Being LGBTQ+ is not a problem or a safeguarding concern in itself, but children and young people can find it difficult when other people around them – such as teachers, doctors, parents/carers, family, friends, youth workers, faith leaders and other children and young people – respond negatively or don’t provide the support they need.
Children and young people should know that they can talk to staff in confidence if, for example:
- They’re LGBTQ+ or unsure of their orientation or gender identity
- They would like to, or have started to, take steps as part of their transition in school
- They have feelings towards, or are having a relationship with, someone of a similar age
- They’re chatting with other children or young people (of a similar age) online on age appropriate websites or are attending a youth group
However, if a young person is at risk of significant harm, staff have an obligation to report a safeguarding concern. It may constitute a safeguarding risk if, for example:
- They’re experiencing abuse at home or are at risk of homelessness
- They’re self-harming or putting themselves at physical risk
- They’re in a relationship with someone considerably older or younger, chatting with adults online or using dating apps for adults
- If they are experiencing significant homophobic, biphobic or transphobic (HBT) bullying
- If there is a concern about sexual exploitation or grooming
If you are in any doubt as to whether something constitutes a safeguarding concern, consult with your designated safeguarding lead (DSL).
For children and young people with SEND, you will need to take additional factors into account, such as whether they are able to make their own decision about being in a relationship or whether they might have been pressured into one. However, having SEND does not automatically mean that a child or young person should not be in a relationship and it is important not to assume that this is not something they would want for themselves.
Helping children and young people stay safe
All children and young people should understand the risks of sharing personal details online, whether that’s through email, in a forum, blog, on social media or through apps. They should also understand the risks of meeting up with people they get to know online. Schools, colleges and settings can support LGBTQ+ children and young people by providing online safety tips and links to recommended websites. Children and young people should also know what to do if they experience homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying online, such as reporting it to a member of school staff or, in extreme circumstances, to the police. They should know that if an adult behaves inappropriately towards them online, they should tell their parents, carers or a member of staff and report it to CEOP. You'll find more information on online safety for LGBTQ+ children and young people in our Staying Safe Online resource.
Children and young people should know that they can report harassment or discrimination in the community to the police, whether they experience it themselves or whether they witness it. Encourage them to talk to a trusted adult about it too. Make it clear this includes HBT abuse and ensure staff know how to signpost to relevant community support organisations. Make sure all children and young people know how they can access services offering face-to-face, phone or online counselling and/or support in the local area. Consider whether they may need additional support (such as a support worker or BSL interpreter) to access these.
Working with parents and carers
Not all children and young people will want their parents or carers to know they are LGBTQ+. For staff to discuss this with parents or carers without the child or young person’s consent would be a breach of confidentiality.
However, it is important to discuss with a child or young person whether they’ve told their parents or carers they are LGBTQ+. They may be anxious about how their parents or carers will respond and this could be affecting how they feel about their orientation or gender identity.