Listening to the voices of care experienced LGBT people in Scotland

14 October 2020

Topic: Voices of young people
Author: Charlie Mackenzie

As the LGBT Youth Scotland Care Commission concludes its work with a new awareness film, Commission member Charlie Mackenzie, discusses what the group has achieved in its two years and the personal impact the Commission has had.

In autumn 2018, a group of care experienced LGBT people aged 13-25 were brought together to share our views and experiences on the Scottish care system. The aim was to find out what was going well, what wasn’t going well, and what needed to be changed to support LGBT young people in care. This formed the Care Experienced Youth Commission, which met frequently over the next two years.

Over the last two years, the commission has been busy! One of the first things I remember doing was helping to deliver training to the Young Inspection Volunteers from the Care Inspectorate. Since then, I have also helped to deliver training to Barnardo’s, Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum, and the Care Inspectorate. I’ve really enjoyed the training sessions, as I feel like I’m helping to make a real difference to the services that LGBT young people in care encounter.

In addition to delivering training, I also had the chance to go to a residential in Aberfoyle, along with members of other youth commissions and other LGBT young people. There, as well as having the chance to practice archery and climbing, I got to practice my facilitation skills and delivered a workshop about LGBT care experienced people.

Throughout the summer of 2019, we carried out a survey to gather the voices of other LGBT care experienced people. Through our research, we found that only 52% of people had come out as LGBT in a care setting, and many of those said that their experience of coming out was negative. Some participants stated that not coming out had a negative effect on their mental health, while others mentioned the impact of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying on their mental health. Our research also found that 78% of respondents felt that staff and carers didn’t have the knowledge to support them. We used these findings to develop our key asks for the care sector, and during Care Experienced Week 2019, we did a takeover of the LGBT Youth Scotland twitter account, and posted what we’d learned.

Members of the LGBT Youth Commission present the findings of their research


With the COVID-19 situation and the ensuing lockdown, we had to adapt to working online. Although this was a little strange at first, it gave us opportunities we wouldn’t have had otherwise, and we had the chance the produce an amazing film together.

When I joined this commission, my hope was that our work would make a real difference to the care system for LGBT young people. While delivering training, I have had so many interesting discussions, often around things that aren’t thought about - such as how sharing information around a young person’s identity can be harmful or dangerous, or how comments that are meant well can actually be hurtful. I’ve been given positive feedback, often by residential staff who now feel more confident in talking to young trans people that they’re working with, and I’ve always left with a sense that things might be better in future.

Personally, I have found the commission invaluable. It has been a good outlet for a lot of the anger that I didn’t even realise I still felt around my childhood in care. I have found it very healing to be able to turn that into something productive, which will hopefully help children and young people in future, all with the support of other care experienced people who understand where I’m coming from. I’ve also had the chance to learn skills I otherwise wouldn’t have learned, such as how to run a workshop, or how to edit a film! I’ve also had the chance to build on skills that I had already developed, such as presenting and facilitating group discussions and workshops. I’ve also met many new people, and have gained a lot more friends.

Although I’m a bit sad about all the work of the last two years drawing to a close, I couldn’t be more proud of the commission. The fact that we were able to pull together and create a film on our phones, while not meeting up and doing everything online, is no easy feat. I think that we’ve created a great resource given the situation we found ourselves in, and I really hope that whoever watches it takes in our key asks, and does their bit to make the system better for care experienced LGBT young people.


The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author/s and may not represent the views or opinions of CELCIS or our funders. 

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