Cuts to health and housing services push LGBT people to margins of society

Austerity measures imposed on housing, health and police services are pushing LGBT people to the margins of society, according to a report by NatCen Social Research, for UNISON.  The reduction of specialist services means users miss out on key support and protection.

Interviews with 113 LGBT people, revealed that the young, in particular, were on the verge of homelessness because of issues round their sexuality or gender identity, and a lack of safe and supportive housing options. ‘Coming out’, for some young people, resulted in being kicked out of the family home, left with no family support and nowhere to go.

UNISON national officer, Carola Towle, said:

“It is very worrying that LGBT people are being hit so hard. We can’t be turning back the clock to a time when people were frightened to come out. It seems anti-LGBT discrimination is regaining a hold in society.

 “The growing sense of isolation among LGBT workers is another real concern. And we are in a situation where young people are being kicked out from home and have to sofa-surf, live in squats or be homeless.

“All the advancements achieved through the years, the expertise developed are being wasted and staff’s morale is low from being unable to help service users. 

‘This in-depth study is a first of its kind and it gives us a snapshot of the devastating impact of Government’s austerity measures on LGBT people.”

The data also reveals that the closure of specialised health services could trigger a rise in the number of undiagnosed sexual infections as some participants admitted they would be reluctant to use general health services. Some expressed a fear in the rise of unsafe and risky sexual behaviour and were worried fewer people would be tested for HIV. This was particularly true for people of minority ethnic background, whose communities may not accept homosexuality.

There is also a growing perception of feeling ‘less safe’ in the streets and more vulnerable to discrimination. The cut or loss to initiatives that help LGBT people report hate crimes meant some raised concerns that LGBT discrimination was ‘creeping back into society’. The police cuts on equality and diversity advisors for example made this feeling worse. 

Some participants described an increasing sense of isolation due to a perceived rise of homophobia. LGBT people said they felt gradually disconnected from public services and less engaged with their local community. Others felt marginalised, but described a feeling of guilt for asking for their needs to be met when there are other groups needing support. 

Similarly to other groups, LGBT people talked about earning less from zero-hour contracts, having their pay frozen for years, struggling to meet basic costs such as household bills, travel costs, making them more likely to use payday loans and food banks.

One participant said he ‘had gone without medication on occasion because cost has become prohibitively high’.

Report: Implications of austerity on LGBT people in public services