Minister for Equalities Baroness Williams speaking at the Government Equalities Office's LGBT Leadership Summit
Wednesday 5 February
I am really pleased to be at this summit, thank you very much for inviting me, to celebrate and build on the important work of the LGBT sector in championing the rights of LGBT people here in the UK, and of course, for some organisations, across the world.
I welcome you to the Government Summit. I know that some of you have come from quite a far distance, including Scotland, and I hop you will find the next few hours useful, insightful, and productive, not just through the planned workshops and speeches, but through the creative energy you will no doubt bring to bear.
All of you today represent the leaders and champions of the LGBT Community. Some of you will come from established organisations with a wide reach, and a vast amount of knowledge. Your experience, and your insight will be incredibly useful, but others represent smaller organisations, prioritising the needs of particular groups within your communities, fostering new ideas, new ways of working, and a new perspective. And that’s the benefit of having different sized organisations here today because we always learn from each other.
But one thing that I think binds us all is passion.
Passion to improve lives of LGBT people combined with a drive to tackle the issues, seek solutions and eliminate inequality.
But we can’t do it alone, neither as a government, nor as individual organisations, but through partnership is how we will achieve change, and our cooperation together that change will be realised.
It is through a shared vision built on the commitment of people like you, of organisations like yours, working hand-in-hand with each other and with government, that really has brought us to where we are today.
Today, we live in a society were same-sex marriage is a reality in all corners of the United Kingdom, which is a great thing. A society where discimination based on sexuality and gender identity is both illegal and intolerable.
And yet there is so much to do to address the inequalities that we know exist, particularly in the areas of health, education and safety.
The government’s LGBT Action Plan, which was published by the Government Equalities Office in July 2018, is an important set of commitments toward achieving this goal.
This Action Plan focuses not just on the direct action that the government can take to improve the lives of LGBT people, but on supporting and empowering the organisations which you represent to drive this change. It seeks to build on existing skills, forge new relationships, and enhance the resilience of the LGBT sector itself.
The LGBT Futures Fund is a strong example of this in action. Through it the government has provided support to 66 projects in the LGBT sector.
But like so much in the advancement of LGBT rights in the UK and abroad, it can’t just be done by government. It is through our partnerships that we progress, and it is notable that whilst these projects have been funded by the government, they have been delivered absolutely by the sector.
Because the LGBT sector knows best the LGBT community. You’re the people best placed to recognise and support those who need it most.
And you have done that.
Using resources provided by the Futures Fund, disabled people have been able to fully participate at BiPride, with the addition of wheelchair charge points and sign language interpreters.
That same funding has been used to address LGBT mental health and social isolation through inclusive and diverse events around Manchester.
And in Brighton, it has enabled the celebration and elevation of underrepresented voices in the community through a four day LGBT literary festival.
But the scheme goes further than just funding: it is designed to build skills and provide tools to drive sustainability and resilience within the sector, through training programmes and mentoring. Those aspects are absolutely crucial. Training as diverse as ‘how to write a successful funding bid’, ‘funding core costs’, and how to better improve inclusion of trans and disabled members of the community.
And the partnership does not end here, as this fund has been managed and delivered by Consortium, who are present here today and who I spoke with this morning. An organisation that is part of the very sector it seeks to serve and empower.
This summit seeks to expand on that way of working, by bringing together the leaders and trailblazers of the LGBT sector all in one place. Today, LGBT Foundation, Stonewall, and Consortium, will host workshops on Leadership and Representation, Effective Voice and Lobbying, and Organisational Sustainability. Through these workshops we hope to stimulate new thinking on how not only to enhance your organisation’s ambition, but also its ability to reach it. We hope that this summit will lead to new collaborations and new partnerships between like-minded groups, that amplify your message and impact, and to see the sector as a resource unto itself.
But it is not just through funds and summits that the power of collaborative working can be found. In the healthcare system, our new National Adviser on LGBT Health, Dr. Michael Brady, has been making great strides in the ten short months that he has been in the post.
He has worked across the NHS, bringing NHS staff and LGBT sector bodies together, discussing cancer care, maternity, and the benefits of personalised care programmes. All while driving forward on improving sexual and gender identity monitoring to make healthcare systems and professionals more responsive to LGBT patients. He has even charmed the Women and Equalities Select Committee.
The appointment of the National Adviser on LGBT Health was an Action Plan commitment, and the government remains committed to delivering the remainder of the LGBT Action Plan. From hosting an International LGBT Conference in May, I hope you’ll all be there, to rolling out LGBT-inclusive Relationship and Sex Education across England and Wales in September of this year.
A third of the plan’s commitments have been delivered to date, not least on the theme of health, where I am very proud of the fact that this government has not only met the Action Plan commitment for the roll out of the PreP trial, but has gone further, offering 26,000 places.
I know the Department of Health and Social Care is continuing to work with NHS England Public Health England and local authorities to plan routine commissioning of PrEP from April 2020 - so that’s only two months away. This type of direct action plays no small part in continuing to drive down the rate of new HIV transmissions in England, which has fallen 73% for gay and bisexual men since 2014.
We are also investing in improving services for the future. And in partnership with the Royal College of General Practitioners, mere weeks ago we have overseen the roll-out of 6 new training modules, empowering healthcare professionals to deliver the best possible care for LGBT patients. These cover complex but also crucial issues, from mental health to suicide prevention, to meeting the sexual health and reproductive needs of LGBT patients, and ensuring adequate care is available to older LGBT people.
And it is great also to have been able to roll-out the Pride in Practice awards. I gave the first one out, and since then other medical centres have won awards. It’s great that GP practices are getting on board with this agenda.
There is much to celebrate. But there is also so much to do. I feel privileged, as Minister for Equalities, to have an opportunity to effect change in the lives of LGBT people. I am committed to ensuring that LGBT people feel safe and valued within society - afforded the same protections and respect that others take for granted.
That is why we must work with communities across the UK and globally to end this so-called conversion therapy. I have to say I remain absolutely shocked that this is practiced at all in the modern world. The techniques employed by people who promote these practices are quite frightening and have very tragic consequences in many cases. LGBT people are not broken, they’re not ill, they don’t need to be fixed and they don’t need to be cured. And that’s why the government is committed to ending these practices for good.
Government and the LGBT sector must continue to work together in not only delivering the Action Plan commitments, but in ending inequality. This summit is an opportunity to strengthen existing relationships and forge new ones, to encounter new ideas and perspectives, to enhance your organisation’s reach and ambition. But most importantly of all, to use your leadership and insight to help us to build a better society for everyone.
The government remains committed to supporting you in realising a society where safety, opportunity, and respect are no longer privileges to be fought for, but a reality for all.