More than a third of LGBTQI+ disabled people have experienced discrimination or received poor treatment from their personal assistants (PA) because of their sexual identity or gender identity, according to ground-breaking new research.
Researchers also found that many LGBTQI+* disabled people who recruit their own PAs had not come out to their personal assistants because they feared discrimination.
The research, co-produced by the LGBTQI+ disabled people’s organisation Regard, included a survey of more than 50 LGBTQI+ disabled people in England who control their own support packages, as well as 20 in-depth interviews.
More than half of those surveyed said they never or only sometimes disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity to their PAs.
Almost a third said they felt they had been discriminated against by their local authority on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
And more than 90 per cent said their needs as an LGBTQI+ disabled person were either not considered or were only given some consideration, when they were assessed or reviewed by their local authority.
More than one in five said their PA did not support them to do “LGBTQI+ things”, like visiting an event or maintaining a relationship.
The research was carried out by the University of Bristol, Regard, the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and the LGBT charity Stonewall, and funded by the National Institute for Health Research’s School for Social Care Research.
One of the disabled people interviewed, who lives alone in his own flat, told researchers that he had a “secret cupboard where I put all my gay stuff” to avoid outing himself to his PA.
He said he would love to put a rainbow flag on his wall, but added: “I can’t, I just can’t.”
Another, who had not come out to his family, came out instead to his support worker, who promptly went downstairs and told his mother.
He told researchers: “She was crying. She said to me, ‘Is this true?’ So I had to lie to my mum and say, ‘I’m not gay.’”
Interviewees also provided examples of the benefits of controlling their own support.
One said: “You have different people all the time, you’ve got strangers coming into your house.
“I wanted to be able to choose. It’s transformative if you get the right person.”
Dr Ju Gosling (pictured), co-chair of Regard, said: “This is the most significant piece of research about LGBTQI+ disabled people’s use of self-directed social care ever to be published.
“We finally have evidence about the barriers which LGBTQI+ disabled people face in applying for and managing social care support, and about the positive impact on their lives that good quality self-directed support can make.”
She said the research was “particularly significant” because the findings would reach researchers, policy-makers and social care workers, as well as disabled people and the LGBTQI+ community.
She added: “There are also films and printed briefings for disabled people and the PAs who provide their support, aimed at increasing confidence and improving practice.”
Professor David Abbott, professor of social policy at the University of Bristol’s School for Policy Studies, said: “Self-directed social care support continues to provide opportunities for LGBTQI+ disabled people to exercise choice and control over the support that they get.
“When support from PAs really meets the needs of LGBTQI+ disabled people, people in our study talked about the positive impact on identity, inclusion and belonging.
“But our collaborative research also highlights the barriers that people faced and the lack of routine attention being paid to their human and legal rights.”
*People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex or who hold identities such as non-binary