This is the first of a series of blog posts by the academic partners on the LGBT Assets and Welfare project to introduce ourselves. I thought I’d go first as I’m the project leader – Dr Peter Matthews, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Stirling. Each post will have a different tone, reflecting who we are!
I’m an openly gay man, but in my research I’ve only really got interested in LGBT+ issues over the last five-or-so years. My research started out focused on inequalities in the delivery of public services to deprived neighbourhoods. However, through some research we accidentally discovered that LGBT+ issues and deprived neighbourhoods overlapped – a disproportionate number of people who identify as LGB in Scotland live in the most deprived neighbourhoods. This led onto further research about what the experience of these people is, and also whether experiences of homelessness might explain why people ended up living in these neighbourhoods.
This research on housing and homelessness experiences really attuned me to how welfare services are very heteronormative – they assume service users are in a heterosexual nuclear family. While this might mean that organisations, and staff in them, are not explicitly discriminatory against LGBT+ people, they can be inadvertently discriminatory because of this assumption.
This project came from an awareness that this is baked-in to the design of welfare services in the UK. I’m really excited to see what this might mean in the amazingly rich data we now have about LGB people in the UK, and also what we can learn from people’s stories of accessing welfare benefits services, or trying to accumulate assets in their lives, to make welfare services more exclusive.