government’s actions in this area to date have been woefully inadequate as regards all disabled people, and more often have been designed to work against the provisions of Article 8. Since the Convention was drawn up, the Harvard research into ‘unconscious bias’ has provided proof that negative images and stereotypes have a direct impact on creating bias, and vice versa, highlighting the importance of Article 8.
Regard recommends as a minimum that increased funds are allocated to disabled-led arts and cultural programmes, as well as the use of advertising and billboard campaigns promoting equality and inclusion for disabled people in all walks of life, supported by Disability Equality & Diversity Training programmes throughout the health, social care and cultural industries.
NB: Regard is currently working with Stonewall, SCIE and the University of Bristol to produce resources for LGBTQI disabled people and the social care sector about the needs of LGBTQI disabled people, including leaflets and short films. Regard previously developed a play about the lived experiences of LGBTQI disabled people, written and directed by Clare Summerskill and funded by Arts Council England in 2012, and we are currently seeking funding to film this.
LGBTQI disabled people are over-represented as social care users and have been disproportionately affected by cuts to services [Article 19: Living independently and being included in the community; Article 28: Adequate standard of living and social protection]
LGBTQI people are much more likely than the UK community as a whole to move away from the area they grew up in (and to live in cities); they are also much more likely to have minimal or no contact with their birth families; and much less likely to have children. All of this means that disabled LGBTQI people are much less likely to have access to informal care and support, and so to rely heavily on formal care provision. (Mainstream voluntary sector support is also much more difficult to access because of a ‘lack of comfort’ around LGBTQI issues; meanwhile 90% of the LGBTQI voluntary sector is unfunded with very limited capacity.)
This means that cuts to social care, as described in the Shadow Reports, have affected LGBTQI disabled people disproportionately. The fact that only those disabled people deemed to be in ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ need of support now receive any social care at all has again impacted disproportionately on LGBTQI disabled people, who not only have less access to informal support, but as below need to travel further distances to access our community.
RECOMMENDATION: As the Shadow Reports have shown, cuts to social care have undermined the rights conferred in Article 19 and Article 28 and have caused widespread poverty, misery and social exclusion, in addition to impacting on health. Regard does not believe that the Government has ever made a credible case for social care cuts. There is an urgent need for investment in social care services and to bring these up to a national standard based around Care Act and CPRD rights, so that disabled people across the UK can access appropriate support as and when they need it. Regard recommends that the specific rights and needs of LGBTQI disabled people are assessed when developing all policies related to Article 19 and Article 28.
LGBTQI disabled people receive poorer levels of service than other disabled people, and often feel unsafe to be ‘out’ in their own homes [Article 5: Equality and non-discrimination; Article 25: Health]
Regard is currently carrying out research into LGBTQI disabled people’s experiences of using self-directed social care in the home with Stonewall, the University of Bristol and SCIE. Interim findings show that more than half of LGBTQI self-directed support users never or seldom ‘come out’ to their support workers because of fear of discrimination, and more than a third have actually experienced discrimination from their support workers. The vast majority felt that their needs as an LGBTQI disabled person had not been considered properly within their care planning by local authorities.
• YouGov polling of over 3,000 health and social care staff for Stonewall’s Unhealthy Attitudes (2015) found that 24 per cent of ‘patient-facing’ staff have heard colleagues make negative remarks about LGB people. One in five (20 per cent) have heard similar remarks about trans people. One in ten (9 per cent) of trans health and social care staff have themselves experienced discrimination or poor treatment from colleagues because they are trans (Unhealthy Attitudes, 2015)
• 51 per cent of mental health workers, counsellors, psychologists and psychotherapists believed that sexual orientation is not relevant to one’s health needs (Unhealthy Attitudes, 2015). This means that the impact of homophobia on mental health is not examined when LGBTQI people present for diagnosis and treatment.
RECOMMENDATIONS: In addition to our recommendations relating to Article 8 above, Regard recommends that the specific rights and needs of LGBTQI disabled people are assessed when developing all policies related to Article 5 and Article 25.
Fees for Employment Tribunals should be abolished for discrimination cases, and legal aid reinstated for claimants, in order to address the barriers that disabled people, particularly disabled LGBTQI people who face higher levels of ‘unconscious bias’, face when seeking and staying in work.
LGBTQI disabled people are more likely than other disabled people to be socially isolated [Article 9: Accessibility; Article 19: Living independently and being included in the community; Article 28: Adequate standard of living and social protection Article 30: Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport]
LGBTQI disabled people are the most socially isolated group of disabled people in the UK. As above, LGBTQI disabled people are more likely to depend on social care than other disabled people, which means that cuts to social care have had a greater impact on the social inclusion of LGBTQI disabled people than on others.
It is very important to most LGBTQI disabled people to be able to access the LGBTQI community, whether this is for health-specific or leisure activities. When disabled people are part of the LGBTQI wider community, they are able to access peer support and thus be more resilient to discrimination. When they are unable to do so and remain isolated, this is likely to have a serious impact on their mental health and as below they become more vulnerable to hate crime.
However, LGBTQI activities tend to be isolated in small geographic areas, which require travelling for longer than for ‘mainstream’ activities. This also costs more, which means that the cuts to disabled people’s income via benefit cuts and the demand for everyone to pay at least 20% council tax in cash (etc) has had an even more serious impact on LGBTQI disabled people’s social isolation than on other disabled people.
At present, as above LGBTQI disabled people are also very likely to feel unsafe disclosing their sexual orientation to their social care workers, which means that even if they have support available in theory to access the LGBTQI community, in practice they still can’t.
Cuts to disabled people’s income (benefit freezes, the introduction of Universal Credit and the bedroom tax, reduction of council tax benefit to 20%) have impacted across the board, with many disabled people giving up their mobile phone and/or TV as a result. This has further isolated disabled people, with LGBTQI people particularly hard hit because of their increased isolation elsewhere. Nationally, government statistics show that the majority of households containing a disabled person still lack domestic internet access, and again this particularly impacts on LGBTQI disabled people because online contact with our community may be the only practical option.
LGBTQI disabled people have also suffered disproportionately from the ‘sanctions’ removing benefit from Employment and Support Allowance claimants that have been widely criticized in the Shadow Reports, since social isolation and poorer service standards mean they are less likely to receive advice and practical support than other sanctioned claimants. This adds to the stresses on mental and physical health and further increases isolation. LGBTQI disabled claimants may even be being targeted by benefit workers seeking to meet their own targets because it is known they are less able to access support.
Finally, LGBTQI disabled people continue to face discrimination and exclusion within both the disability and LGBTQI communities. There is a particular resistance within the LGBTQI community to forefronting disability issues, which we attribute to the long association between LGB sexual orientation and mental illness. Homosexuality used to be listed on the WHO directory of diseases, and consequently there is a dis-ease with anything that links being LGBTQI with illness. Visibly disabled people also disrupt the ‘body beautiful’ aesthetic common within gay male culture. As a result, despite PR claims to the contrary, inclusion in events such as Pride London and the Flare film festival is very poor, and physical access to many LGBTQI-specific venues remains impossible, while BSL interpretation and audio-description is rare.
Regard has met with extreme hostility from major event LGBQTI organisers when campaigning for inclusion on equal terms, and has found that even those committed to equality lack an understanding of what inclusion looks like in reality. The continued association of disability with the Medical Model means that the shared civil rights message — we are all ‘normal’, it is society that needs to change to acknowledge that — is obscured. Consequently there is a strong sense that disabled people need to be ‘helped’ to overcome barriers and be grateful for this however inadequate the access proves, rather than delivering barrier-free events. LGBTQI people often conduct social relationships solely at community events, so one impact of the failure to include people with reduced mobility, vision and hearing is that LGBTQI people are isolated from their friends at the end of their lives.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Regard recommends that the specific rights and needs of LGBTQI disabled people are assessed when developing all policies related to Articles 8, 9, 19, 23, 28 and 30, and that the LGBTQI media is specifically targeted during Article 8 work. Sanctions for claimants should be ended immediately.
LGBTQI disabled people face greater barriers than other disabled people to a home and family life [Article 23: Respect for home and family]
Article 23 has had an even lower priority for the UK Government than the other Articles, and this has been mirrored by state-funded charities. Regard has been told previously that donors are ‘put off’ by the thought of disabled people having sex and may think that disabled people shouldn’t have children, and that the introduction of rights for LGBTQI people was the ‘last straw’ as ‘no one wants to think about disabled people having gay sex’.
LGBTQI disabled people certainly find it even more difficult than other disabled people to assert their rights to a home and family life in the UK. Often, our relationships are not even recognized by health and social care workers (particularly if these do not mirror heterosexual norms), or they are given less weight by professionals than heterosexual relationships — or they are seen as positively harmful; our past research findings have found that people with learning difficulties and non-verbal disabled people in particular are regarded as being inherently unfit to express their sexuality, especially gay sexuality. The social exclusion described above, including within the LGBTQI community itself, also makes it difficult to form relationships in the first place.
LGBTQI disabled people are more likely than other disabled people to be dependent on social housing, and many complain that their needs as LGBTQI people are either not being recognized, or are actively discriminated against. This includes placing gay men in women’s facilities; and placing LGBTQI people in housing where the support is provided directly and they have to save up and pay privately for support to attend LGBTQI events.
Young LGBTQI people are less likely to be welcome to live with their families as adults than heterosexuals, and are also more likely to under-achieve at school and to leave school early because of discrimination and bullying. This makes them even more likely to be out of education, training and employment and dependent on housing benefit and social housing than other young disabled people. Government plans to prevent the majority of young people from claiming housing benefit until they are 21, which Shelter believes will significantly increase youth homelessness among vulnerable young people, will hit young LGBTQI disabled people particularly hard.
With so many LGBTQI disabled people living in social housing and unable to afford to move, there has also been little benefit to us of ‘equal marriage’, because we often cannot afford to merge households. This has been further exacerbated by the ‘bedroom tax’, because in addition to needing space for overnight support workers, culturally, many LGB couples prefer to maintain separate bedrooms or need to do so for disability related reasons. The household benefits cap also works against disabled couples forming households.
Instead, the introduction of equal marriage without transitional protection for benefit claimants led to the break-up of relationships between LGBTQI claimants and workers where couples were previously living together, because suddenly the non-disabled partner became wholly responsible financially for the disabled person even though they weren’t married. Inevitably, more disabled people lost their homes than their non-disabled partners who were better able to afford their homes and were preferred by landlords.
The removal of child benefit, child tax credit and universal credit from third and subsequent children will hit disabled parents particularly hard, because they are already on lower incomes than other parents. No parents should have to decide to terminate a pregnancy — or to give up their child for adoption — against their wishes because they cannot afford another child. Parents who already have disabled children, whether they themselves are disabled or not, will be under extreme pressure to end a third pregnancy because of the additional costs they already face.
LGBTQI people have been particularly willing to adopt disabled children, and to take on sibling groups, in the past, but their ability to form a family this way in the future will be much more limited. In addition, the annual cap on the amount of benefit a household can claim may well prevent disabled people, whether LGBTQI or not, from having children at all, and also deters families from adopting disabled children.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Regard recommends that the specific rights and needs of LGBTQI disabled people are assessed when developing all policies related to Article 23. Regard recommends the immediate abolition of the bedroom tax and the benefits cap; the restoration of 100% council tax benefit; the abolition of the third and subsequent children rule for child benefit, child tax credit and universal credit; a freeze on extending universal credit to other areas; and the scrapping of the cuts to young people’s housing benefit.
LGBTQI disabled people experience the highest level of hate crime of any UK group [Article 13: Access to Justice; Article 16: Freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse]
LGBTQI disabled people are most at risk of hate crime, whether this is deemed to be disabilist, homophobic or transphobic. One LGBTQI organization estimated that the vast majority of its ‘homophobic’ hate crime clients are disabled, but refused to put this on record because it would felt that this could impact negatively on their funding. Cuts to LGBTQI and disabled people’s services; cuts to benefit income; and cuts to social care services, have all exposed LGBTQI disabled people to higher levels of hate crime, including ‘mate crime’ where criminals befriend vulnerable adults and then take over their homes for drug dealing and sex work. The disability lead for the Metropolitan Police in East London explained that when disabled people are clearly not connected to the rest of the community, for example because they are rarely able to leave their homes, this gives a green light to criminals to target them. There is a direct link between LGBTQI disabled people’s lack of access to community activities and the rate of hate crime they experience.
• YouGov polling of over 2,500 LGB people across Britain for Stonewall’s Homophobic Hate Crime: The Gay British Crime Survey (2013) found that one in six LGB people have experienced a homophobic or biphobic hate crime within the last three years.
• Two thirds of LGB people who had experienced a hate crime or incident did not report it to anyone and two in five victims did not report because they thought it would not be taken seriously (Homophobic Hate Crime: The Gay British Crime Survey, 2013)
• An online survey of nearly 900 trans people across the UK for GIRES’ Trans mental health study (2012) found that 38 per cent of trans people have experienced physical intimidation and threats, and 81 per cent have experienced silent harassment (e.g. being stared at/whispered about).
• Stonewall and Regard welcomed the Government’s commitment to tackling hate crime in the recent Action Against Hate plan. We await to see how the commitments are implemented and look forward to working with the Government to ensure they are inclusive of LGBTQI people.
• Stonewall and Regard would like to see aggravated offences extended to include sexual orientation and gender identity, as this would improve confidence in reporting by sending a clear signal that LGBTQI hate crimes are considered just as serious as others.
• To improve confidence in reporting, police forces should continue to work alongside third-party reporting centres and community groups such as Galop to help fully understand what assists victims to report hate crime and help to identity trends in certain areas. There should be an end goal to improve confidence to a level that victims report directly to police.
• Police forces should introduce compulsory training, supported by the Hate Crime Operational Guidance, which ensures that officers are equipped to identify, monitor and deal with LGBTQI and disability hate crime effectively.
Dr Ju Gosling, Co Chair, Regard, 24 February 2017