Posted: 28 June 2021
On Pride Day Rob Newby, who chairs Skills for Care’s LGBTQ+ network, talks about a programme that helps the care sector to celebrate and embrace diversity.
What are your fears about growing old? We all have them, a worry about our health, how will we continue with the activities we enjoy, who will be there if we need care and support? For many LGBTQ+ people those worries come with an additional concern, how will I maintain my identity?
Three years ago we developed, in partnership with Opening Doors London and The Purple List, a programme called Confident with Difference. Aimed at people working in social care it tried to help them see the world from a different perspective and assess how their organisations celebrate and embrace diversity. One of the key discussion pieces is around the experience of LGBTQ+ people accessing care and support. The resources were so well received that CQC adopted them as part of their inspectors’ induction training.
In developing the resource we heard, at our workshops around the country, some heartbreaking stories; people who felt they had to go ‘back in the closet’ after entering residential care because the service didn’t reflect them or support them to be themselves, the story of a trans woman in hospital with dementia where staff allowed her beard to grow back to a point where she didn’t recognise herself as a woman any more, of same sex couples who were not allowed to share a bed in residential care and home care services where care staff were ‘praying the gay away’ at their visits rather than delivering care and support.
Of course, we also heard really positive stories too, the care home who celebrated Pride with all the residents, changing language to become more inclusive and asking about relationships rather than assuming that a person was heterosexual and the desire from care staff to get it right for the people they supported but not having the right tools to do it.
At the time we developed the resources my mum was in residential care and one of the other residents was a friend of hers, a fellow Headteacher in their working life and who had been in a same sex relationship for 60 years. On their anniversary the home celebrated their years together, all their friends were invited and everyone in the home joined in the party. It was a brilliant example of being able to be your whole self while being in care, they had photographs of their life together on display and the couple chose the music and the food for the party, just like any other couple would have done – and that’s the key, treated individually but equally.
Unfortunately, as we celebrate Pride for another year the story is not the same for many LGBTQ+ people across the country. Many older LGBTQ+ people face living with unmet care and support needs. Older LGBTQ+ individuals report poorer health than the general population and worse experiences of healthcare particularly in cancer, palliative, end-of-life, dementia and mental health provision. Many LGBTQ+ people will avoid seeking care and support in later life due to worries about how their sexuality and gender identity will be viewed by organisations and people offering that care and support.
This year we are re-visiting the Confident with Difference resources and promoting them again to the workforce. We aim to strengthen the leadership element of the resource and to show how leaders and managers can change services and change practice to better support people accessing care for people from diverse backgrounds, for people living with a disability and for people who identify as LGBTQ+ - in short we hope that more people will indeed become Confident with Difference.
This global #Pride day take a look at our resources on equality and diversity to support you and your team to develop an inclusive and confident approach to #Diversity .