Written evidence from Galop, the LGBT+ anti-abuse charity
1. About Galop
1.1 Galop works directly with thousands of LGBT+ people who have experienced abuse and violence every year. We specialise in supporting victims and survivors of domestic abuse, sexual violence, hate crime, and other forms of abuse including honour-based abuse, forced marriage, and so-called conversion therapies. We are a service run by LGBT+ people, for LGBT+ people, and the needs of our community are at the centre of what we do.
1.2 We run three national support helplines: one for LGBT+ victims and survivors of domestic abuse, one for LGBT+ people who have experienced hate crime, and the other for victims and survivors of so-called conversion therapies and practices. We provide advocacy services, both in London and nationally, for LGBT+ victims who need longer-term support. We are person-centred, empowerment-based, and trauma-informed – meaning our focus is always on helping our clients decide what is best for them, and then supporting them through their journey.
1.3 We use what we learn through working on the frontlines with clients to work on national and local policy change, to improve outcomes for LGBT+ victims and survivors of abuse and violence. We build evidence through key pieces of research around LGBT+ people’s experiences of abuse and violence. We push for legislative change, improved statutory guidance for victims, and better understanding of the needs of LGBT+ people around the country.
2.1. We welcome the draft victims bill and the Government’s commitment to amplifying victim voices, improving support and strengthening transparency.
2.2. We additionally welcome the opportunity to provide evidence to the Justice Committee on the pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Victims Bill.
2.3. As the bill is currently drafted, we do not believe that the Government will achieve its aim in improving support for LGBT+ victims. It is missing a realistic and achievable way of ensuring that appropriate specialist victims support services are available to LGBT+ victims across the country.
2.4. A clear and comprehensive national funding model is needed to ensure the availability of appropriate specialist ‘by and for’ services to meet the needs of LGBT+ victims of abuse across the country. These national specialist services for marginalised communities can work with local providers to serve LGBT+ communities over the entirety of the UK.
3. Whether the legislative steps proposed by the Government will lead to an improvement in the commissioning of support services?
3.1. We do not think that these proposals will lead to an improvement in commissioning of support services that meet the needs of LGBT+ victims across the country.
3.2. LGBT+ victims must have access to ‘by and for’ services that meet their needs. Galop’s Hate Crime Report 2021 found that 8 in 10 respondents who accessed LGBT+ specific support were satisfied with the service they received (80%), compared to only 4 in 10 respondents who accessed generic support (38%). LGBT+ victims and survivors of all forms of violence and abuse tell Galop that access to specialist by and for services has been transformational in their healing journey and their ability to engage with the criminal justice system.
3.3. “Before Galop got involved I really struggled as the police just weren’t doing anything about my report and I was struggling to get support. However, when I contacted Galop that all changed. They were on to the police who were all of a sudden interested in what had happened to me and they also put me in contact with a range of support agencies to help me. Everything just seemed to slot into place.”
3.4. Our ‘Navigating the Criminal Justice System & Support Services as an LGBT+ Survivor of Sexual Violence found that “the non-specialist support services available to participants frequently did not understand LGBT+ identities which often contributed to poor experiences of these services”.
3.5. “I have since come out as genderqueer & then agender, and I am hesitant of seeking support from rape crisis organisations as I know many can be quite transphobic and I don’t want to hear anyone blaming my gender identity (which I am happy and comfortable with) on my experiences of sexual violence.” (Sexual violence survivor)
3.6. “I was trying to talk to this counsellor, first of all [the] counsellor’s straight obviously, a straight cis woman, like hello we have nothing in common I don’t know what to say to you […] I don’t trust you, I don’t trust that you’re going to get it.” (Sexual violence survivor)
3.7. “[I’d] hesitate to tell anyone to go to an organisation that isn’t for queer people only.” (Sexual violence survivor)
3.8. The commissioning of specialist ‘by and for’ services for LGBT+ survivors is crucial to providing services that meet the needs of the LGBT+ community. Currently, very few LGBT+ survivors outside of London have access to this type of support. The steps outlined in the proposed legislation will not effectively address this gap.
3.9. Collaborative commissioning processes outlined in the proposed legislation will likely imitate the problems that currently exist in the PCC commissioning system for the commissioning of ‘by and for’ services. This is a significant barrier to the provision of adequate services to LGBT+ victims nationally.
3.10. Outside of the largest cities in the country, the LGBT+ population is a disbursed minority and, as a result, LGBT+ specialist services are not viewed as a priority or financially viable. This would likely continue with the proposed collaborative commissioning outside the areas that include the largest cities in the country.
3.11. Needs assessments, where they exist (6.4.b in the proposed legislation) and the requirement in clause 6 subsection (3) will in many areas underestimate the level of need in LGBT+ communities. For accurate local needs assessments and representations local specialist ‘by and for’ organisations who are embedded in and trusted by the local LGBT+ community are required. These specialist services do not exist in the vast majority of places therefore representations and needs assessments will likely underestimate or misinterpret the need of the local LGBT+ community.
3.12. Where collaborative commissioning identifies a need for LGBT+ ‘by and for’ services in most areas appropriate local services are also not available to be commissioned. In the few places that do commission these services, they are often only one member of staff meaning that services are unable to establish the robust staffing structure that can be adaptable and manage issues including staff turnover of absence.
3.13. It takes several years for a specialist ‘by and for’ service to be embedded within and trusted by a local community after proactive awareness raising as well as time to build links and referral pathways with local partners. This may result in low take-up for a service in the first few years. This may be interpreted by commissioners as an indicator of a lack of need potentially resulting in commissioning being dropped in a situation where that service is needed but going through a process of bedding in.
3.14. Most areas do not commission services for victims of crimes that specifically relate to LGBT+ identities such as anti-LGBT+ hate crime and conversion practices. Victims of these crimes therefore do not receive the necessary support to keep them safe and help them recover. Going forward services to support victims of these crimes must be included as part of commissioning at either a national or local level.
3.15. The proposed legislation does not address the problem of short-term funding of a year or two leads to the unnecessary loss of skilled staff on a regular basis with high turnover driven by a lack of job security. This lack of job security is felt more keenly in LGBT+ ‘by and for’ organisations as LGBT+ people are socioeconomically disadvantaged. Funding is often secured yearly on a rolling basis and often only confirmed at short-notice. This requires small organisations each year to recruit new staff, train and guide them to ensure a high level of service. This investment is lost 12 months later when their contract ends. This cycle on repeat reduces the number of victims that organisations can effectively help as newer staff take time to find their feet and require more supervision.
3.16. While we welcome the commissioning of local specialist LGBT+ organisations through collaborative commissioning we must recognise that in many areas LGBT+ people are a minority.
3.17. While Galop knows that LGBT+ people are as likely or more likely to be victims of violence and abuse that their heterosexual cisgender peers, we recognise that in most areas of the country LGBT+ people represent the minority of survivors. Therefore, while we welcome the commissioning of local specialist LGBT+ organisations through collaborative commissioning, we recognise that commissioning structures such as those in the proposed legislation that prioritise the needs of the majority in local areas will never prioritise the needs of the proportionately smaller marginalised population – despite these populations being vulnerable to experiencing multiple types of crime. This leads to LGBT+ victims (and other marginalised victims) of crime being significantly less likely to have access to services that meet their needs.
4. Whether there should be any further measures included in the Bill?
4.1. As outlined above the proposed legislation will fail to improve commissioning for services that meets the needs of LGBT+ victims or provide an equal level of support to that which is available to the general population.
4.2. Significant national funding is required to fill this gap. National specialist services for marginalised communities can work with local providers to serve LGBT+ communities over the entirety of the UK.
4.3. This national commissioning needs to have long-term commissioning cycles of 5 years (or 3 years at an absolute minimum) to enable such programmes of work to embed, for workforce development in marginalised by-and-for community-led services, and to establish strong recognition and trust from the marginalised communities served by this national provision.
4.4. The LGBT+ by-and-for sector also requires funding to develop skills and knowledge in new areas – for example, Galop is about the launch specialist LGBT+ by-and-for therapeutic services for abuse victims, which will be a unique service in the UK. Without development funding alongside national delivery funding, services may lag behind provision for the general population which are supported by larger overall funding and an existing experienced workforce.
4.5. Galop supports the suggested amendment to the bill: a firewall between statutory services and immigration enforcement as proposed by the Latin American Women’s Rights Service and the Step Up Migrant Women Campaign
4.6. In order to ensure equal access to justice and support for all victims, it is essential that this Bill guarantees that LGBT+ victims (and all victims) with insecure immigration status can report crime and access support safely. There is consensus among organisations supporting migrant victims of crime on the need for a complete firewall between statutory services (such as the police) and Immigration Enforcement as the most appropriate mechanism for safe reporting.
4.7. A complete firewall would restrict statutory services’ ability to share a victim’s personal data with Immigration Enforcement when reporting a crime or accessing services. This would ensure that personal data of a victim or witness of crime in the United Kingdom that is processed for the purpose of that person requesting or receiving support or assistance related to crime is not used for any immigration control purpose.
4.8. This form of safe reporting mechanism is likely to improve reporting rates amongst LGBT+ (and all victims) victims and witnesses with insecure immigration status, as well as those with secure status who would currently choose not to report for fear of endangering others. Evidence shows that a firewall would make victims and witnesses feel confident in approaching the police to report crimes and more likely to engage in criminal proceedings which will in turn allow the police to hold perpetrators to account and prevent crime.