Reflections on Pride 2021

Francis Burrows, Director of Support and Service Development at Orbit

It’s been really important for me personally to see all the activity going on at Orbit for Pride Month, knowing that I will be accepted and that we really do care about people, both our colleagues and our customers, involving them in the activities and reaching out to LGBT people in our homes and communities.

One of the biggest impacts has been in our Independent Living schemes for older people. There’s long been a real problem for older generations going into specialist housing or care settings, with many from the LGBT community fearing that they won’t be accepted. Fears range from worries about how they will be perceived through to horror stories of care staff being abusive towards them because of their sexuality.

In June, we held events across our Independent Living scheme providing information, having conversations and holding celebration events to support the LGBT customers in our schemes. These events really helped to increase awareness and understanding, and built bridges between different sections of the population; it was great to see.

Some of these conversations have been challenging, with some people feeling it wasn’t appropriate or it was a political stance. From our perspective, it’s about acceptance and showing that all our schemes are welcoming places, which are open to all. We want people to feel comfortable, know they will be welcomed, and to be able to fully engage in all aspects of the life at the scheme.

I spoke with a customer in one of our extra care schemes who was not happy with the idea of these events, but after discussing my personal story and why it’s important for people to know they are welcomed, respected and valued, she was supportive. Whether a customer is LGBT, whether they are from a different background, have a disability or any other characteristic, everyone has a full and valuable role to play in the life of our schemes and that’s what we want to celebrate.

We have come such a long way in making these homes accessible places and it’s a real privilege to be able to help this growth and be open to all. No older person should have to be afraid or feel that they have to go back in the closet. This is another step forward and if it helps just one person be themselves, that’s a great outcome!