With BVSC about to launch the search for a provider to deliver the final project in the LGBT strand of the Ageing Better in Birmingham programme, we look at some of the issues affecting older LGBT adults when accessing, or in, care settings and our aspiration for the Changing Practice in Adult Social Care Provision project.
The last 50 years have seen dramatic cultural changes amongst the British general public. This is reflected in attitudes towards and acceptance of the equal place of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans people in contemporary society. The result of this shift in attitudes is that the current older LGBT generation are the first to be a visible and valued part of many communities.
Thinking back, many LGBT people of that generation grew up in and spent years living in a hostile culture, where simply being as open about their lives as they can be today would often lead to family/peer disapproval, rejection and social dislocation. It could also lead to blackmail, violent abuse and incarceration, indeed for many gay men specifically. Their first experience of love and relationships involved committing a crime, with 1,069 gay men in prison in England and Wales in 1954 alone. While living through those transformative post-war years, as a battle raged in society about their place in it, they both instigated and benefited from greater LGBT equality.
With that in mind, contemplate for a moment the issue facing many older LGBT people today. The British Social Attitudes survey tells us that peers of older LGBT people in wider society tend to be more socially conservative in their views and have often maintained or hardened their hostile stance towards LGBT equality; in stark contrast to their children and grandchildren. In this context, not only do older LGBT adults have to contend with perceived and real ageism in wider society and the LGBT community; the experiences of discrimination they may have encountered across life-course also creates significant fear and anxiety for them when accessing, or thinking about accessing, mainstream services.
Sadly, those fears are often justified. Older LGBT adults regularly report poor experiences of the Adult Social Care system; the discrimination and cultural isolation they can face has left many older LGBT people feeling compelled to ‘go back in the closet’ after losing a partner, entering care or accessing services. One result of this is poor take-up of statutory services due to expectation of discrimination, prejudice or stereotyping.
As the recent Ageing with Pride Campaign stated, ‘They fought for our equality. Don’t let them drift into the background.’
Ageing Better in Birmingham’s ‘Changing Practice in Adult Social Care Provision’ project offers a timely opportunity to meet our aspiration of enabling long-term improvement in outcomes for older LGBT people who receive Adult Social Care services in Birmingham. There is a firm commitment from national government to advance equality for LGBT people, addressing the barriers to full participation in public life that can impact negatively on the lives of LGBT people across life-course, including those in later life outlined above.
The Government Equality Office’s recently published LGBT Action Plan makes reference to the need to improve Adult Social Care provision, and Care Quality Commission are increasingly focusing their attention on the experience of LGBT adults by including assessments on how ‘confident with difference’ providers are in inspection reports. Locally, as part of Birmingham City Council’s Adult Social Care Commissioning Strategy (2017) to transform the care market across the city, the council are committed to using their commissioning process to deliver LGBT inclusive provision.
The overall aim of the Ageing Better in Birmingham programme is to facilitate change in the way older people are considered by and within communities, to empower citizens to take part in and influence activities to reduce isolation in later life. In that spirit of the Ageing Better programme, we are working with older LGBT people to co-design this intervention; alongside Birmingham City Council and Adult Social Care providers; as research suggests, a lack of the cultural competence is a key issue when services fail to provide a positive experience of care for older LGBT adults.
Our ambition is that this project can begin to address the issue of cultural competence in Birmingham’s Adult Social Care system by increasing awareness of best practice for LGBT inclusivity among city council commissioning staff; and raising awareness and understanding of LGBT equality, inclusion and care issues with commissioners, providers and the wider workforce. The project will run until December 2020 and to achieve its outcomes we will contract a suitable provider who will create a package of bespoke support, devise an ‘LGBT-Inclusive Quality Scheme’ and develop relevant training resources for our target audiences.
Thinking forward, wouldn’t it be wonderful if older LGBT people could spend their final years in environments where prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory behaviours they have spent their lives experiencing and opposing were not tolerated…as a society, I think we owe them that much.
Coordinator, Ageing Better in Birmingham
If you would like to know more about the opportunity to deliver aspects of this project, please go to https://in-tendhost.co.uk/bvsc and look under the ‘tenders > current’ tab.
Deadline for submissions of quotations – 5pm on 25 November 2019
Interviews of potential providers – w/c 9th December 2019
We anticipate the contract will start in January 2020
Suggested further research
Photo credit: Jordan McDonald on Unsplash