Intercom Trust had been established in 1997 and most recently in Cornwall are funded through NHS Kernow and the Together for Families Fund, who had recently received an outstanding Ofsted report.
Intercom Trust works in schools, currently supporting lunchtime groups in fifteen schools across the county, Intercom Trusts Schools Transgender Guidance, the first guidance of its kind to be written is used nationally. In Cornwall Intercom provides an LGBTQ helpline, drop in sessions in Truro for young people and creative writing groups which is the YAY youth group branch funded through Children in Need, amongst many other activities, and is pioneering innovation in Cornwall having recently won a national award for Community LGBTQ of the Year. Over the last 18 months, Intercom Trust had worked with and supported 150 LGBTQ people.
In addition to work with young people, Intercom Trust supports adults, peers and professionals, having provided training to a wide range of professionals including, but not inclusive of, a number of general practitioners, teachers and volunteers. Key partners include the NHS, family workers, youth workers and third sector agencies. Steve Cannon presented highlights from the presentation.
22 October 2019 Commons Select Committee
- The last 10 years of figures has evidenced that 10 times the number of gay and bisexual men attempt suicide compared to that of men in general, and LGBTQ people are at a high risk of suicide.
- Gay and bisexual men are less likely to eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day than the general population.
- Bisexual women are 4 times more likely to have a long-term mental health problem as straight women.
- Lesbian and bisexual women have higher risks of obesity and cardiovascular disease than straight women.
- Men who have sex with men (MESMEN) account for 8 in 10 new cases of syphilis.
- Bisexual women are more than twice as likely to have cervical cancer.
Attitudes in professionals
It was highlighted that a range of practitioners did not consider sexual orientation to be relevant to a person’s health needs however this conflicted with the information provided by the Commons Select Committee.
- Increased smoking, drug and alcohol use/abuse.
- Poor sexual health.
- Hidden domestic violence.
- Poor physical and mental health and wellbeing.
- More isolated as older people.
- Experiences of discrimination in healthcare.
- Increased risk of suicide and self-harm.
- Greater risk of homelessness (it was recently reported that 25 percent of homeless people in London identified as LGBTQ and indicated that this was the reason they were homeless).
Steve Cannon welcomed Mitchy Robinson who was a young adult that had identified as LGBTQ and had worked with the Intercom Trust. Mitchy had identified as LGBTQ at a young age and had been brought up in a very sheltered community, informing that there had been no help in school for meeting other LGBTQ people and it was not until the age of 24 when the opportunity was provided to meet other people identifying as LGBTQ.
Mitchy had been referred to the Young and Yourself group from the mental health services, providing the opportunity to speak to other people that identified as LGBTQ, and this had helped with anxiety, socialising and mental health. Mitchy will be too old to attend YAY shortly and there is no really therapeutic social provision for older LGBTQ+ people.
Steve Cannon advised that homelessness is also a challenge for young people in the LGBTQ community, with many not identifying that they are homeless if they are staying with friends. The Intercom Trust is working to get in to see younger ages in schools to raise awareness and increase young people’s confidence to deal with such issues.
All schools are able to engage with Intercom Trust but the level of intervention depends on the level of engagement from each individual school. It was recognised that there was further travel required in changing behaviour. An example was a follow-up in schools of non-attending learners where the script provided covered questions around bereavement and drug and alcohol use however did not question if a learner was experiencing issues around LGBTQ. There continues to be a positive growing response from schools in the county, with 150 school children having attended the second Intercom Trust Gathering event in June 2019. Those who attended were invited to participate in a survey 2 months later in which participants reported that their sense of confidence and sense of community had increased. There are however still reports from young people advising that they would not attend school groups for fear of bullying, news getting back to their families and a lack of confidence and resilience.
Evidence shows that mental health issues are prevalent, with self-harm and suicide increasing as well as feelings of isolation in older people requiring more support and intervention. Whilst there are mental health groups in the county, and at schools, it was noted that this requires more structured and robust management to offer the level of support required.
Mr Brown asked what measures could be taken as a local system to address inequalities in the LGBTQ community. Mr Cannon advised that whilst this would need to be addressed from various angles, training professionals by increasing their awareness of new language and changing attitudes would help provide support the growth in referrals; it was noted that the NHS Gender Identity Development Services (GIDS) had nationally seen an increase in referrals from 350 annual referrals in 2015 to 2,700 annual referrals in 2019. There are lengthy waiting times for Gender Clinic first appointment for adult referrals as well as for people under 18. During this time there is some professional support for young people but very little for adults. Intercom runs monthly Gender Identity Family days in Camborne, Plymouth and Exeter where young people that are gender variant and their families can come together for peer support.
Mr Cannon advised that the Intercom Trust continues to forge relationships with a growing number of schools in the county and aims to work on supporting the remaining schools in Cornwall to create LGBT+ lunchtime groups over the next 2 years, which has been greatly assisted by recent private funding from a person who donated £60,000 to the Trust.
Dr Chorlton thanked Steve Cannon and Mitchy Robinson for speaking with Governing Body which recognised that the Intercom Trust provide people with a safe place to go as well as being part of a community which had been identified as a factor that supports good health and wellbeing.