LGBTI organisations have expressed dismay that federal funding cuts are threatening Switchboard’s Out and About program, a peer service connecting Victoria’s LGBTI elders to the broader community.

Out and About is an LGBTI elder outreach program which seeks to reduce social isolation experienced by older LGBTI people via a community visitors program.

“We are horrified to hear about funding cuts to Switchboard Victoria, who provide a crucial service to our isolated aged and ageing members of the LGBTIQ+ communities,” said CEO of drummond street services and queerspace Karen Field.

“Switchboard’s funding should remain and Out and About should be fully funded so Switchboard Victoria can continue to support our LGBTIQ+ elders.”

“For many older LGBTIQ+ people, Out and About is their only crucial connection to community,” Field said.

“Transgender Victoria expresses huge dismay at the cuts to funding to the Out and About program,” said Transgender Victoria’s Sally Goldner.

“Isolation is still a huge issue for trans and gender diverse people all around Australia and trans and gender diverse seniors are very much a part of this.

“Any reduction in support can only worsen the mental health of trans and gender diverse people – and the evidence shows that is already poor. Funding needs to be restored now.”

Director of Rainbow Families Victoria Felicity Marlowe concurred, and called for the funding to be reinstated.

“Any cuts to specialist LGBTIQ services like this can only mean our older and aged community members will not receive the culturally appropriate support they deserve,” Marlowe said.

“It is bitterly disappointing, and this funding decision must be overturned.”

Executive Officer from Housing for the Aged Action Group Fiona York also agreed that the cuts were counter-productive.

“We know as a 30-year serving housing justice organisation for older people that LGBTI elders face unique challenges which leave them socially isolated,” York said.

“Programs like Out and About are crucial to reducing impacts of marginalisation.”

LGBTI elder outreach programs such as Out and About help counter the abuse and loneliness experienced by ageing members of the community, for whom discrimination is common in aged care facilities where their specific needs are not catered for or their identity is erased.

Switchboard was informed of the impending cuts in December, losing two-thirds of its funding which was provided through the Community Visitors Scheme.

The organisation is now attempting to fundraise over $300,000 to continue Out and About, according to The Guardian. Without the added finds, clients of the program will likely be left on their own.

The government’s Minister for Ageing Ken Wyatt said the funding has been reallocated to other LGBTI organisations.

Members of the community can contribute to Switchboard by heading to their website: www.switchboard.org.au/support-2/donate

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