Learning journal for the UK’s first purpose-built LGBT extra care scheme

The dream is becoming a reality

Guest author, Bob Green OBE, shares more details about UK’s first purpose-built LGBT Extra Care Scheme, which will open in Manchester, and introduces an online Learning Journal about the ground-breaking project. This post is part of the CaCHE Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) blog series

I have worked in social housing for over 30 years and for the last 15 years, including my time as CEO of Stonewall Housing, I have been discussing the lack of LGBT-affirmative housing in the UK with older lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people. They fought for the rights we benefit from today while being viewed as criminals or considered to have a mental disorder because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. For many, their only reward was ignorance or homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in their accommodation, therefore, some felt they had to hide their identity from their carers, staff and other residents. The Covid pandemic has highlighted their extreme isolation, with many ‘going spare with the loneliness’, to quote one person.

I was fortunate to visit LGBT-friendly schemes in America which have created safe and welcoming housing that gives older LGBT people a space to celebrate their later lives in safety. Now, finally, the dream of LGBT-affirmative housing for older people is becoming a reality.

Since March 2020, I have had the enormous privilege of working with LGBT Foundation, as we take a step closer to opening the UK’s first purpose-built LGBT Extra Care Scheme in Manchester.

In March 2021, to coincide with Manchester City Council’s announcement that Anchor Hanover was selected to be the development partner for the scheme, LGBT Foundation launched an online Learning Journal about our ground-breaking project.

The Learning Journal is based on 14 interviews with people who have been involved through the history of the scheme. The resource captures the early discussions in 2014 with Age Friendly Manchester and Homes England through the first announcement of the scheme by Manchester City Council in 2017 and the acquisition of the site in 2018 up to the present day.

The Journal captures our learning under six themes:

  • FOUNDATIONS covers the importance of having local evidence of need and a strong business case to show the viability of a scheme. For example, Manchester City Council’s original plan to own and develop the scheme was not viable so a development partner was required. Questions about legal issues and location were addressed early on in this project.
  • OPTIONS includes the reasons for developing an LGBT Extra Care Scheme. Bringing together housing and care directorates together with charities and providers offers opportunities to do something new. However, developing an innovative scheme has brought its own challenges and nervousness from some parties.
  • ROLE OF PARTNERS reflects on the importance of individual commitment and the difficulties when personnel changes in organisations. This section includes a discussion on the delays and the length of time it has taken to reach this point. However, the fact that the scheme is progressing is testament to the perseverance of so many characters in our story.
  • CHARITY SECTOR played a key role from the outset of this scheme and this section recognises the need for more resources to ensure community engagement continues to be at the heart of the development.
  • ENGAGEMENT with communities has been an important aspect throughout the scheme’s history with focus groups held in 2017 and 2018 and a Community Steering Group formed in 2020 to guide the design and governance arrangements. This section also discusses the relationship between LGBT communities and the local communities where the scheme is based.
  • SERVICES recognises the valuable resources already available within the local and LGBT communities, which this scheme aims to supplement rather than duplicate.

Homes England’s Community Housing Fund has ensured that LGBT communities have been at the heart of the design of the scheme thus far, allowing us to develop this journal and carry out a survey in 2020 to gather more intelligence about the current circumstances of older LGBT people in Greater Manchester and what facilities they expect at the scheme. The survey’s findings showed the financial hardship faced by many and the uncertainty about how they would receive any care or support in future. However, the survey also reflected the strong appetite for the scheme and the desire for a range of community services and businesses on site.

The Learning Journal acknowledges that there is much work ahead for everyone involved. The scheme will be co-produced with older LGBT people, local residents and LGBT Foundation working with Manchester City Council and Anchor Hanover through a Community Steering Group and its working sub-groups.

Photo 1: Old building, pre-demolition
Photo 2: Cleared site, post-demolition

After years of dreaming about the scheme, we can now start to think about what the scheme will look like. The old building (photo 1) has been demolished and the site is clear (photo 2). Now we are planning the internal and external design, operational policies and the necessary liaison and engagement to ensure the scheme’s success, where everyone will feel safe and welcome, and where everyone can celebrate who they are without fear of the consequences.

I am delighted that others are interested in working with us to achieve our goals. The University of Manchester, for example, will assist us to explore the impact of the scheme on people’s sense of safety and belonging. We encourage more people to join us in our journey and share their thoughts, ideas, and experiences through the Learning Journal.

We hope that our learning will help shape the best possible extra care scheme but also inspire a greater range of community housing projects to cater for more LGBT people, of various ages and backgrounds with different housing needs and aspirations. It is exciting to hear of other LGBT-affirmative schemes already being developed across the country (e.g. Tonic in London, London Older Lesbian CoHousing and Pride in Place Leeds).

Unfortunately, older LGBT people continue to experience abuse, harassment and isolation where they live and until the LGBT-affirmative schemes open, they must ‘soldier on’, to quote another older LGBT person. Manchester’s LGBT Extra Care Scheme cannot come soon enough.

Bob Green OBE is a Housing and Equalities Consultant working with LGBT Foundation on LGBT Extra Care Scheme, and member of the CaCHE North England and Midlands Hub.

Views expressed by authors may not represent the views of CaCHE.


Date: November 25, 2021 12:33 pm


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