A whole range of people use social care services which play a crucial role in helping them live healthy and independent lives. Social Care Services support children and families, people with disabilities, people with emotional or psychological difficulties, people with financial or housing difficulties and older people. By getting involved you can play a really important role in supporting others in your community.
Whether you want to support young people and families going through difficult times by being a foster carer or you want to help out in a local care home, there are many different ways that you can get involved in social care.
You may want to get involved to help people in your community that may need more support than others, and to help people to live healthier and happier lives. You may also want to specifically help lesbian, gay and bisexual people in your community that need social care, or simply to help make sure that social care in your community understands the needs of gay people.
Research shows that gay people experience the same issues as everyone else that need social care, but some gay people are at particular risk. For example homelessness can be a real problem for young lesbian, gay and bisexual people rejected by their families and older gay people in care homes may be less able to rely on the support of family members for care and support.
By volunteering in social care you can help improve services for everyone in your community that uses them, including lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
Whether you want to make a regular commitment, or you’re only able to volunteer for a few hours now and then, there are opportunities to suit you. Why not take a look at the many different ways you can get involved:
Positions working with children or adults with disabilities or emotional or psychological difficulties may require you to have a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check and also to familiarise yourself with safeguarding issues. Safeguarding is about how organisations ensure that children and vulnerable adults are protected from abuse or neglect, and that their health and development is fully supported.
You may not have time to volunteer for a specific role but there’s plenty you can do to help improve the social care services provided to people in your local area. You could:
Foster carers offer children and young people a home while their own parents are unable to look after them. As a foster carer you could play a crucial role providing secure housing and some sense of stability to a young person or child at a difficult time. There is no bar on gay people becoming foster carers.
Fostering is a temporary arrangement, lasting anywhere between 24 hours and one year, although under certain circumstances longer placements may be deemed necessary. As a foster carer you do not work alone – you work alongside the child, their parents, social services and many others to get the best outcome for the child.
You may want to foster young lesbian, gay and bisexual people who cannot live with their parents, often because they have been kicked out for being gay. Organisations such as the Albert Kennedy Trust provide fostering services for young gay people in need.
As a foster carer you will receive in-depth training and a support allowance is paid to cover the basic living costs for the child plus essential extra costs such as travel to court hearings or hospital.
For more information about the range of fostering options browse the following links:
Stonewall information on Adoption and Fostering in England and Wales
Stonewall’s A guide for Gay Dads
Stonewalls’ Pregnant Pause
Many people in your community will need support to continue to live full and independent lives as they get older. There are many different ways to get involved either on a one-to-one or more formal basis. You can help out older neighbours who may require help with shopping or chores around the house. Or you could get involved in care services delivered in the local community, such as care homes.
Older lesbian, gay and bisexual people who require care and support can sometimes feel that the fact that they are gay is ignored, and in some cases that being open about their sexual orientation may lead to poor treatment as they get older. Many LGB feel they have to go back in the closet which can make them feel isolated. By helping out with social care services in your community you can highlight the needs of gay older people and help to ensure that everyone can be themselves into their old age.
If you’d like to volunteer with organisations that help older people, the good news is that most roles don’t require any skills or qualifications and you’ll be given training. For more information about Adult Social Care visit www.puttingpeoplefirst.org.uk or contact Age UK at www.ageuk.org.uk or by phone on 0800 169 8787.
Youth groups and clubs not only give many young people a chance to meet each other and have something to do outside school or college but they can also help with their personal development. There are a wide variety of youth groups and there are many different ways to get involved.
There are also a good number of youth groups for young people who are or are wondering if they are lesbian, gay or bisexual. These youth groups give young people a space they may not get at home, at school or with their friends - to meet with other people and talk about what they are feeling. Having openly gay people volunteering can provide young people with positive role models.
The involvement you can have depends on your skills and qualities and on the needs of the group with which you volunteer. Youth groups and clubs are usually run by the local council or by voluntary organisations. As with anyone working with young people you will need a Criminal Record Bureau check and you may need to be a particular age.
User Led Organisations is a catch-all term for systems that allow people who use social care services to have a central role in overseeing those services. They therefore play a crucial role in empowering people who use social care to exercise choice and control over the support that they receive.
There is no one form of ULO but they are usually run and controlled by the people who use local support services - including disabled people, mental health service users, people with learning difficulties, older people, and their families and carers. If you are using some form of care service you should find out if it has a ULO for you to get involved with.
For more information about ULOs visit www.shapingourlives.org.uk. To find out if there’s a ULO in your local area contact your local council.