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BLOG SERIES: Perspectives on the pandemic

More than a year on from the launch of the National Emergencies Trust’s Coronavirus Appeal on 18 March 2020, we have asked our incredible funding partners – and some of their incredible grant-making partners – to share their unique perspectives on the pandemic

Paul Robert OBE CEO of LGBT Consortium

LGBT+ Communities

by Paul Roberts OBE, CEO of LGBT Consortium

What difference has the pandemic made to the communities you serve?


The Pandemic has been a triple-whammy for LGBT+ communities: Organisations have seen huge increases in people coming to them for support. LGBT+ communities cross every part of society and those working across intersectional areas, such as anti-racism work, have had additional community pressures; Operating entirely virtually for a sector that is predominantly providing social and support activities, and majority volunteer-led, put additional strain on their ability to provide services; and we have seen a disturbing increase in attacks on our trans and non-binary communities. We also have to remember that the majority of people working for our communities are from our communities. None of us have been immune to feeling the pressures of the pandemic, resulting in additional strains on those serving our communities.


What impact did you see on your services as a result?


Consortium has been an officeless organisation for 9 years so we were in a strong position to turn our attention straight to our members rather than ourselves. We saw a 3-fold increase in the number of organisations wanting active support from us in the early weeks of the pandemic and luckily we were able to put on a series of broad online sessions to help others out. The equity lens also became increasingly important, and very welcome, which saw the demands on our organisation to engage with others massively increase, so we had to find the balance of pursuing this unique opportunity for our diverse communities to be more visible and engaged whilst also staying focused on serving the organisations we exist for.


What has the funding from the Coronavirus Appeal enabled you to do for those people you help?


The funding from the National Emergencies Trust has enabled us to respond to the needs of our communities in the way we know is needed, which has felt like a breath of fresh air. It is a bit like a big jigsaw puzzle, with all the bits needed to give that complete picture. It has allowed us to get vital funds out to a diverse range of LGBT+ organisations right across the UK and give them a bit of breathing space to look ahead and not just firefight. It has also allowed us to look deeper at how we serve our diverse communities, and ensure we are targeting resources where it is both needed, whether that is geographical or thematic. We are now exploring how we balance out our core support for LGBT+ organisations, coupled with how we do funding and make it more representative of our communities—from design through to delivery. It has also allowed us to build strong data and evidence to articulate the future needs of our communities as we move through the next stages of the pandemic, and beyond.


What challenges and/or opportunities do you foresee ahead?


The challenge is ensuring diverse income sources continue to flow into the voluntary and community sectors. The public response has been amazing, as has that of a range of funders, but that has been funding for the now. The LGBT+ sector has been actively exploring how we can become more sustainable and resilient, and the pandemic has shown to an extent that some organisations can be incredibly resilient, but there is so much more to do. Funds need to flow, the visibility of diverse communities needs to stay firmly front and centre, and our communities need to be in the driving seat of decisions made about us. The collaboration and commitment of communities and funders alike is a true opportunity. It has proven the power of collaboration and when you see it working, why would you do it any other way?! That to me is a very exciting opportunity and something we can take from a year that has pushed the LGBT+ workforce to its limits. Equity work benefits everyone, and threatens no one—this is another exciting opportunity to drive forward in the coming years.