Our Chief Executive Monty Moncrieff shares his thoughts about winning our National Diversity Award
London Friend has won a National Diversity Award! We were successful in the Community Award for LGBT Organisations category, an award which recognises the contribution of our organisation supporting LGBT people. This is a fantastic achievement and I’m so proud of all the hard work our volunteers and staff team do to improve the health and wellbeing of LGBT people.
Since we were first established in the early 1970s London Friend’s strength has always been its volunteers who have come together to support fellow LGBT people. The contribution of volunteers in the LGBT sector really cannot be underestimated. So many of our community organisations that have been established to campaign, to protest and to support other LGBT people in times of need have grown from volunteer action, just like London Friend. The contribution volunteers make to London Friend is huge; running our support and social groups; staffing our helpline; providing counselling; supporting people with drug & alcohol problems through our Antidote service; fundraising; and helping our office run smoothly.
We have continued to innovate, launching our new SWAP structured weekend drug & alcohol programme earlier this year, and work to ensure our services embrace the diversity of our populations, such as through our T on Tuesday trans social group and our partnership supporting the Say It Loud Club, which supports LGBT refuges and asylum seekers fleeing persecution in Africa.
As well as the direct services we provide to clients London Friend has shared its experience with many health and social care professionals through training to raise awareness of the health needs of LGBT people. This work targets front line staff, commissioners and policy makers, and seeks to improve service planning as well as provision. Our 2014 Out Of You Mind report for example contains recommendations to improve drug & alcohol treatment for LGBT people with practical toolkits to enable change. Our strategic influence remains strong through our membership of the National LGB & T Partnership, working directly with Government, the NHS and Public Health England on LGBT health and equality.
The award recognises the importance of the work we do to improve the health and wellbeing of LGBT people in London. Just two days after we won the importance of this was highlighted in this weekend’s Observer survey of sexual behaviour and attitudes. This found that 16% of respondents thought gay sex should be illegal (the figure was higher in respondents living in London at 21%), and that still over a third believe same sex couples should not be permitted to marry (37%) or adopt children (39%). The Trans Mental Health Study 2012 found extremely high levels of harassment of trans people leading many to forego engagement in everyday social activities for fear of encountering this.
LGBT people still frequently overlooked
We have made many significant advances in LGBT equality but our service users continue to experience attitudes like this in the lead up to seeking support from us. Our own research indicates that LGBT people are still often excluded from planning health and wellbeing services such as through the statutory Joint Strategic Needs Assessments carried out by local authorities and health bodies. The omission and invisibility of LGBT people in public services, together with prevailing negative attitudes, leads to the Catch 22 of services users preferring an approach which specifically targets and includes them, with little resource made available to provide this specialist approach.
Services like London Friend, and many other LGBT charities and support groups, play a vital role in improving people’s lives every day. Despite LGBT people making up at least 2.5% of the population (at even the most conservative estimates) our sector receives just 0.04% of the total funding to voluntary sector organisations – just 4 pence in every £100. A recent report from the TUC suggests that this tiny under-investment may be under even greater threat as funders see cutting diversity as easy savings, mainstreaming this work into generic services. For me this would lose the quality that specialist LGBT organisations bring. Our service users routinely tell us they value specialist support as this makes them feel safe, welcome, and understood. It’s important that the value of specialist diversity organisations is not lost, and the National Diversity Awards recognise this, championing not just their ‘unsung’ contribution but also how their very existence is vital to the communities we serve.
I’m immensely proud to lead London Friend and for us to win this National Diversity Award for all our volunteers, staff and service users. I hope that this can extend to better recognition not just of our work but of the achievements and importance of the LGBT voluntary sector as a whole in public life. Please continue to support and invest in LGBT people’s wellbeing.
You can make a regular or one-off donation to support London Friend’s work here. You can donate your time as a volunteer – find out more about volunteering with us here. You can find our more about fundraising for us by holding your own event or sponsored activity here.
Take a look at what some of our services users and volunteers said in support of our nomination.