LGBT+ and Care Experienced People (CEP)

As you may know or not know LGBT+ plus history month so it is month where a majority of LGBT+ plus pride takes although here in the Uk they start in April through to September near enough every large town and every world definitely every city a really large town in the UK now has an LGBT+ pride event which is absolutely amazing and fantastic and I am not gonna justify why we have pride because that’s another blog. I’m going to talk about being LGBT+ plus and being a care experienced person and growing up in the care system being LGBT+ plus in my previous in my last employment I did a massive health survey on there on experienced people and 14% identified as LGBT+ plastic which is twice the number that  Stonewall think is prevalent in the UK (7%) so if you agreed to figure it out seven percent of people in the UK or LGBT+. Now I’ve also run or I’ve set up three LGBT+ youth groups as well and in all of my youth groups I’ve run or we had at least one or two people who were in the care system you know fostered usually that was one or two out of five or six, in the bigger group it was four out of 15.

So there’s definitely a higher prevalence of LGBT+ young people in the care system and sadly if you go to Albert Kennedy trust or ask any of the youth charities a good percentage of them are in care because they are LGBT+ either their family kicked them out all the environment was so toxic they could no longer be safe in there  so the people who are care experienced in LGBT+ plus as you can imagine they are a vulnerable minority within a vulnerable minority so there are many issues that are prevalent one is coming out so  any you know young people who are LGBT+ parts in the care system so they need to come out in more places than they would if they were at home with m and dad so you know they come across more professionals and more adults in their life than they would if they were not in the care system they’re also very very worried that their foster carers or their staff in their children’s home will treat them differently

I know when I used to do my training in one of my other jobs this psychologist who was part of the mental health trust and I actually complained about the other people on my course also put in a complaint. He basically when I told him I grew up in care he interrogated me about my relationship with my father was your mother absent all this and maybe that’s why you’re gay because of the orientation of this, obviously, this could have been triggering for me. I have had other care experienced people say similar in regards to their gender identity it being implied maybe that’s why and they’re confused?

Coming out is an issue as well, feeling they need to be out, with multiple placement changes this is amplified, and whether or not their family and or placement would accept don’t forget they might still have access to their family and still have a relationship with them.

Many will also experienced a lot of heteronormative assptions you know so by this i mean you know the LGBT+ plus and they are being asked heteronormative questions so if it’s a young man do you have a girlfriend a young girl young woman do you have a boyfriend you know  you know cisgender perceptions around their gender identity you know the fact that it might be gender fluid and people are like well you were a boy last week and i understand you regale his weight what’s this all about you know what’s going on you know i can’t understand it you know and even around the  key issue you know a lot of assptions that it’s because they are in care because of traas because of the abuse that’s why their gender their assignment at birth is not the gender they feel they are or they feel their gender third or they feel that gender non-conforming you know a lot of struggles around these ideas so they’re not quite sure how to deal with it you know again there’s there’s issues around adults coming into the life a lot of professionals being suddenly put in and that this situation came over analyzed and over-examined rather than the young person just being allowed to explore that on their own allowed to go on their own journey the journey is often described and directed into a certain direction rather than the young person being able to explore it themselves and being allowed to do that in a safe environment and be be guided rather than directed you know and supported as well so it’s all about them and then he’s not the needs of the professionals because often it’s about the knees or the professionals not a young person’s needs you know  i’ve heard of some awful examples of of staff and carers not using the chosen pronouns or the preferred pronouns one case of of of the refusal to change files so using the dead name all the time and the young person saying that’s not my name anymore it’s this and i want my performance reported instance of my dead name redacted and the new name put in place and that was refused you know quite like because it was just too much effort.

I was shocked as well about a well known big national organisation’s lack of HIV awareness as well but there’s an assumption that if you say to a young gay young man by sexual with other men and you need to consider the risk of HIV you’ve been homophobic you’re not okay so the last time I looked it hasn’t changed since then one in 600 of the general population have HIV the rate of HIV amongst gay and bisexual men is between 1 and 8 and 1 in 12 depending on where you are in the country geographically okay so one in eight or twelve is a lot more than one in six hundred so if you are giving inaccurate sexual health messages and HIV prevention messages to young gay and bisexual men that is not helpful or supportive to them.

You need to be given specific messages around HIV to young and bisexual specifically around their sexual orientation because you know the sex lives of the young gay men tends to be a lot different too about their heterosexuals. So know about PrEP Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (the medication you can take to minimalise to virtually 0 the chances of contracting HIV) and PEP Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (The medication you can take if you feel there Is a strong chance you have been exposed to HIV, Which a concentrated form of HIV meds taken for a month.

We know care exoerienced people are  33 times not more likely to be involved in selling sex and  sexual exploitation so if you look at young LGBT+  based people especially young gay and bisexual men in the care system and they’re transitioning out of the care system you can imagine and i will explain it to you in case you don’t finally get it but they’re probably much more likely to be involved in this you know mainly because they’re very very vulnerable and you know for not being supported properly especially if they are in unregulated accommodation they need connection and they need affection then they’re probably going to be doing things that put them at risk i know this for a fact because i know one young man who’s in the last support  and this is from a very well known  charity (the same one with a lack of HIV awareness) this young man was selling sex he was escorting was  you know because he  needed extra money and i would say he needed basically effective connection this was probably that was the main driver, for this and he said he couldn’t talk to them about this, so how were they helping him?

There’s a lot of young male sex workers who grew up in the care system  when I used to work for a sexual project in Soho (London) in sexual  health promotion and they had a what they called a rent boy clinic  and that was the name they chose this was 20 years ago as well so a lot of them over half of the young men had been in the care system who came along  to that clinic and there in mind that one in a hundred of  the population is care experienced this was  50%  of the young men accessing the clinic, this was dozens of young men let down by the system

Care experienced people are so much more likely to be vulnerable so that is also an issue because you know and also with uh who are wanting to have surgery access to access to hormones and medications that they may not actually get because of the waiting lists and the times that you know people who are who are wanting to confirm their gender. I wonder for those who decide to self finance their transition, how they may do this bearing in mind what we know about care experienced people being more likely to be involved In selling sex, not to assume they will use this route, we do I feel need to be mindful of this.

It seems, that LGBT+ young people in the Care System am not really a priority for anybody, I feel the belief is that because equality has been achieved, albeit not fairly that people assume the issues such as homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia are no longer a problem or an issue in society and more notably the Care System.  The care review “case for change” has just been published and the entire 100-page document, LGBT isn’t mentioned once, race and disability I mentioned numerous times for out the document.  It’s only mentioned twice in the 38-page summary and even here it’s not a stand-alone subject that part of other groups.

Here are some findings that have become a piece of research carried out, by the university of east Anglia that was released in 2017 called “ Speak Out”

The findings

The national survey of local authorities and England found that 38% of local authorities, had a general policy that included LGBT+ young people, but only 5% have a specific policy, and recording LGBT+ identities was rare.  There was relies on an individual and reactive practice with our collective recognition of the LGBT+ young people’s needs.

Support for LGBT+ young people was said to be limited by lack of both knowledge and confidence and local authorities were keen to improve practice (So the case for change clearly missed the mark in ignoring LGBT+ young people)

Focus groups with professionals

There was recognition of intergenerational differences in in understand our sexuality and gender and the need for professionals to examine and sometimes RE evaluate their own attitudes.

It was felt that professionals my avoid discussing the sexuality of young people because of the general culture unease about talking about sexuality, particularly with young people.

It was suggested that there might be a tendency to review sexuality from the prison of risk for young people in care and that this could also apply to LGBT+ young people.

The importance of an in-depth exploration of the attitudes of Foster carers towards LGBT+ young people as part of the approval process was emphasize since young people in care often already face rejection in their lives.

Managing stigma

Many young people you strategies to conceal their sexual orientation from peers and carers some found it hard to knowledge to themselves that their mind the LGBT after growing up in a heteronormative or homophobic environment.

Across the interviews there was a widespread experience of homophobia biphobia and transphobia.  Transphobia a different quality to homophobia, where the young people became an object of curiosity.  Non-conforming gender expression could make the young person a target of bullying from their early childhood.

Young people also encounter stigma about being in care and were sensitive to, it’s about their parents and to be the difference between their placements ad other families.

Some young people chose to conceal one aspect of their identity after being bullied about other aspects.

LGB and questioning young people

Some young people feared that coming out in care would result in rejection and placement breakdown, but for others’s living in care offer an opportunity to explore the LGBT+ identity.

Several young people concealed their sexual orientation from carers and professionals resulting in isolation, increased vulnerability, and sometimes placement breakdown.

When young people came out in care has an LGB it helps when Foster carers were accepting and reassured the young person of their commitment to them.  However several young people had experienced reactions that they found unhelpful, such as the Foster carers suggesting it was a phase, they were confused, too young, or would attribute their sexuality to a history of abuse.  Some experienced overt homophobia including a Foster Care or terminating the placement and.

Birth family acceptance of sexual orientation was very important to most young people and their families range from accepting to rejecting.  A few young people were clear they would never want their families to know as it would put them at risk.

Young people reported less overt homophobia from social workers.  However, they experienced heteronormative assumptions which discourage them from coming out, awkwardness and discomfort from social workers.

In regards to gender identity, they were concerned they would not be viewed as authentic if they did not want to fall physical transition, if they had not struggled with this for you from an early age he for others attributed their gender identity early childhood abuse, awful it was related to a diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder.

A few young people have begun to explore their gender identity with their Foster carers and experience their Foster carers moving too fast, asking them immediately about physical transition, or one in the young person of difficulties ahead.  Other young people had found was that residential care offered a space to explore their gender identity, safer than with their birth family.  However, the Trans young people in the study were often exploring their gender identity at a time of instability in relation to care placements and leaving care.  Many experienced homelessness or extremely unstable accommodation post 16.  There was a widespread view that leaving Care Services focused on independent living skills rather than providing a level of nurturance that could help them to explore gender.  Adult support services (housing, mental health, sexual abuse survivors) were often gendered.

Interviews were Foster carers

The young people in these placements had a little money come from backgrounds of abuse and neglect, with some rejected because of the LGBT+ state is.

There was much more and the research was called “Speak Out” – Link.

This was the first-ever piece of research carried out with young LGBT+ people in the care system. Clearly as far as I am concerned shows a complete lack of regard for this group of often vulnerable young people.

Pride month especially people in the LGBT+ community please be aware of your LGBT+ brothers and sisters who grew up in the care system look out for them if you can support them and if you can to find  loving compassionate empathetic caring connections with them are not sexually based okay that’s very important very very important because we need to  dispel the myth in the LGBT+ in the younger LGBT+ population, care experience that in order to be loved they need to have sex with people because you don’t you know you need to stand in your own power and form those connections without sex  yeah and if you are a professional working with LGBT+ plus care experienced people be mindful of of what i’ve said you know you know you don’t use heteronormative and cisgendered language you know use partner you don’t need to gender the part you may need to gender it you just have to say do you have a partner at the moment are you sexually involved with his partner how old is this partner it’s really easy you know don’t make heteronormative and cis gendered assptions about the young people in your care especially the young LGBT+ plus people you know allow them to to be self-determining  in their gender identity and their sexual orientation you know just be mindful of what i’ve said about saturday which exploitation and stuff like that and just be aware that many of them will not be living in a normal model of the world you know about is  important and by heteronormative i mean you know you have a couple of partners and you find your partner and you get married to them and you have kids or you live together you have kids and you do this and you do that you know you need to be aware that you know you know even heterosexual people aren’t living heteronormative lifestyles you know we need to be aware of that and also one last statistic and this was from about seven or eight years ago  so it’s probably changed if not increased since 45% of young people and this was a big survey i think yougov did identified as fluid in regards to their sexual orientation fluid fluid not gay not heterosexual not bisexual fluid now i’ve seen this a lot in young people you know who say well it’s about the person it’s not about their gender it’s who the person is in front of me that’s what i’m attracted to and i think that’s a good thing you know and that again you used to be supported you know that needs to be oh i’m confused because you were the girl last time and now you’re with a boy you know what’s that all about you know you don’t you’re bisexual that’s what’s important that’s what needs to be supported not what you want them to be or what you think they are i thank you. Happy Pride month.

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Unregulated accommodation for looked after children 16+

This is about unregulated homes or accommodation for young people aged 16 plus in the care system recently the government made changes and it’s gone through the House of Lords at the moment that basically it means that local authorities can place young people who are the age of 16 and above in unregulated accommodation so this basically means that there will be no one regulating the accommodation checking in on them and dealing with safeguarding you know obviously a person’s  considered a child until they’re 18 years old and I’m in America it’s until you’re 21. But this is highly problematic for many reasons okay so young people in the care system were already a vast majority and very vulnerable and many of them are experiencing trauma and have experienced abuse and or neglect you need to research aces scorches adverse childhood experiences and read a book called the body keeps score to understand the devastating effect of abuse and neglect has on people, especially children and especially children under the age of seven who basically their brains get formed differently because of the abuse and the neglect and this means their coping strategies are different to people who grew up in the average loving family environment okay so  some statistics again this isn’t a judgment of young people in the care system this is a judgment of the lack of support and why so many fall through the gaps okay so only six percent of kids in the care system go to university which is much much lower than kids who are at home this number is increasing which is really good and that’s very very positive and there are lots in place to support these young people to go to university but there’s not much support for people who don’t want to go to university this is academic fascism really. Academia being seen as the only measure of success for a young person now care experienced people are 40 times more likely to go to prison than seven times more likely to die before the age of 25. something like 30 times more likely to be homeless and 30 times more likely to be involved in selling sex and sexual exploitation so if you’re placing young people who are 16 years old in accommodation that isn’t regulated often this might be a hostel or some kind of halfway accommodation which is um filled with people who are coming out of prison and people who have drug issues and people who are homeless not judging these people whatsoever or blaming them in any way shape or form.

 If you’re placing young people in a very vulnerable position where they will be open to exploitation and if they’re not getting support because they’re not following an academic pathway into university, and maybe want to do something else with their life, there may be support for depending on the local offer from the local authority in regards to what they’re offering care experienced people. This means that basically, you know you these young people aren’t really having many adults who are looking out for them, and obviously, if you are in a vulnerable position and then you’re on a low income and you’re isolated from everybody. If people befriend you for nefarious reasons and quite often it is for nefarious reasons because they know very well that these young people are vulnerable, so they’re easy prey you know so they influence them with um promises of easy cash and iPhones and ipads and laptops and whatever it is you know new clothes latest trainers they’re quite likely going to get involved as they are looking for “connection” so they are unlikely to ask “why”?

Of course if this young person then gets arrested, their new friends will disappear just like their support disappeared, leaving them alone and potentially facing the criminal justice system.

Of course there is also an increased chance of sexual exploitation as well. Again unerable young people needing care and the feeling of connection being preyed upon by people who know where to find them and how to hook them in as well. With support this is much less likely to happen.

I feel this issue of unregulated accommodation is morally reprehensible that this takes place i will you know i don’t think anybody would put their child out on the street and put them into a hostel or a halfway house or some kind of accommodation with no support whatsoever and expect them to be successful and to have good outcomes you know um and the government say well people are coming into the care system later well that might be true and if they’re coming into the care system later then they’ve been in an abusive and neglectful situation probably for much longer which means there will be more trauma and more pain and stuff like that you know unless there is support a whole range of support financial support practical support emotional support intellectual support you know these young people

Are going to find it very very very very hard to succeed much harder than anyone else who would grow up at home with mum and dad you know so they’re having barriers and and and obstacles put in their path and they’re already starting off from a disadvantage you know and there’s absolutely no rationale to place young people who are 16 plus in this type of accommodation, they need to be fully supported up until they’re 21 if they want to be or at least until they’re 18 and if they won’t support until they’re 21 they should be able to receive it there are some local varieties Stockport is offering all young people up until the age of 21. free driving lessons free broadband no council tax that they’re offered accommodation supported accommodation you know so this we would be supporting lodgings or they’ll be put in an in a proper flat you know with support in place you know and this is what really should be happening every single local foray so you know.

 I’m quite angry upset and heartbroken that this is taking place really you know and it really does need to change and obviously at the moment we’ve got the care review taking place you know and you know this really needs to be a very important aspect of the care of you because this is the end of the journey in the care system which is trying to the transition from being in care to living on your own and obviously there needs to be a nice reasonably long period for that transition to take place so that the young person is equipped to live in the real world you know most people rely on their mum and dad way into their well until they die most people rely on their mum and dad in one-way shape or form until they die and obviously people who care experience don’t have that luxury.

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Social Care Review – My thoughts!

A little about me, I grew up in the care system I probably spent a year to 18 months between the ages of one and five when I was in and out of care three times and then permanently in care from five to 18. I’ve also worked across a wide variety of organizations and sectors in my last job I produced one of the biggest health surveys of looked after children and care leavers  about physical health and well-being, as well as commissioning toolkit.

I produced a resource called 45 care lever friendly ways and I produced one of the first-ever commissioning toolkits um for local authorities and for clinical commissioning groups to commission services for looked after children and care leavers. So it’s quite a lot of experience in regards to that and they also had heavy input into the report that happened at the end of a project and i have also spoken at the royal college of nurses around the health of looked after children i have also been involved in the citizen jury for the department of health um England NHS England and I was asked to talk at an event with three days notice because a person dropped out who nominated to NHS England that the health of looked after children as a priority for NHS England and it was selected to go through, got second highest votes and I spoke at the main event in the docklands and this was attended by various directors of NHS England so just a little bit of experience.

The care review as many of you know I grew up in the care system in the 1970s and 80s and it left me with a lot of trauma ironically I went into the care system to be in a safer place but it was a case of out of frying pan and into the fire. In terms of the abuse perpetrated on me by my mother was replaced by abuse perpetrated on me by the care system. so the care system is having another review

And as it stands at the moment the most important people look like they’re going to be left out of the review that is the people in the care system at the moment and the people who grew up in the care system like myself who I shall refer to as care experienced people and on Twitter it’s ~CEP okay so a majority of people in the care system are in the care system due to abuse and or neglect something like 80 to 85 percent of  children entering the care system are as a result of that so it’s a huge amount and as you can imagine they carry a lot of trauma and pain from the abuse and neglect also in terms of statistics around outcomes for care leavers okay experienced people

We are seven times more likely than the rest of our population to die before the age of 25 we are forty times more likely to be in the criminal justice system around 30 times more likely to be homeless around 30 times more likely to be involved in  selling sex and sex work now this isn’t because we are bad people this is because we are let down badly by the system in terms of so many of us falling through the gaps there is some positivity around six percent of us aged 18 – 25 go to university however this is much much much smaller than the amounts of people um who grew up in families going to university again it’s about the system, not the people okay so

I feel quite strongly about this I feel the whole

It needs to be torn down and rebuilt basically it is not fit for purpose, there are some bits of good practice and there are there is some good work happening, however, on the whole, it’s not a great experience for many of us kids today end up with something like at least two different social workers a year numerous placement changes or numerous um living in different foster carers and living in different children’s homes obviously this is not good for stability and positive outcomes and it adds more to the narrative that many of us have in our heads that we are bad people and somehow if we had been better then we wouldn’t have been abused and neglected by our parents, okay so I would start quite clearly with this

I would start with a question would we put our children the people around the tables who are having these discussions is would we put our children in the current care system as it stands now and if any of them said yes they would be lying they will say no and that tells us all we need to know if it’s not good enough for their children then it’s not good enough for us simple as that also in terms of the second question would be how can we promote and take care of these young people how can we provide the most loving compassionate, caring, understanding, empathetic, supporting and nurturing environment for these children to grow up and involve in because they have been let down very badly by their parents and initial caregivers and we need to do all that is humanly possible to provide them with a stable upbringing and childhood okay. A massive focus needs to be around healing the trauma etc. This underpins everything as the more resourceful they fel emotionally and mentally the more able they will be to “succeed”.

I would make a commitment to reduce these awful statistics and build this into any legislation that happens around the care review so it will be a commitment to review those awful statistics a commitment to increase the number of young people young cep people who go to university but not just university as well because at the moment the focus is purely on academic success rather than any other types of success are also would make a commitment to um increase general success and well-being in a holistic way so this is whether they want to be a car mechanic a hairdresser a fitness instructor you know whatever it is I would promote that and encourage that and put that into any legislation a movement away from a silo in young people to purely just go to university and make that the only positive outcome that is measured in some way

It would be to support healing and emotional physical mental and spiritual well-being it would be to support the healing of traumas and to make these the main focus of the work that is done it will be to support foster carers social workers and residential staff and anyone working with cep young people much better to help them achieve better outcomes for young people.

It would be to end jargon do away with the term corporate parent do away with the acronym lack as in looked after child lack anyone see a problem with that word lack to do away with terms such as placements when you’re saying placement it’s like you’re saying is an object, not a person these are people we are talking about these are young people who carry a lot of pain from their childhood experiences who need love and concern and compassion and understanding not be treated like objects not to use terms like export and import when we are talking about a young person who is from surrey who is going to live with foster parents in hackney and the terminology is export-import like we are good like we are services like we are boxes of coffee or something is wrong so we need to end that.

We need to create an environment that is safe and takes care of the needs of young people who are from minority groups so this is whether these are people who are more likely to um experience racism um because of the color of their skin or effing ethnic origin their religious beliefs or their religious stuff and that whether or not we’re a sexual minority whether that has been gay bisexual transgendered etc we need to ensure the system is working extra sensitively to support these young people because they will carry an increased level of anxiety around their issues in terms of their life and stuff like that need to commit to providing the best care possible and above all, all of this needs to be done with love okay yes love we need to as best we can replicate the concept of a family, not the traditional family from 30 years ago but the modern concept of a family i.e one or more adults taking care of children in the best way that they can now much of this does require a lot more extra money being put into the system but above all what this requires is is a commitment from government and a commitment from a variety of organizations whether they’re statutory or non-statutory whether they’re volunteering voluntary organizations or whether it’s the department of health the department of education the department of work and pensions and that’s another one we need to end completely sanctions against young people who are in the care system in regards to their benefits because it has absolutely catastrophic consequences as you can imagine where do they go when they lose their accommodation because the house and benefit has been stopped because they’ve not turned up at the um for a dwp appointment

We also need to end the stigma as well so there needs to be a commitment to end in stigma and discrimination faced by care experienced people and the best way to do this is to make care experienced people the 10th protected characteristic within the equality act because then this builds it into law and builds into legislation that extra work needs to be done in order to meet the needs of this our diverse community okay thank you

To expand on what I’ve already said um in creating the new.

The care system they need to make sure that it does what it says on the tin care at the moment it’s child management they use a term corporate parent which needs to be got rid of as well there’s no parenting at all it’s corporate child management basically so there needs to be a public awareness campaign about um care experienced people about the challenges that we face about the stigma and discrimination especially in regards to aces which is adverse childhood experiences score and the long-term effects that has on our health and well-being not just our physical health but our mental health as well there needs to be awareness around trauma and the whole thing needs to be trauma informed in regards to the fact that a large majority of people entering the care system will be experiencing a degree of trauma and that drama will be quite likely not only the abuse and neglect they experience but also the trauma of going into the care system there needs to be work around the shame um that people in the care system feel about being in care and the public need to be made aware that we’re not all bad naughty kids and that if we are exhibiting of care experienced young people or experiencing bad behavior it’s the behavior not them it’s the behavior not them it’s a behavior not them they are not bad their behavior is challenging and their behavior is challenging for a reason is because if you know about trauma and you know about neglect and you know about abuse in early childhood it rewires your brain so that needs to be a key component of the of the care review as well about looking at holistic approaches to healing and rewiring young people’s brains they need to be about building their self-esteem and their and their mental health it needs to be about them becoming in control of their own emotions and feelings and raising awareness within the young people themselves of how to manage their behavior and how to manage their unresourceful thoughts and feelings in a more proactive way so this will require a huge amount of training to be undertaken with anyone that works with young people have been in the care system we’re in the care system there’s a term it takes a village to bring up a child so we need to take a village approach this means that there are a variety of people not all of them professionals with qualifications that are involved in the young person’s life and these people need to be healthy stable secure reliable individuals are going to be on the young person’s side for as long as possible and this does include after they have left the care system there needs to be more supports made available to anyone who grew up in their care system all care experienced people of all ages things are better now very support to go to university and stuff like that i got not much support to go to university.

I did it off my own back my mum was dying at the same time as well so and i was working 60 hours a week so it was just a bit of a challenge as you can imagine to get myself to university uh the whole system needs to be about building up empowering young people when they enter it as soon as possible you know there needs to be interventions people who work in care homes or what i used to call children’s homes need to be much better trained and also there needs to be a much better approach in regards to managing behavior anyone who rings the police because a young person’s broken a plate ought to be reprimanded very strongly and very significantly and very heavily because it’s not how you go about doing things so this is all under peering under training and awareness raising and the whole fact that this needs to be extremely well managed this needs to be executed very well and um mostly undertaken by people who grew up in the care system themselves we need to be involved much more than we are many of us are experts in regards to this because we’ve experienced it ourselves and some of us have worked in a variety of public um public sector settings and voluntary and community settings as well so we also have that awareness health education anyone involved in commissioner of services especially for young people and specifically young care experienced people need to have a much better awareness and training around what our issues are and what needs to be done in order to help to support us across the whole gamut of services public services as well there needs to be a much better and more wider range of support made available to young people not just going into um university education but a whole range of things.

Commissioning is very important we must end commissioning services to the same old people just because they are who they are and I’m not going gonna name them, but some of these organizations have been involved in this since the victorian times you know we need to change all of this commissioning needs to be a lot better care experienced people need to be involved in the commissioning of services as well in the commissioning of of of of anything to do with young people who are in the care system or even older people have been in the care system in regards to criminal justice a lot more needs to be done to support young people to prevent them from going into the criminal justice system as i said you know you’re 40 times more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system and i’m being politically correct here but means basically that you’re 40 times more likely to be incarcerated in a prison or you send you for sending center and this isn’t down to the fact that you’re a bad boy or a bad girl it’s because you um they may have um bad behavioral traits which aren’t being managed appropriately and they’re not able to be supported enough to manage their own behavior and they end up in the criminal justice system because they’ve been let down and also because they’re quite rightly angry and the way they have been treated wouldn’t you be angry if you’ve been passed from pillow to post from one place to another if you’re described as a lack lack looked after child you know and wouldn’t you be angry if um you just get used to one social work when another one turns up and you have to tell your life story again you know and there’s not a there’s not enough knowledge around or knowledge being applied around the damage that trauma and neglect does.

! strongly recommend people working on the review to read books around it especially the body it keeps the score because that really clearly sets out how damaging abuse and neglect can be in early childhood and that’s not to say that this is a prescription for what is definitely going to happen to people who’ve been abused and neglected obviously it’s not because we have power over our own emotions and feelings but we need support we need support we need support in order to do that resilience doesn’t just happen magically it requires a lot of commitment from people working with young people and there’s a lot of commitment a lot of patients a lot of understanding for it to happen because you have to remember that people young people who are in the care system have been badly let down in the past by adults so why are they going to trust people you know i can’t emphasize this strongly enough you know whatever replaces the current system really needs to have its foundations in the in in being patient and being understanding being all of these things and it isn’t about money and writing cheques, it’s not necessarily about this because many of these qualities are actually free and are actually human qualities you know it takes a village to bring up a child which means that it’s not just the parents’ mum & mum dad and dad mum and dad whoever it is it’s a variety of different people who take an interest in that child’s life in a positive positive interest in that child’s life and trauma informed and aces (adverse childhood experiences)  training should be mandatory for anyone that is working within that field or in that sector even if it’s on the outside of it in some way it needs to be mandatory because it underpins everything it does you know we are not bad people we are not they are not bad children they are children who have come from awful awful circumstances and we really need to remember that we need to remember it much more than we do and it’s not a case of of of you know being there there there we’ve had a bad childhood you know whatever it’s about really acknowledging that you know to them and helping them to move through it to heal that those traumatized children you know those little boys and little girls inside of them that I care and in fear in fear or the adults that abuse them and helping them to come out tell their stories and heal from it because that is how you heal from it it’s by telling your story and moving through that you know moving past that of it being acknowledged and you being supported to be you know to be then being supported to be the fantastic human beings that they are you know that is it is inside of them.

Care homes or residential homes and foster carers and private companies profiteering from this okay a lot of the homes are unregulated so there’s not really a lot of regulation going on for them they’re run by people and companies to make a profit that’s right to make money so in order to make money they can’t maximize their income so they can’t really increase their income because they will be commissioned by the local authority to do this for a set price so the only way they can increase profit is to is to reduce costs and one of the main costs will be the cost of staff so they won’t pay very much and they don’t pay very much and the entry requirements are basically a level standard education okay so i’m sure i know some are good and some have been many have been off steady and they’ve got good or outstanding but i really don’t believe that from from a lot of anecdotal evidence i’ve been presented with and also from a lot of actual evidence okay there’s a lot of trafficking of young girls especially in their care homes they are a petri dish for recruiting vulnerable young people into criminality okay this is not demonizing the young people who talk they’re very very vulnerable you know and if someone if you’re a young person in a children’s home and you’re dealing with so much and somebody offers you money to do stuff do things you’re gonna do it you know i know that i i lived in sean’s homes you know it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person it just means you’re very vulnerable and open to be manipulated and exploited and that’s what it is it’s manipulation and exploitation or very very unique very vulnerable young people who don’t have a lot of adults really looking out for them you know especially if they’re having like i’ve said before my previous videos three or four social workers a year you know there’s no no consistency or stability there is there you know so you know there should not be any profiteering in this whatsoever people should not be making profit from it you know i might only be three or four children um per per home not like my home i was 15 of us you know but there were lots of staff and trust me they were on us on our case all the time you know very very little we could do that didn’t get their watchful eye on us and anything we did do outside of a home got back to the home you know so

Staff are under pressure to manage very traumatized children who are dealing with very difficult situations in their life and trying to manage a variety of emotions about this and feelings and stuff like that this requires real expert handling of the situation you know and it requires patience as i’ve said before it requires a commitment to these young people around taking care of their needs now you need a lot of training for this you need a lot of experience you need a lot of understanding you need to be able to handle you know challenging behavior in a resourceful way which doesn’t involve restraining that young person okay you need support as well so you need people you can talk to about the situations that you’re dealing with in these environments now when it’s all privatized all of this costs money doesn’t it you know it all costs money to employ someone to to supervise you know for staff to go to for supervision it will cost money for really good training it will cost money for all of these things so it’s very unlikely that they will do this and local authorities aren’t always really good at actually you know um monitoring these situations they’re paying money they’ve paid money out of their bank accounts to these organizations to provide these services now they’re not always very good at managing this these situations you know and it’s not good because the young people are let down you know there are some good care homes there’s some really good experiences from people you know i know several people that run care homes they do a really good job of it but most of those were people who grew up in the system so they know what it’s like do you know what i mean so um and they do really good work with their young people but quite often the people who are running these homes don’t have a clue at all you know it’s about profit really you know it’s about you know what they see as an easy way of making money uh and that’s wrong and it’s the same with foster care agencies you know you’re basically the local authorities is commissioning an agency to manage foster carers you know so that the money they’re paying the agency could be directed solely at supporting and paying the foster carers to do the roles that they’re doing but it’s nice going to an an organization that has to employ staff to do this employ social workers to do this you know so do you get what i’m saying you know there should not be any profiteering in this whatsoever the money available should be more for a star and it should be directed purely solely at running these services not going to companies that are going to be middlemen and taking a a fairly substantial cut of that money themselves you know to to either pay their shareholders or directors you know in profits and the people who miss out other young people in these in these situations because they’re not being supported and i know as i’ve said you know they’re we’re talking about thousands of vulnerable young people in care homes that are exploited either sexually exploited into into grooming gangs sexually exploited into in in into selling sex or exploited by criminal gangs in involved in in in in either drug dealing or or kind of major theft and where did these young people end up most went out back into the criminal justice system and inside because the people who are exploiting them will do one you know where people who exploit them aren’t going to be around when they’re arrested by the police you know and end up in prison you know so there should be no profiteering whatsoever in this you know um i don’t know i mean the local authority or there should be independent charities that are running this are heavily heavily regulated and have all the right resources not just financial resources directed at them but human resources intellectual resources experience resources there should be there should be there should be care leavers involved in this process you know so care leavers should be consulted and involved in this process in terms of how these places are going to be run thank you

it’s so important we’re talking about 70 000 young people on average going into the care system every year and that is a lot of lives that are impacted basically and also i feel very strongly that as many care experienced people’s voices absolutely have to be included in this there’s no good in getting the same old people around the table because you’ll get the same old answers as simple as that okay so this is about leaving care a very critical time for people who have been in the care system if you remember i gave the statistics the terrible statistics about you know the more times more likely to be homeless and more time likely to be in the prison system more times more likely to be selling sex more times likely to die before the age of 25 this is because of mainly because of that window of time when people are leaving the care system and they fall through the cracks they’re more vulnerable for for being a rough sleeper more vulnerable for being caught up in their criminal justice system okay so when i left the care system back in 1987.

I was earning I think 67 pounds a week at the time and the local rents were 35 pounds a week not including bills not including food not including transport to work so you do the maths, okay I kicked up a fuss I stayed until I was 18 and a half and thankfully I found what would be called supported lodgings today for £25 a week and my food was included and I was cooked for basically um my leaving care grant was pounds a week’s rent and nothing else and my social worker um met me six months later which they’re not supposed to do uh because I was completely left a care system only because she’d been my social worker all my life basically so she cared.

you see today is better they get what is called a leaving care ground which some people see as a considerable sum of money but when you think about what it’s got to buy in terms of starting their life in the big bad world big wide world away from the system that bought them up and I used um bought up loosely you know 1500 pounds to buy washing machine oven fridge bed all of that isn’t a lot of money really is it you know and um there’s not much support given to a sort of access you know charity places or um charity shops and why should they go to a charity shop you know why should they get secondhand furniture and that you know they deserve you know some comforts at least now the age of exiting the care system has is different if your kids’ homes or residential care is 18 if you’re in foster care it’s 21. and then there is some kind of support in 2u 25. now this varies from local authorities to local authority it changed a couple of years ago in regards to the local authority supporting someone to do some educational activity or route into employment um it’s not what I would call proper support anyway in my previous job at the care leavers.

 I gave a number of talks and I’m very good at public speaking and presenting information largely to an all-female audience mainly because that is the makeup of clinical commissioning groups the NHS and leaving care services it was primarily the NHS because it was the department of health funding I would ask a question to the audience and i would say at what age those of you have children at what age did you tell your children you will never see them again they must leave the home set up life on their own and go was it 18 or 21 you know and they must not come back and maybe if they were lucky you will meet them for a coffee and a chat now and then then the audience kind of like chuckled you know that that parent chuckle flat kell they’re still at home i wish i’d go you know um so they got the message that in the real world usually people leave home when they can and they leave home with a lot of support and a lot of love and a lot of care and you can always go back home always rely on bank of mom and dad normally you know groans went up around the audience yeah yeah i still give my kids money you know they have that luxury looked after children and care leavers don’t have that luxury everything is cut by a certain age by 25 it’s all cut by 21 18 or 21 it’s mostly cut apart from if you go into education and employment you know mainly university education you get a lot of support now often they’re accommodated very poorly you know some are put in hostels you know if you’re a vulnerable young person at 16 or 18 you may have seen some other tv programs about this on channel 4 and bbc you know you’re 17 and you put into a flat on your own and there’s no one around because you know you you got moved from one place to another so you were in i don’t know say you’re in leicester and then you got moved to a to a foster family or a residential home in manchester there’s no one you know in leicester anymore because you spent the last three years in manchester or you might not really know many people in manchester so normally social isolation is a huge issue you know and when i did activities that the care leaves when we asked people who were leaving the care system what they wanted but most of them said i want to feel that someone cares about me i want to feel loved because you know when they’re when they’re put out there on their own there’s no one coming around to check on them or look after them or see how they are doing no one no one to to do that kind of thing that mum or dad would do if they were living at home you know check this food in the fridge check that out they’ve got their bills set up check they’ve got the direct debits for the council tax on whatever is all set up you know check that the house was safe you know look in on them take them out for dinner or something you know help them cook all of these things it’s often lacking when kids leave care now some of some people are placed in a hostel how can you place a 16 or 17 year old who is very very vulnerable in a hostel with people who who who may have um be on really early release from prison you know people who might have drug and alcohol issues i’m not blaming these people so you know people who’ve got significant mental health issues you’re placing them in a situation that isn’t safe for them you know and they’re vulnerable to to a lot of things a lot of exploitation and stuff like that they should not be placing that sort of accommodation i really feel that some kind of supported lodgings is a way forward you know for many of them you know um and that should be in place for as long as they need it you know uh or they should be it should be special you know flats or or or accommodation that has a support built in with it for as long as they need that support so a stage not age approach okay also i feel there needs to be some kind of befriending service and this is an idea i had when i was at cla that you you get a volunteer or community organization or a charity or whatever who who provides this service is completely removed from a local authority it’s not part of a looked after children’s services or care leaving services it’s completely separate and it is mostly people who grew up in the castle i’m sure there’s loads of people who grew up in cairo who would want to do this you know or people who were foster parents or foster carers you know who who aren’t doing at the moment and just want to help but have the knowledge and expertise to support and basically it would be primarily for excuse me for care leavers who’ve just left the care system but it’d be for all care experienced people even the older ones like me who might just need someone to talk to um meet up for a coffee when we’re allowed to meet up for coffee that is um and talk about life and just to sort of get someone who understands what it’s like to have been in the care system and to feel alone and to feel i slayed and feel separated from life you know but for the younger ones these these befrienders will play a very important role they will really support the young person as much as they can so it’s up to the young person it could be they just want to go for a pizza and and a chat on a saturday afternoon or they might want to go to the park or do an activity together but the person would come into their life they’d come into their accommodation their flat or whatever it was and be of support to them whatever that support might be to help them feel less isolated and alone in the world and help them to build up a network and build up skills and build up confidence in themselves you know so they don’t feel completely isolated and alone and separate from society you know and it will it will give them someone to talk to who knows what it’s like because they’ve been there you know and they can share their expertise you know help them encourage them you know take them to the supermarket to do food shopping and all that kind of thing you know which is often lacking because you know leaving care services are overwhelmed in what they’re doing and obviously you know they’re under pressure to get rid of the young person as soon as they can and i will say it because that’s pretty much what happens you know and and this will hopefully reduce the isolation it will reduce the risks that they might have in terms of being exploited by people because when you’re a vulnerable young person especially when you’re a vulnerable young person who probably has complex post-traumatic stress injury has some kind of underlying mental health issues related to the abuse or trauma they experienced when they were children are far more risk being exploited than anybody else especially if they’ve got no family around around them whatsoever and especially if they do have family around them who aren’t very good for them you know in terms of support and mental health you know so these befrienders will reduce that because they they will be able to talk to the young people honestly and openly about the risks that they are um open to in terms of other people and give them worldly knowledge to become worldly wise to these um nasty individuals that prey on vulnerable people in order to get them into a life of crime or get them into um being sexually exploited you know so the accommodation is critical no hostels ever ever ever ever ever ever no hostels never placed in hostel always placed in accommodation as far as i can where it’s near their social networks if they built up social networks in their local area you know it needs to be um appropriate accommodation you know not not a flat on some estate in the middle of nowhere you know it needs to be you know places that that is good for the young person that’s close to their their employment close to education if they’re in education you know if they’re receiving medical support or mental health support needs to be close to where they get their mental health mental medical health mental health support i know this is a lot to do but it’s important it’s so so important because you would not do that to your own child you know and again you need to ask that question would i put my own child in this accommodation would i want my own child to live here would I say to my child well you know to go and live 30 miles away from your work you know no you wouldn’t do that so we need to come back to that question of would I put my child there so the people who are looking at this need to ask that question in their hearts and be honest would I want this for my own child would I put my own child in this situation and if you wouldn’t then you don’t do it as simple as that it’s not good enough your own child is not good enough for other peoples the grants I think perhaps need to be more money but staggered over a period of time or you need to work with you know the providers of the white goods the ovens the tvs the sofas the beds you know uh maybe ikea or whoever I don’t know um to get a hugely discounted price for the young people so that their money goes a lot further you need to have a stage not age-appropriate so the young person leaves when they’re ready to leave and not sooner and they’re supported to be in that right place you know and not put under pressure which is often the case when they’re under pressure to leave at a certain point in time and obviously there needs to be um the work around learning independence needs to be completely um there as well and and committed to in terms of of supporting the young person i have seen a few tv programs around this you know one in particular i remember this lad and when he was so vulnerable you’re so immature uh and i’m like there’s no way he’s going to survive on his own and a little flat you know kicking around not knowing what to do with himself you know feeling isolated and vulnerable and alone it broke my heart it really did you know and that is not what we deserve it’s not what the young people in the care system deserve you know they deserve to have the best start in life they possibly can have you know in order to be you know as successful as they possibly can be you know because the odds are stacked against them in some ways already you know and we need to reduce that completely thank you

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It’s a Sin

It’s a sin, mini-series by Russell T. Davies

I was reluctant to watch this at first primarily because of the amount of hype it had received.  Like his previous works queer as folk, I much prefer the American version of the show.  Years and years, banana and cucumber all of which I ended up enjoying immensely.

It’s a sin that starts with a young man called Ritchie, Olly Alexandra going to university in London in 1981 to study law.  It quickly revealed that he is gay although he says he’s bisexual and he needs and friends a young woman called Jill played by Lydia west who was in years and years. He has his first sexual experience with another young man called Ash, very early on in the first episode which sets the tone for the rest of the series in regards to the sexual exploits.  As the programme progresses more characters are introduced when Ash, Jill, and Richie start to live together and then joined by Roscoe who is a barman, and Colin who has just moved from Wales and to work in a Savile row suit shop.  There’s also another character referred to as Gloria who works on the buses actually the 159 as a conductor. 

The show takes you through the various stages of their lives the victories and the heartbreaks and the strength of their friendships there’s a wonderful moment when Richie first Drags up and as a performance and all he says is La.  This is how the characters say hello and goodbye to each other throughout the rest of the series.

Roscoe is of Nigerian descent and has to leave home or he will be sent back to Nigeria with his father when he would meet certain death, so he escapes with help from a sister who gives him the money to start afresh which is how we end up knowing the others.

Riches from the isle of Wight, from a middle-class family with a ¬mother portrait very well by Keely Hawes.  His father played by Shaun Dooley is a strict well-meaning man.

Colin, it is Welsh and fresh from the Valleys his story begins with him moving into lodgings and being attracted to the landlady’s son there’s an indicator here as to what happens to these two characters and a tragedy of furtive repressed sexuality. 

I don’t want to give a plot way because you need to experience it all yourself, there were parts of the series I was utterly heartbroken by the outcomes and what happens to the characters.  There are other parts were and howling with laughter.

There are also other well-known actors in the series that have roles, Neil Patrick Harris plays Collins colleague who takes him under his wing as he is realized that Colin is gay and introduces into his lover or 30 years, a thing this gives Colin hope in some respects as he meets a fairly open man and a sexual orientation.

There’s also is Stephen Fry who plays a closeted Tory MP.

Each of the five episodes tasty for us lots of time between the autumn of 1981 up until the autumn of 1991.  There is sexual liberation and the freedom of then share and a house together and enjoying a lifestyle that is very hedonistic and brings them all very close to each other in terms of cent friendship and support.

Ritchie has a very distant relationship with his family which is portrayed very well for five better episodes and heterosexism is evident in the assumptions that his parents make about his relationship with Jill.

Opposite this time HIV begins to manifest.  The series was very accurate in how it portrayed historical events of the time.  There is talk in the first episode of gay cancer and a lot of denial from any of the characters about him and as time moves on and more and more men get sick and die them all reality dawns on the characters.

It shows that the time gay men did rely on their Allies in terms of supporters and his horrific years.  There’s a scene where a man gets a at his friend’s funeral and talked about his friend’s lover has not been invited to the funeral and the shock and the people at the funeral that he had dared mention his name in church.  This revealed that his friends got chucked out of the house by the family this happened to a friend of mine, on the day of his boyfriends funeral, they’ve been together 15 years and the passion that all of his possessions from the house even asking for money for the things he had bought together, such as the fridge, cooker, TV and household furniture which they said half belonged to them as they were family and he didn’t count.  This happened so much.

From the entire series was a roller-coaster of emotions, I often felt utter heartbreak at what happened.  I also felt very angry, I came out in 1991 and moved to London in 1992 and much of what was depicted at the end of a series was going on in and around me.  Then the sheer numbers of gay men who were being who were dying and being buried many of whom were estranged from their families because they were gay.

The stories of funeral homes refusing to accept the bodies because they had HIV.  The LGB lawyers and Allies who were lawyers fighting legal cases left right and centre to ensure that all future I am sure that the partners and boyfriends of the guys who died received what they were entitled to.  This was difficult because we had no rights back then none at all, we were fighting HIV, we were bury united on a weekly basis, if that wasn’t enough we had to deal with homophobia and a lack of rights in terms of equality, you could be thrown out of your house has sacked from your job for being gay and you would have no legal recourse and if that wasn’t enough in 1988 a long can section 28 which meant anything to do with LGBT plus couldn’t be discussed in schools or colleges of education settings.  This in my mind letter to the deaths of thousands of young LGBT+ either through suicide or the numbers of young gay and bisexual men who never received a good sex education or positive messages in regards to their sexual orientation, which undoubtedly lead to them taking risks and contracting HIV and dying. 

Remember the medications that really worked and made a difference didn’t come along until the late 1990s and Prep and Pep would come decades later.  It won by until 1997 until LGBT equality finally happened.

Their back to this series, depicted all of the events between 1981 and 1991 very accurately in terms of what was happening within our community and more importantly what was happening around HIV in the early days when there were utter fear and total ignorance about how it was contracted and spread.

Yes, people with HIV or isolated and in rooms on their own and treated much like people are being treated now with COVID as in the nursing staff and doctors interest head to toe in PPE.  But the difference was the lack of compassion and empathy are coming from many of the nursing staff at the time.

It’s not until later on as we get into the late eighties and early nineties is there a more compassionate approach actually designated wards for people who live move HIV, this is what I remember when I came out in 1992 and got involved with the Terrence Higgins Trust and body positive.

So I can’t recommend this miniseries more, I hope that much of the young LGBT community especially the young gay and bisexual men watch this and realise how much has changed for a community over the years, perhaps they’ll have a bit more respect and empathy for us older guys over the age of 45 who would have experienced all of this and I would say still carry the traumas of it. Russell has done an amazing job depicting all of this.

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Mental health suport services

Some background, I spent the majority of my life in the Care System 16 out of the first 18 years of my life in children’s homes, Foster placement and assessment centres.  I was according to my care files subject to sadistic and hardcore, emotional, physical and mental abuse as well as neglect in the first five years of my life I was in and out of care three times before the age of five. At five I was removed and placed in an “assessment” centre.   I have always as far as I can remember struggled with my mental health.  My time in care although rescue me from the hands of my mother and her abuse, subjected me to a different kind of abuse, where I was told quite clearly that unless I bucked my ideas and attitudes up ( I was basically a very traumatised little boy) that no one would ever love me again and no family would want me as I was 11 at this stage and wanted to be fostered again, as you can imagine that led to me being and having quite severe mental health issues.

I managed for many many years surviving and coping on a daily basis with almost near constant anxiety and apprehensions in regard to my interactions with other people. I manged to get to University at 23, through determination and handwork. The professional employment I secured in my 30s was due to commitment to volunteer work and were in roles you would describe as supporting and helping others.

 One critical turning point was the ending of my only long-term relationship to a lovely man who mum still in contact with today.  This led me to be introspective about my life and about what happened in regard to how I was the way I was.

Another sequence of events was the other catalyst,  from September 2011 until December 2018, I experienced three cancer scares one of which was lung cancer which involved major lung surgery and then vocal cords surgery to repair the damage to my vocal cords from the lung surgery, at this Point I was a professional voice user as I was a trainer and facilitator.  I then had two redundancies my house repossessed and then bankruptcy.  In my last employment I work tirelessly on a project to highlight the physical, emotional and mental health needs of people like myself who grew up in the Care System.  I was very proud of this piece of work however I was made redundant from his job (due to funding issues)  and I never knew really whether or not the work I had done had made a difference is my last and a job was sending out all the reports and research material across the UK two clinical commissioning groups and leaving care teams. 

I had a number of mental health interventions from 2014 onwards when I realized I had significant mental health issues in regard to having issues in relationships and friendships, my body image and self-esteem which were critically low.  However nothing really helped in regards to what was going on with my mental health and trying to access NHS mental Health Services was very difficult, in fact the council and I first accessed was offered by the lesbian and gay foundation in Manchester which I’m grateful for.

However, since 2018 I have struggled to get the mental health support, I need from a mental Health Services in Manchester.  I have I have been self-diagnosed as having complex post-traumatic stress injury CPTSI, which is to be expected in cases like mine of early childhood trauma,  I mentioned the abuse, I have no memory of the abuse I received from my mother none at all only read about it in my care files and that was one sheet of paper that highlighted the abuse that been witnessed by professionals.  As a result, are realized what was going on from them why would need in terms of the right kind of mental health support, you can’t just throw any type of mental health support at any type of issue. You need a tailored approach.

I asked my mental health provider on numerous occasions for the support, which is EMDR, somatic therapy or didactic behaviour therapy.  I was refused DBT as a only offering to females in Manchester, I was refused EMDR as well and they don’t offer somatic therapy and are requested if I sourced it myself would they pay for it, the answer was no.  I was offered a therapeutic community group which were reluctantly accepted say and I really don’t feel he was right for me nor would it help.  So, I gave it to A go for over a year and it was like a sticking plaster really in terms of helping me.

I really struggle with my life so much and it took so much energy, courage and confidence to push for the right help and support I deserve, as I had nobody else really are my life full support.  I have no family and very few friends as a result of having CPTSI.  I am one of many thousands of people who have been let down by the system there local authority government were supposed to be my corporate parent and as any parent knows parents and doesn’t stop at 18, 21 or even 25 is the whole of the child’s life into either the parent of a child dies.  I can’t live for private therapy I don’t have access to credit to fund it because of the bankruptcy.  Were people like me supposed to do?  Does the government and the NHS hope that we will eventually be surrendered to a mental health and take our lives and therefore no longer be a burden on the system?

With best wishes

Jakeb Arturio Braden

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Social isolation or solitary confinement?

OK so much of Europe is gripped in lock down, he’s quite scary times with the Corona virus running somewhat rampant around the world.  There is much misinformation and rumours about this especially in terms of how easy it is to contract, who is at risk etc.  As a result many countries have enforced lock down in various forms.

Here in the UK, we are being urged by the government not to leave our homes unless it’s absolutely necessary, i.e.  To buy food, get medicines and exercise.  Workers have been urged to work from home if they can otherwise go to work as normal ( I personally don’t see that has a good idea as a virus can still be spread, surely we should all be in lock down, apart from key workers).

Many people are clearly struggling with this, I am a person who is finding it very hard to show empathy and compassion.  After all I was in lock down myself for many months, barely leaving my home and definitely not socialising with the other people, so really my own solitary confinement. And no one gave a fuck.

However I will show compassion and understanding and empathy as I have experienced how difficult this can be, not to have human contact with the other human beings.  We are after all social animals, we evolved from living in groups, small groups helping and supporting each other to survive.  Now suddenly people are having to be on their own and in their own company for considerable lengths of time.  I know from my own experience this can often be a time for letting for the demons in, the demons that live in our heads., the ones that fill our heads with, we are not good enough, people don’t love us (that sort of thing) As people can’t be distracted from being with others and connecting on a day to day basis.

I’m not sure how people are going to cope with this, as this could be up to two months or more, depending on how the virus spreads and whether or not it can be kept under control and that people with it those who are strong enough can survive and get better them.

So this will be an opportunity for people to perhaps deal with “their issues” without self medicating for a variety of strategies.  And many will be faced with the harsh reality of spending alone time, I am sure many will distract themselves Netflix, YouTube, Facebook and other social media although how long before people get bored?

We would of course interact via the web that this isn’t the same as being in a room with another person looking at them and spending time with them on a human level.  So I wonder how long again before people need more than face timing or skyping etc.

I guess many people could be faced with the greatest challenge of their lives on one level dealing with this virus and the fears it is bringing up in terms of people’s health and mortality, plus people dealing with as I said spending long periods of time in their own company and perhaps the only internal demons having a louder voice and then not been able to distract themselves with socialising etc.

I hope everyone stay safe and well, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

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Reflecting on the HIV epidemic


I reluctantly started to watch the TV series Pose, to be honest, and when I saw and the promo clip it and it didn’t appeal to me because I’m not really into all that it bitchy vogue thing, in fact, it’s the only song from Madonna I loathe.

Anyway, I didn’t go, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, it broke my heart an almost every episode, it set in the late eighties in series one and focuses on primarily the black and Latino Trans and gay community.  Several other characters are living with her HIV, remember at this time there was no medicine.

The sense of community and support of the characters and the Trans women the open houses and took in the waifs and strays, the young gay men who had been kicked out of home and rejected by the parents.  The other Trans women or on different stages of their journeys.

So, a focus is on the ballrooms and the competition to be the best queen in a particular category of dance and or movement when they win a trophy and the competition can be quite stiff had lost a bitching.

Series two places to 1990 the start of a series is an island where all of the people with our families and or and claimed are buried.  The two main characters both of them have HIV and are burying yet another friend and the person in charge of the island is prejudiced to be HIV positive people are saying at biohazard suits have to be worn as a did know how this virus was spread, which instantly at the time was a blatant lie I as they knew how it was transmitted.

He got me thinking as if about that time I came out in 1992 and it was plainly obvious who had HIV on the gay scene, he would see guys stick-thin often coming KS lesions sometimes weeks away from death, there were pages and pages of obituaries in the gay press on with guys who died that week or month.

But the gay male community was an only dealing with this it was dealing with or extreme homophobia in society and in media law had just been passed prohibiting schools from discussing LGBT issues.

I knew of the case of a friend on the day of the funeral of his long term partner the family removed all of a possessions of his partner from the house and demanded payment in lieu of the things they bought together because at that time I relationships when recognized in the Law and in fact even guys with wills leaving everything to their partners often this would be contested and the family would win.

I can’t help believing that the gay male community especially the guys 45 and over that carry the trauma or of I this.  I am HIV- and I managed and despite not always being safe not to contract the virus.  However I was always understanding and empathic towards guys in with her HIV and I never and turn anyone away sexually because of their her HIV status, in fact him several guys and who were HIV commented on it and my reaction was why would guys reject you, if you are going to have safe sex, and I didn’t get it.

Anyway watching the scenes from Pose, where they are on the HIV ward and guys are dying from the virus my heart truly broke off and myself and floods of tears and thinking and feeling how scared they must have been there, scared of dying, scared of getting very sick with a virus, scared because their family had rejected them and under different circumstances were living there with them holding their hands.  Scared because of society and its HIV. prejudice and stigma not to mention the homophobia and of course racism because of these characters and a black and Latino.

Even the white middle-class guys and they went spared in the early days, even when AZT in didn’t clear everybody and had horrific side effects, about my friend Paul was started on AZT body was too late for him and he died less than a year after being diagnosed they had been in the virus for very long time and are not tested a suspect because he knew he was somebody, like many gay men of that time he had been rejected by family.  Of course, when meds did become available the wealthier gay men in the US had access to them, but there was still a sense of community because they would either leave money to HIV causes or ensure guys who couldn’t get access to meds got theirs

That decade before they found the medicine that would make a difference and extend people’s lives in the UK and 1500 gay men a year were dying of a virus and this was always the infinitely more in America are and across Europe and.  Even in the early days of combination therapy guys were taking 30 to 40 tablets a day.

Thankfully now that’s down to two or three and if your viral load is undetectable and you keep on the medicine you pay no risk of transmitting the virus and yet people still stigmatized and have a prejudice against HIV positive guys.  While other guys engage in risky behavior at chem sex parties thinking they’re safe in the knowledge of they just have to take some pills and it will be OK and

But watching the scenes really got me feeling how fucking awful it was and how scared and alone and of these guys must have felt and he really broke my heart to remember this and think how far our community has come although he used the term community loosely because we do not have the same community now that we had a back then an unfortunate effect of having rights now.

Because of this the back there and we had to look out for each, we ethnic out for each other and look after each other especially when people fell sick of more when funerals need to be arranged, especially when the community had to mobilise and to fight prejudice and stigma on two fronts and to activate and engage in ways to prevent the virus from spreading because governments, especially in America and the UK, were not responding adequately to the virus most likely because it was killing faggott and queers and some people believe it was more than we deserved.  And

I would ask all my gay brothers please reflect on these facts, and if you’re on medicine and in well with her HIV please her brave act if you’ve got because the people at came before you who were not here now didn’t get that chance.  If you don’t know your HIV status or yeah HIV negative, also celebrate the fact you’re here and well and that’s an there are many ways and to either prevent me from becoming HIV positive, to deal with any risks that might happen and if you ask me to become HIV positive and your life chances are 1000 times better than they were 25 years ago.


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Body dysmorphia / Bigorexia

So, as you know I have complex physical and mental health issues, and I have always tried to be responsible for myself and not blaming the one and for my circumstances however the shallowness and body conscious a gay male community must shoulder some blame.

So, I have bigorexia / body dysmorphia, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, emotional unstable personality disorder, anxiety, or depression and suicidal ideation an ADHD. As well as several physical health conditions that impact on my day to day life.

This weekend is been highly triggering, is gay pride weekend in Manchester and because this week due to physical health problems, I have not got to the gym which is the only thing that’s my mental health anyway.  And some not able to go to PRIDE, and because I’ve not been to the gym and I’m not big and bulky enough and certainly not handsome or attract enough to go.  One of the reasons I feel this way and is only guys I get likes and comments on their photos of her hands and bath guys, then the guys that mental health issues they get taken seriously and are there handsome buffer guys and they get so much sympathy and empathy and yet they placed dozens of selfies a day and from my own experience when you mental health issues the last thing you do is press pictures of itself.

I am very often suicidal over this issue and it hurts my heart to feel this way, to feel that the gay male community despises me because I’m not good enough to be part of it up in terms of my looks and body size.  This is quite ironic considering the 25 years of service to this community in a variety of ways and to support it and support other gay men.

I honestly feel completely alienated from the community only the main efforts to join groups and participate and again my mental health issues call in the way and I was an made to feel unwelcome in many ways by some people in these groups.  These are my feelings and they don’t just happen and for no reason there are always triggers.

For me feedback is important so being told attractive all well-built supports me and if I’m not then I assume people believe the opposite.  I believe so I am ugly and not build enough.

I don’t socialise, I don’t have sex or even date because of it.  On the rare occasions I engage on the apps and want to date someone when it comes down to it I put off  a meeting them because I feel they will be disappointed by me and person.

I had bought expensive leather gear and destroyed it because I felt I wasn’t looking good in its on because I felt I’d lost bulk or muscle mass and couldn’t carry off again because of lack of compliments or positive feedback about how I looked.

I know the self confidence is important and that this is a gift that keeps giving because a more confident you are and more people compliment you, the when the at my history a history of being abused physically emotionally and mentally before the age of five and having the core beliefs that you are bad and unlovable.  And when you’re in the Care System and you Foster placement had broken down because you are confused busy again mixed messages from everybody.  Can you go to a children’s home and you basically told you are too fuckked up to be considered lovable and good enough to be fostered again.  Then you work so hard on your self to overcome all of this because it is drummed into you that you have to do this.  And then you get and 17 and the family never happened , the dissapointmnent breaks your heart and you wonder what is the point in even bothering. Then you have tp live on your own at 18 and you are told not to expect much from life.

So there is a whole narrative as to why I am an the way I and god knows I have worked or so fucking hard to overcome all of this, and it hasn’t happened I have crippling low self-esteem and body dysmorphia and I’m extremely hard on myself because that’s all I knew growing up and I find it very hard to and reframe any of these narratives to a positive.

So, this weekend again and due to a variety of reasons I’m not isolated and alone and doing all I can not to take my own life, yes, I mean they’re really!

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Pride turns 50.

So, LGBT pride is 50 them, this year.  I also turned 50 this year.  Pride I was born out of oppression and discrimination.  The history lesson back and in the summer of 1969, the early summer the New York police are taking on themselves to raid various gay bars in the city.

The community will growing wary of this, many LGBT people had fled to the city from the countryside and the suburbs for protection, to be with the other people like them and to begin the community together.

The social venue sprang up and these were meeting places for people not just at me for sex but to meet each other and many friendship which would  build their community.

rumour has it the last straw was a death by Judy Garland and that night in the stonewall in LGBT people would gather at to mourn and show their respects yet once again the New York police raided the bar in the act of brutality against a community and the transgender woman of colour and latino heritage had enough, they fought back and before long there I ensured with LGBT community clearly said we’re not going to be passive anymore will fight back and will fight back with violence and aggression because you’re pushed us this far, and to stick to your level.

The following year people marched to remember the events of the year before and to say that we were not going to go away. Slowly across America are and across the world the month of June would become Pride month!  This didn’t happen overnight we had to go through the 1970s and progress was beginning to be made, we were challenging the stereotypes and by the mid-seventies pride Marches were happening in Europe are and other places.

Then along came her HIV, her HIV their will by the mid-1980s devastating the gay male population.  This encouraged increased homophobia and the media are vehemently condemning gay men for spreading a plague, obviously many religious organizations saw this as some kind of divine retribution.  The general public were fearful, the small steps that had been made towards acceptance vanished quicker than ice cream on a sunny day.

Will once again faced with prejudice, intolerance, violence, anger and discrimination.  Not only were the gay community bury and friends almost on a weekly basis we were faced with homophobia as well.

I remember my first pride march in 1992, where the police guarded the parade to protect us, yes protect us from people who were throwing stones and bottles at the pride.  And the police had a look of utter contempt and anger and hatred at us.  You got the sense they’d rather be throwing the bottles themselves.

At this time many gay venues had boarded up windows because so many Brits have been put through them often when he left gay bars you ran the risk of being bashed by people waiting outside to be you up just a being gay.

It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that things started to change, more and more LGBT people were being accepted, in soap’s gay characters started to appear on a more regular basis although the media would make a big song and dance about it.  Thankfully medication started to work and we were no longer and losing 1500 gay men a year to her HIV in the UK.

Then along came Labour government enacted are often pro LGBT laws and policies, we get protection in employment and housing, we get an equal age of consent at last, we get civil partnerships’ and we would get protection from hate crimes.  All of this didn’t happen overnight it was our brothers and sisters over the years step by step, first aired by footstep on every gay pride march walking forwards and hoping that things will change and pushing for things to change.

So my younger LGBT Brothers and sisters, my younger gay brothers when you are applying lipstick and make up her and glitter ready for you night out on the town to go out with your friends and enjoy yourselves remember who and how this happened for you, show some respects and some gratitude to the older LGBT people who came before you.  Not all of us are older guys living in a after you in a sexual way you really do need to go over that and be kinder to us is a community.  And not having a go you because you’re wearing better or because you make will form to a gay stereotype and is want to make you aware of the fact that if any of us had done that 20 years ago we would been beaten senseless on the streets and ER are my care in that the police would say we bought it on ourselves.

You have every right to be whoever you really are, there please do not feel the need to conform to a stereotype, were stereotyping is promoted in the gay community or one is being promoted from outside of the community you need to be who you really are, you need to be the LGBT person that you really truly are deep inside not one night is doing so you have to conform to acceptance within the LGBT community or from outside the LGBT community.

All of us who marched back then, I wasn’t marching in the 1980s but I was marching in the 1990s we didn’t march server I community would be restricted in any way with it from my heterosexual world or the LGBT world.

The world is changing again, the far right is on the rise and people are far more open to discuss any intolerance now than they were free or four years ago.  We can’t be complacent and we must move forwards and celebrate all of our achievements and I take is a step further to keep on going and keep on reminding people that were just people at the end of the day you’re either has same sex attraction or we’ll working with a gender identity in some way.  And we also need to remember our brothers and sisters across the world who were still in their place there we were 30 years ago or worse or in a place where they can be imprisoned, tortured or even executed for being LGBT.

A community really do needs to come together and stay together and regardless of where we fall on the masculine/feminine scale, we need to have each other’s backs and we need to keep fighting.  Up


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Straight pride

So, it’s the month of June and that means is LGBT pride month.  A little history lesson, June became pride month as a result of the stonewall riots that took place at the end of June 1969.  So 50th anniversary of the time when the LGBT community in New York had had enough of discrimination and their bars being raided by the police and responded with a riot lead primarily by the Trans women from a black and Latino Communities (TeRFS please take note of this fact and store in your memory banks when you are sprouting your Trans phobic nonsense)

Anyway, there seems to be a growing movement of straight people bemoaning  the fact that June is gay pride month.  They howl and complain, why isn’t there a straight pride?  Why do GAYS have to be special?

  • Well, when a straight person can look me in the eyes and tell me how many countries in the world that imprison, torture and in some cases execute people purely because they are heterosexual.?
  • If you can tell me how many countries in the world prohibit straight people from marrying purely because they a straight or prohibit them from fostering. children or even having children purely because I a straight.?
  • Or they can tell me how many countries can you be fired from your job, evicted from your house, the discriminated against or refuse services purely because you’re straight.?
  • Or they can tell me how many young people have been kicked out of their homes when they’re told her parents that they are straight.?
  • Or they can tell me and how many heterosexuals have been set upon and beaten up by LGBT people because they’re straight?

Then you can have your straight pride!

I’m sure that they would be hard pressed to come up with any country or place where this have happened.

Even in countries where we have further or partial LGBT equality, or where we have largely mainstream acceptance from society, coming out can be a very difficult thing for people,  Also, BAME representation up is thin on the ground as is people with disabilities.

Pride is a chance for all of us in the LGBT community to come together on the particular day that your city or town hold his pride event, for us on that day to being a majority rather the minority.  For us to celebrate our journey and celebrate the struggles we had to reach the point where we are now.

We also use it to pur pressure on the countless  countries that continue to persecute and discriminate against LGBT people and show them that they are not forgotten and that we are on their side.

Also, to remember we are still not safe just a few weeks ago a lesbian couple was badly beaten on public transport in London, purely because they wouldn’t titillate a group of Heterosexual men by kissing each other.  Homophobic a crime since Brexit has increased year on year, we of people protesting that primary schoolchildren are being taught that we exist and we are politicians, even politicians standing to be our next prime minister agreeing with these parents.  We can’t be complacent.

So straight people whining and complaining that there isn’t a straight pride, be grateful you don’t need one be grateful that everything about you is widely promoted and celebrated every second of every minute of every day.  Don’t beg the is the triggers a up has left you last begrudge us a month is representative of our community as we are is most LGBT charities would agree about 1 in 12 of the population or so actually were only getting our fair share of the limelight.

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