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Meet the team: The Patchwork Project

Also:

  • Jody Wigfull-Coy
  • Danielle Chadderton

The Challenge

It is estimated there are 40,000 LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) people living in Sheffield in 2018.  

Currently, incidences of homophobia -and specifically transphobia- are on the rise across the North of England, with many LGBT+ people stating they don’t feel safe to be themselves in certain places: many are living in fear of being insulted, challenged, abused or attacked. 

 

In South Yorkshire, there are very few support services that are targeted at LGBT+ people, especially those over the age of 18.  As a result, LGBT+ people are reporting worsening mental health, homelessness, chronic self-harm and increasing engagement in risky behaviours, including alcohol, drugs and sexual activities.

 

We are also in the midst of an epidemic of violence against trans people.  Recently research, conducted by Stonewall and YOUGOV, shows that 1 in 8 trans people have been physically attacked in the last three years and that the current life expectancy for a transgender or non-binary person in the UK is 49.

 

Healthwatch UK in Sheffield and Devon recently ran a transgender health consultation event, and the topic that was discussed most  was the need for greater peer support services for those who identify as transgender and non-binary – especially for those older trans people who felt socially excluded, isolated and lonely.

 

Although there is a new “Gay Quarter” due to be opening in Sheffield city centre later in the year, the sole focus of the quarter is social entertainment and nightlife. Unfortunately ,this project does not mention community support resources. There is still a distinct lack of provision available to LGBT+ people away from the typical evening “gay scene”. Because of this, we want to provide a safe, supportive space which is accessible to all.

In the past, there has been an extremely successful and well attended weekly support group called “Off The Scene” ran by a local young people’s charity. However, they have recently revealed that due to lack of funding, they are due to close at the end of June 2018.  As a result, over 40 LGBT+ people aged 18-25 will have no specific provision and will be at risk of social exclusion. Not to mention all of the other members of the community who  may have benefitted from this service had it continued in the future. 

One LGBT+ young person who attended this group stated:

“I am heartbroken.  Off the Scene truly saved my life.  I found myself homeless in Sheffield after being kicked out by my family after I told them I was transgender.  I was sofa surfing with strangers which put me dangerous situations and my mental health was severely affected.  I found out about Off The Scene from a flyer at a local library and joined a week later.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I walked in and saw  other people just like me.  I was instantly accepted and I felt like a weight had been lifted and I finally had something to smile about.  I got some help with housing from a community worker and made loads of new friends.  This group honestly changed my life.  LGBT people need safe spaces where we can be our authentic selves.  I’m in a good place now , but I worry so much for all those who are struggling and don’t have anywhere to turn.” Jamie 19

Proposal

The development of a weekly peer support group for LGBT+ people across South Yorkshire.  This service would be managed and delivered by a Youth and Community Worker / Project Worker and an assistant worker, with opportunities for volunteering.  The service would be run in a central location and would be open to anyone over the age of 18 who identifies as LGBT+ or questioning.  There would be a small range of activities provided such as expression through arts/drama projects, community outreach and  opportunities for guest speakers. We will also provide links with role models within the LGBT+ community to empower and integrate participants socially through sign posting them to education and employment support. Additional support links will also be provided with professionals working in housing, mental health and other services that LGBT+ people may want/need to access.  This would be a fully intergenerational group which celebrates diversity and gives the opportunity for people to access a safe, non-judgmental space.

The Benefits

 

Key outcomes would be:

  • Reduce the feelings of loneliness and isolation

  • Increase the knowledge, empowerment and resilience of LGBT+ people

  • Increase skills and confidence
  • Improve health and well being
  • Raise awareness of important issues within the community
  • To provide a safe space to talk and get support
  • Increase opportunities for volunteering and mentoring
  • Increase further education and employment opportunities for LGBT+ people
  • To encourage a place where an fully intergenerational group can meet, which celebrates diversity and acceptance

These will be continuously measured by monitoring, evaluations, consultation and by ensuring that feedback is taken from people attending the group .

This group can also serve as a consultation point for services wanting to do research into the needs of this community.

 

 

     

How you can contribute

  • Ideas about how to cultivate this idea further
  • Advice and guidance from anyone who has set up a similar project

Comments

  1. Hi. Great to see your peer support bid here, building on the Q Lab work you’ve been involved with, but it’s a real shame to hear that a well-attended peer support group is having to close because of funding issues. I’m wondering if you’ve thought about how you might share your learning with the wider peer support community, as well as the Q community? You could possibly share learning on the online space in real-time (I’m sure lots of Lab participants would be interested), or on the peer support online hub, when it’s up and running?

  2. Hi Lee, this sounds like a great idea, and I have given you my support.  I like the social interventions that you have chosen to help support young LBGT adults. Have you considered some kind of training/coaching/development for those interested in becoming a peer supporter of others? Just an idea - this is not my field at all I am just interested in your thoughts. Is this something that you might consider.

  3. Thankyou so much for this Jane. Your group sounds fantastic!

    Stonewall directory is very useful and I am currently liasing with similar groups in Bristol and Birmingham for advice :)

  4. Thanks for this Helen. I totally agree. So many community projects don't encourage all ages to come together and often the focus is on younger people which although is extremely important, it just adds to the social isolation and loneiness that older people especially in more rural areas may face.

  5. Guest

    jane salazar 2 years, 11 months ago

    Great to learn that you are driving for a new peer support group for much needed specific group for LGBT+ people - particularly as you have identified that there this no service out there to meet the need - which was one of the drivers for the peer support group I set up for adults with Selective Mutism. You may already know of Stonewall - if not here is the link:https://www.stonewall.org.uk/help-advice/whats-my-area. They have directory of  LGBT services and groups across country.

  6. Love the intergenerational element of this Lee. So much to be learnt from people who have a different perspective on life or have learnt through living.

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