June is Pride month. The whole occasion is normally a fantasia of marching, waving, cheering, whooping and, of course, drinking. So often LGBTQ+ groups are portrayed in the flush of youth, partying hard and covered in glitter, and there will be plenty of glitter at Pride events around the country. But there will also be a broad range of groups representing the many different dimensions, and often challenges, of LGBTQ+ life.
One group which is often overlooked is LGBT carers. Carers UK estimate that there are 240,000 LGBTQ+ carers in the UK. These are people who look after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction and cannot cope without their support. The care they give is unpaid, and yet our entire social care system relies on them.
We already know that carers experience acute social isolation in their role, and are much more likely to live in poverty. This is compounded for LGBTQ+ carers, especially those from older generations.
Too often the assumption is that carers are white, middle-aged heterosexual women when, of course, this is simply not the case: 25% of all millennials have a caring responsibility. The true story is that all of us will likely count a carer amongst our close friends.
This matters because carers engage with a broad range of support services, but research indicates that Carers who identify as LGBT often worry that those services may not be LGBT+ friendly. They may also feel uncomfortable about ‘coming out’ and telling professionals about their relationship.
The Carers Trust recently found that:
83% of young adult LGBT+ carers experienced bullying at school/college.
88% experience mental health problems
31% feel that they are treated differently because of their sexual identity
So what do we do about it? Pride is a helpful reminder to challenge perceptions and assumptions all around us, both in how public services can become more inclusive but also in the way we engage with each other in the LGBTQ+ community.
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There’s a great charity called Opening Doors London, which matches volunteers with LGBTQ+ seniors to run social groups and build community. I’d really recommend checking them out if you want to help.
Mobilise is also running a podcast series - Who Cares Wins - breaking down perceptions of care by sharing stories from across the country. If you know any who identifies as LGBTQ+ and has a caring role, we’d love to hear from them.
James Townsend is CEO and Co-Founder of Mobilise