LGBTI telephone counselling service Gay and Lesbian Switchboard has received federal government funding for a volunteer visitor service, providing companionship to older LGBTI Victorians.

Gay and Lesbian Switchboard will receive over $250,000 from the Department of Social Services over the next three years as part of the Community Visitors Scheme. Approved under the previous government, the scheme is designed to support socially-isolated people living in government-funded aged care homes.

While the scheme may seem a divergence from the organisation’s core function, the switchboard has argued its comprehensive training program for telephone counsellors provided the necessary infrastructure to branch out into a program like this.

The organisation also said its phone counsellors regularly took calls from older LGBTI people who felt isolated in the community.

The switchboard will recruit and train “ambassadors” with different areas of interest who can be paired with older LGBTI people across Victoria.

The organisation also plans to partner with LGBTI community groups, including Transgender Victoria, Val’s Cafe and Matrix Guild to provide training in specific areas.

Co-president Zoe Warwick told the Star Observer there were challenges associated with identifying LGBTI people in the community who might benefit from the scheme.

“The hardest thing is going to be for some of those older people they’re still afraid to come out. The good thing about this program is it’ll be visiting people in a home,” Warwick explained.

Last year Gay and Lesbian Switchboard became part of the QLife project, a national telephone and online counselling service for LGBTI people.

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