Age UK is partnering with the military charity, Fighting With Pride, to deliver a new project to support older LGBT+ veterans.
The initiative, generously funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, will see Age UK use their specialist skills to provide extensive support and advice to older LGBT+ veterans through the Charity’s national Advice Line.
Many veterans who experienced severe discrimination due to the ban on LGBT+ people serving in the Armed Forces prior to the year 2000 are aged 50 and over, and this project aims to ensure they receive the support that they desperately need and deserve, on issues such as finances and benefit entitlement, housing, health, and care.
The launch of this new project coincides with the recent release of ground-breaking research from Fighting With Pride, which shines a spotlight on just how devastating the ban was for so many. A dishonourable discharge, which many of the LGBT+ veterans experienced, meant that many couldn’t claim their military pensions, impacting their finances and leading to poverty and homelessness, whilst also having a serious impact on people’s mental health, including feelings of loneliness and isolation having been left behind.
Key findings from Fighting With Pride’s survey show:
• 86% of LGBT+ veterans felt dismissal for sexual orientation or gender identity from the Armed Forces affected their mental health
• 74% of those dismissed said their finances have been affected
• 65% of LGBT+ veterans surveyed said it affected their employment and careers
• 56% said it had impacted having a place to live
• 84% of survey respondents reported being lonely
Anne Myles, who was in the RAF from 1977 to 1984, was affected by the ban. Anne told researchers:
“It just took away my home, my livelihood, my future, career, pension. It doesn’t really get much worse than that, does it?”
Review still awaited
Last month, the government launched an independent review which examined the experience of LGBT+ veterans affected by the pre-2000 ban. However this is yet to be published.
Fighting With Pride will be working in partnership with Age UK to refer older LGBT+ veterans to Age UK’s Advice Line. In addition, they will provide in-depth training to Age UK’s Advice Line team on how best to support these older people, so that they can tackle the daily challenges that they are facing, while healing from past trauma.
The Advice Line is a free, national telephone service for older people, who are given expert information and advice from Age UK advisors on a range of areas such as benefits, care, health, loneliness, and housing. Age UK’s existing expertise, combined with Fighting With Pride’s knowledge in supporting the wellbeing of LGBT+ veterans, means that together the charities can provide high quality, joined up support to improve the circumstances and wellbeing of older LGBT+ veterans.
Hannorah Lee, Director of Partnerships at Age UK, said: “A devastating injustice was served to LGBT+ people in the military before 2000. And now, as these people get older, the magnitude of the financial and emotional impact could make later life very difficult. It is vital that Age UK, in partnership with Fighting With Pride, addresses this inequality by helping those affected to get the compensation, support and validation they truly deserve. We urge anyone who has been impacted to get in touch today.”
Craig Jones MBE (former Naval officer), Executive Chair, and Caroline Paige (former RAF officer), Chief Executive of Fighting With Pride, said “Due to the impact of the pre-2000 ban on LGBTQ+ people serving in the Armed Forces; this cohort was stripped of their career, military pension and their dignity and became isolated from the Armed Forces community. It is so important they are welcomed back and can re-claim a very important part of their lives.”
Older LGBT+ veterans looking for support can visit: www.ageuk.org.uk/operationsterling