In the final article to recognise June as the month, each year, when the LGBT+ community and its allies celebrate the impact and influence of its members, we end our Pride Series with the thoughts of Iain Campbell, the Service Manager of Dumfries & Galloway LGBT+, which is a partner of UWS in EDWG, the Dumfries and Galloway Equality partnership, i.e. the Equality, Diversity, Working Group.
Dumfries and Galloway LGBT+ is a support group based in Dumfries & Stranraer, providing 1- 2-1 sessions in both locations, along with social activities such as lunches, health walks, film nights and group workshops, most of which are led by volunteers from the local area. If you would like more information on this organisation, you can find it here.
When asked to consider Pride Month in 2020, Iain reflected on the difficulties and challenges that lockdown represented.
“We have faced issues over the last few months, engaging with the LGBTQI community, but there have also been positives. As an organisation, we are relativity small, with a team of 2 support workers and a service manager, based in Dumfries, with a satellite office space in the west at Stranraer.
With isolation / lockdown looking likely, we took the decision to work remotely and suspended all face-to-face activities, preparing to move to the virtual world.
The question was how could we continue to support our community remotely?
After initial conversations by telephone with those receiving support, we moved to online interactions, ZOOM, Skype , email, text and phone chats.
But, on the support side, we found this could be problematic at times: not all of our clients were able to use online platforms safely – some did not have the devices to do so.
For others, the issue was that they did not have a safe place, in their home, to where they could retreat for a secure and private support session. Some may not have been “out” to family or those with whom they are isolating, or those in the room were not accepting of their choices.
These online sessions took longer than normal – so a pre-planned 1 hour support session could run for 2 hours, due to not only the complexity of interaction but also sometimes a reluctance to open up.
We did notice an increase in demand for support and requests for help and were concerned that capacity levels would result in waiting lists forming.
Face-to-face activities and events, as well as group sessions, have been postponed so we have set up online workgroups for each localised community, where we engaged with those who had attended previously to our locations – we’ve done this across the region, setting up group quiz events, chat rooms and Mindfulness sessions.
We also run a telephone service, where volunteers call members of the LGBTQI community and just check in with them, to see if they need anything, such as food, medication or support. This has been difficult at times, for the reasons previously stated – and, as a result, some conversations are held via text or email, which then take a lot longer to complete.
On a positive note, we did seek additional funding, which allowed us to move part-time staff to full-time, meaning we were better placed to meet demand. With this, and offering longer sessions, we have dealt with requests more quickly, reducing projected waiting times and avoiding waiting lists.
We have also sought funding to purchase tablets for the community – these can be used by those without a device or those who are unable to access a secure private device in an isolated home environment.
Over time, we have developed a more robust virtual world for the organisation and as each day and week passes, we are adapting more quickly - we feel, as an organisation, we were able to turn a negative situation into a positive one, not only for us but also for the community.”
If you would like to contact Ian, you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org