Young Lesbians and Gay Men – the Need for a National Strategy

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2003 National Lesbian & Gay Conference
26 September 2003
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that young lesbians and gay men are six times more likely to attempt suicide than other young people. They are also more likely to succeed so they account for over half of actual youth suicide in the UK.

Conference therefore welcomes the repeal of Section 28 as the single most effective step to reduce suicide among young lesbians and gay men but its legacy leaves many workers uncertain and fearful of “promoting homosexuality” and there is no national policy framework to support young lesbians and gay men. For example the National Suicide Prevention Strategy does not mention sexuality and although there has been national policy on sex and relationships education in schools for over fifteen years it remains too half-hearted to have real impact upon what is actually taught.

As a result many young lesbians and gay men find the only way to protect themselves is to retreat further into the closet. With nowhere to turn for help they cannot challenge homophobic bullying, they cannot find self-acceptance and they remain isolated even — rather, especially – from each other.

Schools must be at the heart of a national strategy to support young lesbians and gay men. All schools should have:

1.equality policies specifically including sexual orientation;

2.anti-bullying policies which deal specifically with homophobic bullying;

3.curricula free of heterosexism where positive images of lesbians and gay men appear across the whole curriculum;

4.links with other organisations and agencies which enable young lesbians and gay men to seek information and support outside school as well as within it.

There must be no exception for faith-based schools.

Conference therefore considers that the Department for Education and Skills (in England and the equivalent bodies elsewhere in the UK) should ensure:

A.that guidance and resources are made available so that all schools adopt such policies and that these are subject to inspection;

B.that adequate training is available to all school staff (not just teachers) school governors and others working in schools including Personal Advisors/Careers Officers, Youth Workers, Social Workers in Education etc.;

C.that there is sufficient local authority funding for lesbian and gay youth groups and detached work with young lesbians and gay men integral to local authorities’ youth services’ curriculum

D.ensure that links are developed with other local authority services including housing, leisure, play development and community development as well as links with the National Health Service, Connexions/Careers services and Further and Higher Education.

Conference expresses its pride in the consistent stand taken by UNISON and its predecessor unions in opposing Section 28 and in particular the campaigning undertaken by the National Lesbian and Gay Committee and the Labour Link, as well as that of the broader labour movement. Further, Conference endorses the NLGC’s continued work with “Schools Out” and the campaign co-ordinated by the TUC against homophobic bullying in education and the commitment by the NLGC to priorise this campaign at national, regional and branch level within UNISON.

Conference instructs the National Executive Council to support this work in all appropriate ways, for example including:

I.working with the NLGC and National Young Members’ Forum (NYMF), the Labour Link, relevant Service Groups and sectors and wherever possible other unions and campaigning organisations to campaign for a National Strategy for Young Lesbians and Gay Men;

II.raising with both the UK government and devolved adminstrations the need for a national strategy to support young lesbians and gay men;

III.ensuring that the needs of young lesbians and gay men are included whenever UNISON makes submissions on appropriate policy issues; and,

IV.publishing (and/or assisting others to publish) material which enables UNISON members to raise these issues in course of local bargaining and campaigning.