Access to Health and Public Services
A report produced by the Lesbian Advocacy Services Initiative (LASI) found that lesbian and bisexual women experienced significant barriers to accessing health services in Northern Ireland . In addition, other research conducted in 2007 has identified that one in six LGB people surveyed had experienced forms of discriminatory behaviour in receiving health care.
The Commission has also received complaints from same-sex couples in terms of their ability to access IVF fertility treatment. It is important to ensure the effective targeting of health care services in order to meet the particular needs of LGB people and to remove all unjustifiable barriers to their accessing these services.
We welcome the fact that a number of departmental strategies, including the Mental Health Promotion Strategy and the Suicide Prevention Strategy recognise the particular health needs experienced by, and services required by, LGB people.
There is, for example, a clear link between homophobia and poor mental health in Northern Ireland. Research into the mental and emotional health of 16 year olds has confirmed that a group which is particularly vulnerable in terms of their mental health are same-sex attracted males and females.
Research carried out in relation to the mental health of young gay men in Northern Ireland has also revealed that over one third (34.4%) of respondents had been diagnosed with a mental illness at some time in their lives and over one quarter (27.1%) had attempted suicide.
Further, independent research commissioned by OFMdFM on equality mainstreaming, policy and practice for LGB people has identified that there is a need for a broad range of action by public bodies to address the inequalities highlighted in the report and made a series of recommendations for change.
Recommendations aimed at public bodies, which we endorse, included addressing, in conjunction with LGB organisations, the following:
- ensuring effective staff training on LGB issues
- investigating how their policies and practices may be homophobic and/or heterocentric
- reviewing their procedures for consulting with LGB organisations
- ensuring adequate levels of resources are made available to support the work of the LGB community and
- setting meaningful targets in relation to sexual orientation equality.
In line with the statutory duty on public bodies under Section 75, there should also be a focus on positive action measures to counter disadvantage and opportunities to better promote equality of opportunity for LGB individuals.
- The Commission recommends that the Executive, Departments and other key stakeholders adopts actions aimed at removing barriers experienced by LGB people in when accessing goods and services and the exercise of public functions. We also recommend proactive strategic targeting of services in order to meet the particular needs of LGB people.