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Getting it Right for LGBTQI+ Disabled People

David Abbott Professor of Social Policy at the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol

‘Some people are gay. Get over it’. That was the slogan on T shirts that started in 2007. These days you can get variations that cover the whole LGBTQI+ community. But what happens if someone providing personal support services isn’t ‘over it’?

A number of organisations havde worked together to gather evidence about the challenges that LGBT disabled people face; and also the benefits that self-directed support can bring. Self-directed support means employing people as personal assistants (PAs) and support workers. We know that, for years, LGBTQI+ disabled people have voiced concerns about the way they are treated or they’ve held back from talking about their concerns because they fear someone who gives them support might be prejudiced. Well, now, for the first time, evidence about this has been documented.

We’ve got good news, we’ve found some challenges and be we also offer some handy resources so that people’s lives can be improved.

The good news

LGBTQI+ disabled people say there are many benefits to using self-directed support. In our recent research, one of the most commonly-mentioned reasons for people preferring self-directed support was the opportunity to have control over their own support arrangements. Interviewees gave many positive examples of the benefits of this kind of support. People say they want to be in control of who comes into their homes, often because of experiences they’d had with agency staff that kept chopping and changing.

The challenges  

There are lots of findings in the report but this one is particularly challenging: More than 90% of those surveyed said that their needs as a LGBTQI+ disabled person were either not considered at all or were only given some little consideration when their needs were assessed or reviewed. And more than a third told us that they had experienced discrimination or received poor treatment from their PAs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. More than half of those surveyed said that they never or only sometimes disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity to support workers and personal assistants. All of this means that they can experience social isolation.

Briefings and films

But we didn’t just want to accentuate the negative. The project partners were determined to do something about this. We have created, for the Social Care Institute for Excellence website, briefings and films for both LGBT people and for personal assistants and support workers. For all the bad stories that we heard about relationships going sour, the films reveal really good practice, when all sides getting it right.

For LGBTQI+ disabled people, none of this is new. Self-directed social care support continues to provide opportunities for them to exercise choice and control over the support that they get. When support from PAs really meets the needs of LGBT disabled people, those in our study talked about the positive impact on identity, inclusion and belonging. But our collaborative research also highlights the barriers that people face and the lack of routine attention being paid to their human and legal rights.

Let’s hope that the report, briefings and films make their contribution to improving the lives of LGBTQI+ disabled people who take on self-directed support.

Find the briefings, films and reports at www.scie.org.uk/lgbtqi/


‘Being doubly marginalized can be difficult and complicated and I’ve found it’s made a difference to who I was able to hire as a PA because not everyone is able to cope with those differences.’

Rachel, talking on a film about self-directed support.


The research included a survey and in-depth interviews with LGBTQI+ Disabled People who use self-directed social care and support and a focus group with PAs. Research was conducted for the Social Care Institute for Excellence, Regard, Stonewall and the University of Bristol. It was funded by the NIHR School for Social Care Research.






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