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On Safe Ground

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This project researched the participation of disabled lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (D/LGBT) people in community groups. On Safe Ground was funded by Communities Scotland, the Scottish Executive’s housing and regeneration agency as part of its equalities work. The research was carried out by Avanté Consulting, working with the Disability Rights Commission and the Equality Network.


Equality Network

The Equality Network works to promote the equality and rights of all LGBT people and communities in Scotland. To meaningfully achieve this we must acknowledge and address the inequalities and exclusions that can exist within our communities, as well as celebrating the diversity of LGBT people. We welcome this excellent report for highlighting the experiences, expertise and insights of disabled LGBT people, and challenging the marginalisation that they continue to face. We strongly believe that diversity and rights can best be promoted by building alliances and working across equality strands. We would therefore like to thank Communities Scotland and the Disability Rights Commission, not just for their support for this particular project, but also for their ongoing commitment to partnership work and cross-strand approaches. Finally we would like to extend our thanks to all the people and organisations that gave their valuable time to contribute to this research, and to all the staff at Avante for their involvement and support.

Disability Rights Commission Scotland

This report is a valuable step in providing information for the greater involvement of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender disabled people in community groups and voluntary organisations. The contribution and needs of both LGBT and disabled people have too often been overlooked, or sometimes regarded as marginal, with too little recognition of LGBT disabled people’s issues as being part of the mainstream. We hope this report will help not only shine some light on this important issue, but also help to identify solutions and remove barriers to enable LGBT disabled people’s contributions and participation to be recognised.

Communities Scotland

This project was funded by Communities Scotland, the Scottish Executive’s housing and regeneration agency as part of its equalities work. We are pleased to support the Equality Network and the Disability Rights Commission in working work together to find common ground, for the benefit of all. We hope this research will help LGBT, disability and mainstream organisations become more inclusive and responsive to the various needs of the people using their services.

Introduction and Background

The Equality Network (EN) and Disability Rights Commission (DRC) commissioned Avanté Consulting to carry out research into the participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) disabled people in community groups and voluntary organisations. It was intended that this research should identify key issues for disabled LGBT people in engaging with these groups, highlight good practice, and, consequently, support the commissioning organisations in their strategic planning.

Equality is one of the guiding principles of the Scottish Parliament. Responsibility for equality legislation is reserved to Westminster but The Scotland Act (1998) gives the Scottish Parliament power to encourage equal opportunities, particularly the observing of the equal opportunities requirements. The Act defines equal opportunities as: “the prevention, elimination or regulation of discrimination between persons on grounds of sex or marital status, on racial grounds, or on grounds of disability, age, sexual orientation, language or social origin, or of other personal attributes, including beliefs or opinions, such as religious beliefs or political opinions”.

In September 1999, the Scottish Executive published ‘Making It Work Together: a Programme for Government’ which stressed a commitment to promoting equality for all and the Executive’s determination to place equality at the heart of policymaking. It set out a commitment to securing a just and inclusive Scotland and stated that “this means tackling discrimination and prejudice across Scotland. It also means tackling the systems, behaviour and attitudes that cause them or sustain them”. The strategy summarises the experiences of inequality and discrimination faced by some groups in Scotland on the grounds for example of age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, or sexual orientation. The strategy recognises that there are differences both within and between those groups. Common features are:

  • Restricted access to employment, goods, services, and other material resources;
  • Under-representation in senior positions in work, professions and business;
  • Under-representation in political and public life;
  • Experience of direct, indirect and institutional discrimination;
  • Experience of abuse and violence.

The Local Government in Scotland Act 2003 sets out a number of goals for Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs).

Highlighting the statutory responsibility on CPPs, the Act requires local authorities “to mainstream equal opportunities in the planning and delivery of services”. CPPs are also required to act within the terms of other specific requirements that arise through the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, the Race Relations Act 1976 (amended 2000), and the UK Disability Equality Duty which came into effect on 4 December 2006. Formal Scottish Executive policy, legislation and Guidance on a wide range of areas, including notably, the work of Communities Scotland (with its focus on regeneration, community engagement and Community Learning and Development), as well as all other government departments, require a commitment to and clear focus on mainstreaming equalities issues, in both their composition and the way they go about their work.

The Executive’s equalities strategy seeks to ensure that equality is mainstreamed into all functions of national and local government as well as all those that work with public bodies. The aim is for this to ensure that government initiatives do not have a negative impact on any disadvantaged groups. The delivery of the strategy depends on partnership working with a wide range of bodies and sectors. This includes the voluntary and community sector, with its plethora of equalities groupings, many of whom have played a significant part not only in helping to shape the Executive’s strategy but in its subsequent implementation.

Further Policy & Legislation

In addition to legislation which supports the powers of the four existing UK Equalities Commissions, the UK is a signatory to a large number of international conventions which have anti-discrimination provisions. These provide part of the legislative context against which equalities work in the UK proceeds and sit alongside some of the most notable policy initiatives that support among other things, the Scottish Executive’s Social Justice agenda.

A legislative framework to outlaw discrimination and promote equality in the UK has been taking shape for many years. The pace of change has been influenced by factors such as membership of the European Union and by the degree of recognition given to the needs of different groups in society. Anti-discrimination legislation has not come into force at the same time for all groups and some groups are not covered by it. Progress has been made in the areas of gender, race and disability equality, with each area represented by its own Commission. In contrast, sexual orientation equality remains relatively underdeveloped. However, campaigning organisations such as the national Equality Network have been instrumental in bringing issues to the fore and the past few years have seen major changes to the law affecting LGBT people. Transsexual people are now legally recognised, and civil partnership and other changes to family law mean that LGBT people and their families are included alongside other families. Laws against discrimination are being amended to cover transgender identity and sexual orientation.

Commission for Equality and Human Rights

On 12 May 2004, a White Paper, ‘Fairness for All: A New Commission for Equality and Human Rights’ was published by the Department of Trade and Industry. Following extensive consultations, a revised bill proposes the establishment of a new Equality and Human Rights Commission (CEHR), which brings together the work of the three existing Equality Commissions, the Equal Opportunities Commission (gender), the Commission for Racial Equality (race), and the Disability Rights Commission (disability). The new Commission, to be established in 2007, will have a role to enforce and promote the main strands of UK legislation that support work in these areas. At the same time, the UK government has set out (in Equality and Diversity: The Way Ahead) its plans to amend existing UK equality law, as well introducing new legislation outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, religion or belief and age. European employment directives on sexual orientation, faith and age and the Human Rights Act 1988 are key drivers behind such activity and inform the proposals for the CEHR. There are a number of concerns about the work of the CEHR in relation to Scotland, however, there is a common understanding that there is much to do to bring about effective legal and institutional protection to groups in society who routinely experience discrimination and that working together presents a positive way forward.

Equalities Networks

Nationally and locally those working in the equalities field have found benefit in coming together. These networks and intermediary groupings play an important part in strengthening the role of individual equalities organisations and have provided a coherent and collective voice on equality issues. Such networks promote dialogue and understanding across separate equality strands. They also ensure that debate on proposals for discrimination legislation and policy recognises the cross-cutting nature of equality issues. There are numerous examples of equalities networks across Scotland. These reflect the considerable number of equalities groups, including many in the voluntary and community sector, that have been responsible for major advances in policy and practice in the equalities field. They have played an important role in achieving a culture shift in tackling discrimination. These include networks of individuals and groups tackling issues of discrimination and providing services for LGBT disabled people.

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