The Network has been created as a result of four background formative events and factors and a combination of on the one side a number of well known/respected community recognised Dorset LGB&T activist-educationalists (most being trustees, officers or advisors to some of the main current LGBT organisations based or providing services in Dorset). On another side, the Network has been created as a response to the unmet needs for such a ‘hub/network’ LGB&T organisation to be created to meet the to date unmet needs of both local authority and public service organisations that only such a network can provide, and those of marginalised, vulnerable, hard to reach LGB&T population groups. The network is intended to be the basis for the latter to be heard effectively by those such as the NHS, local authorities, Dorset Police, employers, schools and educational institutes that have duties that have to be met according to the public duty requirements of the Equality Act 2010. The pan-Dorset outreach and remit of the Network is intended to remedy these needs, and enable an effective all-embracing ‘Voice’ of the LGB&T community of Dorset and surrounding areas to be heard.
This Voice is needed and can only be provided by the family of LGB&T communities coming together to support effective representation to those with the duty and power to ensure we live in a Dorset that is free of homophobia, free of transphobia in all the practical day to day living and working contexts were those who are prejudiced can cause untold suffering to the isolated and vulnerable members of our communities.
The Network is therefore on the one hand unique for bringing together all of the main and many of the smaller LGBT community supportive organisations, whether funded or not, so that all of these can gain further support for the important work they do, and on the other unique too for taking innovative approaches to targeting areas of activity which the latter cannot cover on their own, and which matter so much to many in our LGB&T communities that have to face directly homophobia, transphobia, hate crime and prejudice and discrimination that can in extreme cases be life threatening, and in all cases quality of life harming.
The following background factors have enabled the Network to be created:
In 2012 a coalition of local authority, public service organisations joined with our Bournemouth Dorset & Poole LGBT community and its main groups and organisations to support the development of an Olympics Legacy anti-homophobia in sport exhibition project (this subsequently went on to gain national level recognition, educational influence, and acclaim): http://www.timeforchange-now.co.uk/About.html
A number of very beneficial outcomes of the exhibition project resulted, including the introduction of Stonewall to the great, highly important work of the Space Youth Project (a strong and very productive relationship between the two, resulting), a research project a few months later by the sports faculty (Sport BU) of Bournemouth University with the Olympics legacy exhibition project initiator and lead, Alan Mercel-Sanca, with strong input by Lindsay England — this resulted in a report that was damning about the current state of homophobia in sport and school sports; and which was cited by the General Secretary of the TUC.
However, at the time of the exhibition launch (attended by senior officers of Stonewall’s education section) at Bournemouth Library, Andy Williams, Bournemouth Council’s Safer & Stronger Communities section lead proposed how beneficial it could be if the coalition of supporters of the project could explore the possibility of this momentum leading to potential development of a strong voice for Bournemouth Dorset & Poole’s LGB&T communities and a potential pan-Dorset LGBT facility-centre, network or ‘hub’ that could effectively provide guidance as well on policies, services and programmes provided by local authorities and public services across Dorset in a strong and effective way. This in turn led to a meeting to discuss this, attended by representatives of all of the pan-Dorset local authorities, as well as by Dorset Police and the NHS, All of the main and many minor LGBT groups also participated, whilst the lead of Intercom Trust, Dr Michael Hall, the Exeter-based LGBT organisation (that also provides services, especially advocacy, in Dorset) also attended.
This was the first element of support coming together that indicated the need for and began to indicate how this could be brought together, for the LGB&T Dorset Equality Network.
Other elements have been the increasing realization that Dorset Bournemouth & Poole have been hampered in their efforts to see homophobia and transphobia and related hate crime and prejudice defeated, because compared to for example race (through Dorset’s Race Equality Council) and learning disability our part of the UK has no focus for providing an effective and powerful voice on LGB&T equality, inclusion and anti-discrimination needs and issues. Comparisons with other parts of the UK and cities such as Brighton, Birmingham and Manchester, all of whose LGB&T communities have benefited in conunction with their local authorities, public service organisations and even business and arts communities from the existence in these locations of a powerful LGB&T voice, and related hubs and even LGBT centres.
Finally, in late 2014 Dorset CCG realising that the NHS in Bournemouth Dorset & Poole needed to have an up to date and detailed profile of the experiences of LGB&T people using NHS services, decided to commission research and a survey, that eventually in early 2015 led to a report that highlighted the scale of the need for the NHS to be able to address some of the serious issues in regard to it providing prejudice free, effective, friendly and professional healthcare services across the county and conurbation. One of the most important recommendations in this report was for a consultative and critical friend LGB&T group to be created, that could then work with the NHS to bring about change, and increases in confidence levels of LGB&T communities using the NHS. As a result the LGB&T Health Advisory Group was created, in turn demonstrating a model of how effective a voice Bournemouth Dorset & Poole’s could have.