HDRC webinar, 8th June 2020 – Exploring issues relating to housing and care provision for LGBTQ older people
Nearly 100 people came together on 8th June for the latest webinar organised by the Housing and Dementia Research Consortium (HDRC), the aim of which was to share and understand the housing and care needs of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) older people and LGBTQ people living with dementia, the issues involved, and learn what housing and care providers are doing to support these groups of people. There were three main presenters and additional information sharing.
First up was Bob Green OBE, Housing and Equalities Consultant on behalf of Stonewall Housing who spoke about the housing needs of LGBTQ older people. After providing some background of the route to his current work, Bob introduced some of the issues for LGBTQ people with relation to general needs housing and gave some shocking statistics. He considered where there are common issues with the wider community, and specific issues for the LGBTQ community, but also that within the LGBTQ community different groups will also have different needs. Consequently, there is not and cannot be a ‘one size fits all’ approach when trying to resolve some of these issues.
There is limited research around housing, let alone housing research focusing on the LGBTQ community. This means that the LGBTQ community effectively becomes invisible and isolated within housing, or people feel like they have to hide their identity to avoid issues such as harassment or discrimination.
He then went on to talk about housing issues for older LGBTQ people and the reason why many older LGBTQ people are going back into the closet, hiding their identities for fear of recrimination, for fear of harassment, for fear of homophobia, bi phobia and trans phobia. He spoke about the different safe housing choices for older LGBTQ people and made some recommendations for safe spaces, training and resources, monitoring and choice and control.
Bob’s recommendations for improving the current situation made it clear that it shouldn’t be up to the individual person, but rather it should be the housing organisations proactively taking action to support the LGBTQ community and train their staff to know how to do this. It is also important to involve people from the LGBTQ community when planning and designing ways to help.
Unfortunately, there is no clear picture of the scale of the current situation as relevant information is not routinely or consistently collected, but better evidence is needed in order to provide appropriate support. It is all too easy to hide behind the excuse that it’s ‘not our place to ask’ when people come to housing schemes, but when questions are asked people need to have trust in organisations in order to feel safe to share that information.
Bob finished with news of the UK’s first extra care scheme for older LGBTQ people that he, the LGBT Foundation, and Manchester City Council have been talking about since 2014. In 2017, Manchester City Council announced publicly that this scheme was going to be built.
During the course of his talk, Bob referred to several studies and shared statistics and examples from others. Many of these can be found via the following useful links:
Next we heard from Claire Days, Bring Dementia Out Programme Coordinator from the LGBT Foundation. Claire provided a brief history of the development of the LGBT Foundation, together with some examples of the work that they do.
The Bring Dementia Out Programme is a new partnership focusing on LGBT people with dementia. Again, a lack of accurate statistics hampers our understanding of the number of people involved, but it was suggested that there could be approx. 68,000 LGBT people with dementia.
A short quiz helped to get across some key facts about legislation and the context in which LGBT people with dementia would have grown up. During her talk Claire showed a map of Sexual Orientation Laws in the World, which can be found via this link.
This type of information and understanding is integral to life story and reminiscence activities within housing, care and dementia, which in turn should lead to better personalised care and support to enable LGBT people living with dementia to live well. Some of the problems LGBT people with dementia may face were also discussed.
The Bring Dementia Out Programme will be trying to address some of these issues through a range of activities such as training, advocating for LGBT inclusive services, raising awareness and visibility of LGBT experiences of dementia, housing and care, and creating contacts, partnerships and local networks.
Claire has previously written a blog for the HDRC about the programme, which can be found here.
The third presenter was Philip Harper, who is a tutor in Public Health and Community Studies for the Coventry University Group, and he is studying a professional doctorate at Manchester Metropolitan University looking at understanding the needs of an LGBTQ plus person living with dementia. Philip spoke about LGBTQ environmental micro aggressions (subtle, unintentional forms of discrimination) in dementia care. Phillip explained the micro aggressions that exists in dementia care, specifically environmental micro aggressions, and explored the impact micro-aggressions may have on an LGBTQ person living with dementia. This involved considering the terminology we use, the enforcement of heterosexual norms, disregarding people’s experiences, and not accepting that a LGBTQ person has specific needs.
The impact of such micro aggressions can be linked back to the concept of Malignant Social Psychology, with people being ‘labelled’ or feeling ‘banished’ due to their social needs being overlooked and environments being unsupportive and having a negative impact on personhood and self.
Philip also provided several suggestions of what can be done to address and overcome the micro aggressions, and shared several examples of good work that is going on across the country.
It is important for all of us to be aware and understand how our actions and words can have a negative impact on others, even if it was not the intention, or make an environment feel unsupportive for individuals.
To end the webinar the intention was to hear from different housing and care providers to find out about their experiences and what they are doing to support LGBTQ older people and people living with dementia. Unfortunately, most of the representatives from housing and care organisations that were due to speak had to drop out. However, Michael Spellman, Dementia and Wellbeing Lead at the ExtraCare Charitable Trust was on hand to share his experiences. He acknowledged that the organisation had given this subject very little focus so far, but they have taken steps to identify several areas where there is room for work to be done. They are starting to looking at their own organisational policies, and are aiming to enable staff to support individual residents with their concerns and experiences relating to LGBTQ issues. While it is still early in their journey as an organisation, they are committed to taking it forward and making a difference for both their residents and staff.
Although we were not able to hear from more housing and care providers, other organisations are doing work around supporting LGBTQ older people. For example, the Guinness Partnership is working in partnership with LGBT Foundation, the ‘Bring Dementia Out’ project will ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people affected by dementia have their voices heard and can get better access to support and advice services. In 2018 and 2019 the Belong Care Village in Crewe has hosted a Silver Pride event that included included musical performances, fancy dress competitions, open mic acts, areas for people to reminisce about life in Crewe through the years and the opportunity to learn about the physical and emotional support available in the area for members of the LGBT community. From this, Belong Crewe now hold many LGBTQ+ sessions in their village, including laughing yoga, tea and tattle, reminiscence, trans positive evenings, and advice in their salons.
The webinar generated a lot of great questions and discussion, and, hopefully, got all participants thinking a bit more about their own actions and what can be done to effect positive change for LGBTQ older people and people with dementia within different housing and care schemes. Thanks to all of the speakers and to everyone for joining in.
Attendees’ comments during and following the webinar were very positive:
“It was a really useful and insightful webinar.”
“Thanks for the webinar earlier, it was very informative and gave me a lot to think about.”
“I found the speakers’ sessions really enlightening. I will definitely get in touch with the LGBT foundation to explore training options for our teams.”
The recording of the webinar and additional information/resources are available on the HDRC website.
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