Leeds LGBTQ+ support groups facing closure if government funding is not given

By Jake McDermott

This story pre-dates the arrival of Coronavirus in the UK and the subsequent lockdown.

Groups that provide support to the LGBTQ+ community in Leeds are under threat of being shut down if extra funding is not given to them in the coming months from the Government’s Equality Office.

Advonet’s support groups are designed to help people from the LGBTQ+ community, as well as people who are disabled and suffer from mental health issues, find potential jobs, housing, and other necessities.

They assist these people by offering support workers to assist them with issues that they are struggling with, as well as hosting groups sessions for people in the LGBTQ+ community to ensure a safe location, where they can discuss sensitive issues.

Advonet relies on government funding to run the support groups, as well as hire and train the support workers.

Without the additional funding for the charity, the support groups will have to cease until the extra support is given.

Georgina Everall, a support worker on the LGBTQ+ project told Yorkshire Voice: “Struggling with mental issues myself, I know how difficult it is to remain in control and organised without outside support.

“Because of this, I know how helpful and integral these support groups are to the people who attend and to stop them would be very damaging to the thousands of people in Leeds who need our help.

“These support groups don’t provide clinical support, but hep with more practical issues that they’re struggling with, like housing and work, which are just as important as what the NHS provides.”

Advonet was established in 1998 and partnered up with NHS Trusts and the Leeds City Council in the year 2000. Advonet currently supports a total of 3,861 in the city of Leeds, with 54% of the individuals suffering from a disability of some kind, 40% struggling with a mental health issue and 20% struggling with a learning disability.

The administrator of the project, Fay Kesby, echoed these concerns.

She said: “I understand how difficult it is to get help from the traditional paths and how long it takes before people actually take notice to help, which is what makes this project so special.

“There isn’t a waiting list or a thousand forms to fill out before you can get given the support you need.

“To lose this project at this time would be detrimental to the people we are helping.”

Advonet is currently supporting almost 4,000 people in and around Leeds, who are struggling with their mental health or are in a marginalised position in society.

 

The average waiting list on the NHS for people struggling with the same issues is 90 days.

A student and member of the LGBTQ+ community, Jack Stott, told Yorkshire Voice: “I personally haven’t attended any of these sessions, but I know the lack of help that people receive from the NHS services with mental health issues first hand.”

He added: ”These more personal group sessions could be more useful than you and a doctor sitting in a white room together, as you can talk to people who are struggling from the same things that you’re struggling, and you can learn methods of coping from their experiences and vice versa.”

Advonet has until summer 2020 to receive more funding before the project is put on indefinite hold. All of the staff on the project will also be let go and made redundant until further notifications are given.

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