Always Out There Interim report
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In 2016, Consortium released Still Out There, a report which explored the unmet needs of LGBT+ Londoners. The study found that LGBT+ service provision was largely underfunded, or totally unavailable in certain areas of Greater London. As a result, most respondents were unable to access LGBT-specific service provision in their local area, in spite of a clear desire for many to do so.
Still Out There also showed that existing service providers were struggling to respond to LGBT+ users with increasingly diverse and complex needs. In short: either service provision was proving unavailable or unsuitable, especially for those living in the outer boroughs of Greater London.
Always Out There is the response to this set of unmet needs. Unsatisfied with gesturing toward this sector-wide problem without kick starting a solution, Consortium and LGBT HERO decided to take action. Thanks to funding from City Bridge Trust, a three-year project was green-lit to address the findings of Still Out There.
Now two years into its three-year span, we can release interim findings of Always Out There’s endeavour. The project has aimed to achieve three goals within its first term:
Galvanise the sector through cross-organisational collaboration and identifying the most pressing needs
Precisely determine the gaps in provision to focus future efforts in bridging gaps.
Create a digital map of existing services for LGBT+ Londoners to more easily access provision.
Since late 2017 both Consortium and LGBT HERO have been leveraging their particular expertise to make these goals a reality. We want this project to live well beyond a three-year time-frame, especially in the form of the digital map called FindOut, which we believe will continue to be a resource for LGBT+ Londoners, as well as service providers and funders.
534 services found across Greater London.
Vast majority of services concentrated in key central boroughs.
Far too few services exist for BME and trans people.
Provision for mental health and sexual health is unsatisfactory, often requiring people to travel large distances.
Front line staff often unaware of what LGBT+ provision is available.
As of 23/07/2019, 534 entries have been recorded. Of these, 312 had a location (either area of operation, or base of operation) that could be identified. The vast majority were found to exist within the central boroughs of London.
The most populous boroughs were Islington, Westminster, Camden, and Lambeth. These contain high volumes of core service provision such as sexual health, mental health, and other advice & assistance services. Many of these services are clustered together in high-density locations, usually the offices of larger charities with broad remits or from which other, smaller organisations also operate.
Density of services in the outer boroughs was so low that in many instances between 0-4 entries were logged in these areas. This problem is exaggerated in the cluster of boroughs in West London (Hillingdon, Hounslow, Ealing, Harrow, Richmond, Brent), where groups of adjacent boroughs have very little to no capacity.
By a large margin the most populous category was Social, which encompassed clubs, societies and meetups, of which there are many more that didn’t make it into the map as they didn’t meet the criteria regarding size. Social and Sports and Fitness encompass almost 50% of the total number of entries in the database.
Concerning is the lack of mental health services evident from the data. Mental Health is the third least-populous category in spite of its near-uniform importance to members of the LGBT+ community in London for whom mental health is a high priority.
The obvious lack of services for trans and BME LGBT+ people across London is also great cause for concern. With regard to entry “type”, it is notable that a large amount of recorded entries were online groups which for the most part lack a permanent location, or specific area of operation. This may indicate a trend toward de-localised services which operate in an online-only capacity, or which utilise spaces across the capital in an ad-hoc manner.
The Always Out There project is still far from finished and our mapping is a work in progress. Think of the current report as a running total rather than final figures. The data we’ve chosen to release gives an indication of the larger trends but is not definitive.
In addition to the project’s limited resources, the near-constant shifting of the London LGBT+ landscape makes real-time maps a near impossibility as services relocate or close down, organisations merge, and meetups and community groups, as we’ve often found to be the case, cease to exist.
Dozens of services which were extant during the first phases of Always Out There mapping have since shut down. We have found and removed many of these from our database, but keeping abreast of all changes at all times is challenging.
A matter of categorisation
Categorising the data has also proven challenging, especially where organisations or services provide broad-spectrum support across multiple areas. Some charities are at once providing mental health, sexual health, trans, HIV, and advice & assistance services. Whilst we’ve generally tried to narrow down entries to specific services, thereby simplifying the process, this has not always proven effective, as sometimes disentangling an organisation from its tentacular set of services, events and sub-organisations has proven extremely challenging. Further work is required, most likely in conjunction with the service providers themselves, to ensure that their offerings are accurately represented.
Some data can’t be captured
We were unable to capture some services within Greater London for a variety of reasons. Popup HIV testing clinics are a great example of one-off events that fulfill an important purpose, but due to their transience, aren’t easily captured and have therefore been omitted. Other services have important information missing. Youth services, and others that work with vulnerable people, often deliberately conceal information about their location. We have therefore been unable to include this information in our database. This leaves some services dislocated in our data.
Human error, buried links
One of the most significant problems encountered by our researchers was discoverability. Signposting within the sector is often poor, and services were often hard to find without significant searching, or digging within organisational pages.
As an evolving product, we expect it to change and grow over the coming months and years. Much of this work will be conducted according to feedback from users, and the sector. But we also have our own bright ideas based on our experience making of the map over the past two years.
A slew of features never made it into the map due to restrictions on time and resources. These tools could expand the map’s usability and make it a more effective, and multipurpose tool. A few of these important features include:
Disability access indicators
Temporary event listings
Youth group and events safeguarding
API for third party integration
Community moderating and editing tools for marking incorrect info
We will aim to add many of these features to the map as we continue to expand and maintain its functionality.
Serving minority groups
Though we’ve consciously tried to make the map accessible to all groups under the LGBT+ banner, we could be doing more. In the future, we’d like to find better ways to serve the BME, trans, and disabled communities by doing more intensive mapping within their respective domains and integrating their feedback about the map, and its content, into the product.
Right now the mapping service only covers Greater London. We don’t want it to end here. With more funding we could expand the map into a national resource usable by everyone in the UK that directs LGBT+ people to the right resource from Cornwall to Inverness.
Becoming the digital Yellow Pages for LGBT+ life is no small task, but the benefits to our community could be huge, as well as providing an excellent resource which user-facing charities could use as the one-stop referral tool for mental, financial, and social support.
Digital Launch / FindOut
LGBT HERO will officially launch the mapping service for general public use by August 2019. The map will be called FindOut and can be located at findout.outlife.org.uk. FindOut will sit as part of LGBT HERO’s online health and wellbeing service, OutLife, which already attracts over 30,000 users a month and has an integrated peer-support forum..
Throughout year one and two of the Always Out There project, Consortium has carried out wide ranging consultation work with LGBT+ organisations about the underserved needs of LGBT+ people and communities in London. Using this insight along with data gathered through the mapping exercise we have identified a range of key opportunities to bridge gaps in service and support provision.
Consortium believe that the LGBT+ sector needs to lead, design and in many cases, deliver a range of services and support across London to fill those gaps but we are ever aware of the need for funding and collaboration to make this a reality. That’s why, as we enter into year three of the project, Consortium will be putting its knowledge and the LGBT+ Sectors expertise into practice to bring LGBT+ organisations, mainstream service providers, funders and commissioners around the table so that that together, we can ensure that all LGBT+ people can access the support they need.
In year three, LGBT HERO will continue to collect data, improve the overall mapping service and promote the service to users, the LGBT+ sector and commissioners.
At the end of year three, LGBT HERO and Consortium will release a final report of the project with insights of users and findings. We will also report our recommendations of what we feel is needed to sustain the future of the LGBT+ sector.
Words by Justin Mahboubian-Jones, Ian Howley and Vicky Worthington. Layout by Ian Howley. Illustrations and graphs by Stian Wallmark. Funded by City Bridge Trust.
© Health Equality and Rights Organisation and Consortium
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PDF: DOWNLOAD THE REPORT