Pride month – making social security better for LGBT+ people

This research project finds itself in another Pride Month. The project is now extended until December 2024 due to issues outside our control, but this is giving us more time to start thinking about how our findings might help improve the situation for LGBT+ people accessing social security and also accumulating assets over their lives. 

In our last post for IDAHOBIT we explained some of the ways we have found that discrimination in social security systems manifests itself. As Lee described, a lot of this is not due to explicit homo/bi/trans-phobia, but actually down to ignorance and a lack of good quality training.

We are now trying to work out how to fill this gap within a complex landscape of both social security providers – such as the Department for Work and Pensions, Scottish Social Security, and local councils – and welfare rights and advice services. We are now piloting approaches to delivering training for such organisations.

A key challenge for us, and service providers, that our own participants often explored in discussion with us, is the appropriateness of “coming out” to a service provider where largely sexual identity or gender identity should not matter, as we discussed in this post. Service providers have to somehow create an environment where people feel comfortable to come out, if they feel it is relevant, while not demanding information that people might not want to share, no matter who they are.

A simple way to do this, advocated across the LGBT+ sector, is to simply ensure you are collecting data on sexual identity and gender identity in equalities monitoring – the project lead, Professor Peter Matthews, describes this in more detail in this journal article. This is a good way of showing you are interested. You should always include a “prefer not to answer” category.

We already had a nice example of this working in practice from a welfare rights service who had engaged with this project. They explained how they sometimes completed Universal Credit applications for service users. At the end of the online form, the DWP include an optional equalities monitoring form. Previously, they had just skipped over this. When they learnt why such monitoring is important, and how it can open-up conversations, they now politely explain they will go through the form with the client, and get answers to the questions where the client is happy to provide these.

And, as the previous research by the project lead suggested, in this welfare rights advisor’s experience so far, it is only heterosexuals that are insulted at having their “normal” sexuality questioned.

The challenges in asset accumulation are much more difficult to tackle. As we have blogged about previously, and as explained in our recently published paper in Social Policy & Society, the barriers to LGB* people owning homes seem to be structural, and quite embedded in society. More worryingly, as we suggest, given the younger age profile of the LGB population, the policy problem of LGB people having few assets to support them in later life will grow unless there is broader action to change housing policy.

To conclude then, in Pride Month, it is important to recognise that many LGBT+ accessing social security want to be proud of who they are. It is up to service providers to deliver services that are inclusive and enable people to do this. We have also found that the culture of stigmatisation around claiming benefits in the UK means that many of our participants are more ashamed of this than being LGBT+, but that’s for a whole other blog post.

* The datasets we analysed only included data on sexual identity.

Theme by the University of Stirling