Today, BBC LGBTQ correspondent Ben Hunte revealed that the government made the decision to cut funding last March, contradicting an earlier pledge to tackle the problem, which it acknowledged causes a disproportionate level of harm to LGBTQ young people.
In the report, Hunte speaks to the father of a bullied gay teenager, who describes the decision as “a disaster” and argues that the projects are definitely needed, because the schools “just don't have the money or skills to do it themselves".
Matt Horwood, director of communications and campaigns at LGBTQ youth and homelessness charity akt, told VICE World News, “This week marks the 17th anniversary of Section 28 [which banned the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in British schools] being lifted, and the decision to remove anti-LGBTQ bullying resources from schools feels like a step backwards rather than forwards.”
LGBTQ bullying remains a big problem in Britain’s schools. According to LGBTQ charity Stonewall’s most recent school report, in 2017, almost half of LGBTQ pupils face bullying in schools as a result of their identity. This number shoots up to 65 percent for trans young people, with two out of five people in this demographic having attempted to take their own life.
Starting in 2014, the Government Equalities Office had funded several programmes aimed at tackling LGBTQ bullying. The £4 million Homophobic, Biphobic and Transphobic Challenge Fund allowed teachers, students and staff to receive free training and workshops, and organisers had expected the funding to continue.
The Government Equalities Office has attempted to play down the news, saying, "The anti-bullying grant fund, which provided 2,250 schools across the country with materials and training, was always due to end in March 2020." But according to the BBC, this is the first time funding hasn’t been extended since the project was introduced.
Matt Horwood from akt said, “Anti-LGBT bullying, and in particular anti-trans violence, continues to be commonplace in the UK, and education in schools can play a huge part in reducing that. For many young people, school is the one place they might learn about LGBT issues, and the fact that no one should be bullied or made to feel different because of who they are. For teachers in particular – perhaps those who were at school during Section 28 and its aftermath – these resources also help to empower them with the right tools and language to best support their classes.”
“For young people who might live with homophobic, biphobic or transphobic families,” Horwood continued, “the removal of these resources and programmes will have an even more detrimental impact. For those who are LGBT or questioning their identity, it will no doubt exacerbate feelings of isolation, anxiety and poor mental health, and for others it might inadvertently teach them that LGBT people don’t deserve to be treated in the same way that others are.
“The majority of young people we support at akt come to us because they have been kicked out by unaccepting families, or have had to flee due to fears for their safety. If this has been preceded by no wraparound support from their school – a place responsible for their wellbeing as well as learning – then it’s worrying to think the kind of consequences it could lead to.”
The news that the £4 million fund has been pulled has broken on the same day that the Conservative Party announced it will be increasing military spending by £16 billion, in what is being billed as “the biggest programme of investment in Britain's armed forces since the end of the Cold War”.