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Following the lifting of lockdown restrictions across the UK, charity leaders in the LGBTQ+ sector are warning there could be an adverse effect on LGBTQ+ young people as youth groups that have been online during the pandemic return to face-to-face format.

Using its wide network of contacts within the LGBTQ+ community, The Proud Trust has created an up-to-date map of regional partner support groups. 

With just a handful of groups available for local young people, many areas have been identified as an area of concern including County Durham, Cumbria, Devon, Kent, Northumberland, Shropshire and Suffolk.

Huge rise in demand.

Ashley Hind, Help Services Manager at The Proud Trust explains, “One of the few positives during the pandemic is that a lot of LGBT+ support groups have been operating online and this has meant that more young people have been able to access these services irrespective of where they live.

“At The Proud Trust, we’ve seen a huge rise in demand for our services during each of the UK’s lockdowns, among both rural and urban areas who struggle to access community groups nearby.

“Even places where the transport links are good, getting to in-person groups could be challenging for some – a lot of people have anxiety around returning to face-to-face activity and are actively avoiding public transport, others always faced difficulties with public transport due to access needs as well as the high levels of LGBT+ phobic hate crime experienced on trains, buses and trams.

“It’s unlikely that we’ll have the resources to continue with both online and in-person sessions, so we’re being forced into a difficult decision on which provision to continue with. It’s the same story for community groups up and down the country and there’s a real question mark over whether there will be help available to everyone who needs it.”

LGBTQ+ young people.

Today (19th August) The Proud Trust is rolling out a new online support service called Proud Connections, the first of its kind in the UK which was piloted in the North West of England during the pandemic. 

The one-to-one web chat gives LGBT+ young people and the adults who support them the opportunity to talk to experienced youth workers for support and signposting to other services. This new digital support service sits alongside a hub of information and resources on all aspects of LGBT+ lives. The charity is hoping Proud Connections and the resources on the website will go some way towards meeting the increased need.  

“It’s always been the case that where there are limited transport links and isolated communities, feelings of loneliness and separation can increase for LGBT+ young people, with many being unable to see and interact with people they would usually turn to for support in difficult situations. 

“We recognise that young people need to be able to access services remotely wherever possible, therefore after a successful pilot, it is now being rolled out nationwide so that the Proud Trust can help even more young people access the support available to them in their area.

Lockdown and LGBT+ Lives – The Facts.

According to a study by the LGBT Foundation, 42% of people that responded said they would have liked to access support for their mental health during the pandemic. 64% said that they would rather receive support during this time from an LGBT+ specific organisation.

Another survey within the Proud Trust’s own service users, the majority of which are aged between 13 and 18, found that 54% reported that their mental health had got worse during lockdown.

Nearly a third of those surveyed (29%) said the LGBT+ phobia they experienced had got worse. Sadly, 16% said they self-harmed more than usual during lockdown and 15% were worried about becoming homeless.

Proving the need for such services, 38% also said they had attended online groups for LGBTQ+ young people more often. 

Young people from the Proud Trust have fed into the development of the service so far, one young people said:

“Proud Connections will be amazing for LGBTQ+ young people in isolation because it’s an instant way to reach out with somebody else who gets it and won’t judge you. The resources on the website also help because they give young people like me the resources to empower themselves and remind themselves that they are beautiful and valid.”   Young Person (age 15) from Greater Manchester.

Proud Connections is supported by BBC Children in Need’s Impact Programme, A Million & Me, which focuses on supporting children who are beginning to struggle with their mental health and wellbeing.

Paddy Sloan, Project Director for A Million & Me, said: “We are delighted to be supporting The Proud Trust, who share our ambition to encourage children to share their feelings and supporting family, friends, carers and trusted adults to listen. 

“A Million & Me is all about the importance of relationships and by providing access to expert information and giving children and adults the confidence to have open conversations, we aim to increase empathy and resilience and help prevent mental health problems developing. We look forward to working with The Proud Trust as they build their digital support service, providing information and advice to those who feel isolated and excluded.”

Check out London’s newest LGBTQ+ venue here.

Visit Proud Connections here.

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