A NETWORK of LGBT organisations in Glasgow has called on the council to provide public funding for services which support LGBT people in the city with their mental, physical and sexual health.

The Glasgow LGBTI+ Voluntary Sector Network, first established in 2016, raised concerns about the lack of funding in a 2017 report, but the group now claims that Glasgow City Council has done little to address the issue.

The new statement from the Glasgow Network, shared with the Sunday National, comes ahead of an anticipated announcement by the council about its new Glasgow Community Fund, which is due to be allocated in the coming months.

Endorsed by Network members LGBT Health and Wellbeing, LGBT Youth Scotland, LEAP Sports Scotland, Pink Saltire, Terrence Higgins Trust and the WOW Network, the joint statement reads: “In 2017 the LGBTI+ Voluntary Sector Network released a needs assessment and review of services in Glasgow for the LGBT community which highlighted the short-term and precarious nature of funding for services.

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“Glasgow City Council accepted all of the recommendations in the report, which included investing in and brokering the sustainability of services. Over two and a half years later, our organisations and community groups have faced ever increasing demands on our services, greatly exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, yet funding remains as precarious as ever.”

Continuity of support, retention of knowledge and skills in the sector, and investment in community development and organising requires a more strategic and joined up approach

While the Glasgow Network has welcomed the news that the new fund is expected to be distributed in October of this year, the organisations involved stress that there is “an urgent need to sustain existing services” and report that some services are “unlikely to last beyond October”.

This is why the Network is keen to raise awareness of the importance of proportionate public funding for LGBT people. 25% of LGBT people in Scotland live in Greater Glasgow, and the Network suggests that many require specific community support in the same way as other equality groups which already receive funding from the council.

A spokesperson for the Glasgow LGBTI+ Voluntary Sector Network told the Sunday National: “Particular issues are more highly prevalent within the LGBT community, such as mental health issues, social isolation and exclusion from public services, especially for those who are more marginalised from society.

“In addition, particular sections of the community face distinct challenges relative to their situations, including asylum seekers and refugees, women and girls, black and minority ethnic people, older people, transgender and nonbinary people, intersex people and young people.”

The Network argues that addressing these issues requires long-term solutions, which is “extremely challenging” given the typically short-term funding on which LGBT organisations and community groups rely.

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The spokesperson added: “In recent years, projects in Glasgow have existed for 1-2 years at a time. Continuity of support, retention of knowledge and skills in the sector, and investment in community development and organising requires a more strategic and joined up approach.”

CORE public funding for such organisations would, according to the Network, be used for mental health prevention, intervention and crisis support services, wellbeing and community-based support, and support to access other services.

This approach is already used by some other local authorities where organisations in the Network operate. LGBT Health and Wellbeing, for example, receives £98,500 a year from the Edinburgh Integrated Joint Board (a partnership between the City of Edinburgh Council and NHS Lothian) towards core costs and the delivery of its LGBT Community Programme, while LGBT Youth Scotland also receives funding directly from the City of Edinburgh Council and other local authorities.

Despite laudable spoken commitment to LGBT rights, without funding for these services, this can seem like only words

The funding problems in Glasgow being raised by the Network date back as far as 10 years ago, according to its 2017 report Meeting the Needs of the LGBTI+ Community in Glasgow. The document cited a “frustrating” history over the preceding five to six years, in which discussions between Glasgow City Council and LGBT communities had “ultimately gone nowhere”.

“The Glasgow LGBT community, on the whole, feels let down by a lack of commitment and follow through on discussions with Glasgow City Council,” the report said. An analysis of the distribution of the Council’s community funding at the time found that 0.1% of the budget went to LGBT projects.

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Now, the Network says little has changed. A spokesperson said: “Despite the Council and the leader’s support, we are no further forward. Despite laudable spoken commitment to LGBT rights, without funding for these services, this can seem like only words.”

Amid Covid-19, Glasgow City Council has faced pressure from several directions regarding its future funding plans. For example, the Glasgow Labour group earlier this month urged the Council to delay its replacement of the Integrated Grant Fund with the Glasgow Community Fund. Conversely, the LGBTI+ Voluntary Sector Network has argued that any additional delay in funding could pose a serious threat to the future of some of its members.

A Glasgow City Council spokesperson said: “For years Glasgow has needed an equitable, accountable and transparent funding programme which works better for all of the third sector and which provides multi-year funding and focus on outcomes.

“It is clear that the core aims of the new Glasgow Community Fund – to reduce poverty and inequality – are more important than ever. As we move to the recovery and renewal phase, we are keen to ensure that there is equity in funding support across the city for all organisations that have applied to the new fund.”