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Implications of reductions to public spending for LGB and T people and services

This report presents findings from qualitative research conducted by NatCen Social Research (NatCen) on behalf of UNISON. The purpose of the study was to gain insight into whether, and in what ways, reductions in public spending have affected services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGB and T1) people. NatCen conducted the same research in 2013 looking at the early effects of the cuts, which began in 2010. The key finding of this study was that fears about the effects of public funding cuts reported in 2013 were seen as a reality for some LGB and T service users and service providers in 2016.

Nature of the cuts
Reductions in public spending had resulted in reduced access to some mainstream services (e.g. GPs, mental health and sexual health) when LGB and T people had needed them. This was reported as having increased demand on voluntary sector services, at a time when they were also facing cuts. LGB and T specialist services were reported to be especially affected, such as LGB and T youth projects.

The nature and extent of cuts were sometimes mitigated by increased use of volunteers. However, some of the services delivered by volunteers were complex and this was difficult to sustain over time.

Effects of cuts on LGB and T service users
LGB and T service users and providers thought that cuts in public spending had a disproportionate effect on the LGB and T population compared to other groups. A ‘double bind’ effect was described by participants, in that some LGB and T people had a greater need for support because of the discrimination they faced. However, they also thought that they were less of a priority for public and charitable funding.

LGB and T people reported a number of ways in which they thought cuts in public spending had affected them personally and/or as a social group. These included:

  • Financial hardship: Continued reductions in public spending led to shorter-term contracts, pay freezes, pay cuts, redundancies and cutting back on spending.
  • Identity and support: The needs of some LGB and T people were not being met in relation to mental health, gender identity, gender reassignment and social support (e.g. support to connect with other LGB and T people). The latter was felt to be an issue particularly for older and younger LGB and T people.
  • Marginalisation and invisibility: Reduced funding for LGB or T specific services and roles meant some service users felt their needs had been marginalised and that support targeted at LGB and T people had in some cases become invisible.
  • Reversal of gains and vulnerability: Some LGB and T service users and providers thought that progress made on improving equality for LGB and T people was in danger of being reversed. Brexit was regarded by some as likely to have negative consequences for LGB and T people, such as hate crime.

Effects of cuts on services and staff
Sustained funding reductions left some LGB and T services focusing on survival, rather than delivering a high quality and comprehensive service.

Service providers described an ongoing loss of experienced and knowledgeable staff on LGB and T issues through redundancies.
LGB and T services and roles were reported as being less of a priority which in turn was felt to increase pressure on frontline services, because the needs of LGB and T people were not otherwise being met.

Finally, service providers and volunteers reported high workloads and stress due to balancing greater demand for services with less resource (both funding and staff).