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OSDF Pride 3

Pride celebrations, marked by vibrant parades, rainbow flags, and a sense of joy, are much more than just festivities. They are a testament to the resilience, diversity, and unity of the LGBTQ+ community. While Pride is often associated with celebrating identity and love, it is also a crucial platform for addressing the various challenges faced by the community. Among these, the representation of social care services in Pride celebrations is important.

Sanjay Dhrona, Outstanding Society Director and MD of The Close Care Home, wanted to do just that. He created The Outstanding Society’s Out Standing Diversity Forum and decided to take the first step into bringing PRIDE in Adult Social Care by bringing together some big names in Social Care to march together at Pride in London on Saturday. He said: Thrilled. Excited, Humbled. These three words describe my emotional state at the moment. The support of the sector and the meaningful leap forward we are making to support those we care for and work within this amazing sector is awesome. For the first time ever we are representing our openness and inclusivity to the world. Like the theme of London Pride 2024, We Are Everywhere, We get to say it loud and proud the LGBTQ+ community are in Adult Social Care too!” 

OSDF Sponsor, Virgin Money supported them to make this happen. Head of Health and Social Care at Virgin Money, Derek Briegnan said: At Virgin Money we have a culture of inclusion and trust and as an ally of diversity, equity and inclusion I am really delighted to be able to support the OS at Pride 2024 and the work Sanjay is doing with the Out Standing Diversity Forum.

Teams joined us from Care England, The NMC, NCF, NCA, and The CQC, Bevan Brittan, Care UK, Majesticare, Championing Social Care, The Close Care Home, Caring Homes, LDC Care, Berkley, Bracebridge, HC One, Nourish, VIVALDI Social Care, PainChek, Autumna, Care Show, Shared Lives Plus, Lifeways, Social Care Nursing Advisory Councils (SCNACs), Cavalry Healthcare, Achieve Together and Thurrock Lifestyle Solutions. And we were proud to be marching alongside service users from some of these providers too!

One such provider was LDC Care who’s Director Lara Bywater (who is also a Director of The Outstanding Society) proudly marched alongside with EV, Eddie and Cameron who led the LDC Care Family in the London Pride march as part of the Out Standing Diversity Forum pride participation. She said “At LDC Care Co we have always been committed to inclusion and have always advocated for the people we support and our staff team. We have seen the value of running our own Pride events over the last few years and we were automatically delighted at the opportunity to be part of London Pride. What we were not prepared for was the overwhelming and consuming sense of love, acceptance and support. These feelings were palpable, not just from the awesome crew marching as The Outstanding Society, but from everyone. The cheers, the smiles, the claps, the hugs – it really was unimaginable. The icing on the cake for me was the reaction of the 3 people we support who were in the group. They were nervous to start with but their metamorphosis as the day went on was incredible. The went from being embarrassed to incredibly proud and to be embraced fully by their new family of 2 million  people. The moment each of them took a turn to hold the leaders lollipop was so powerful for them”

Historically, LGBTQ+ individuals have faced significant barriers in accessing appropriate social care. OSDF Pride 2 Discrimination, stigma, and a lack of understanding within mainstream services have often left them underserved and marginalised. This is where the visibility and representation of social care in Pride events play a critical role.

Hope Lightowler, a Shared Lives Plus ambassador who marched said: “As a queer person who accesses social care I often feel invisible. As a lot of queer spaces aren’t accessible to those with disabilities and we often can become invisible as people see our disability and forget that we can also be queer as well. People forget we are adults who still want real relationships so often we have to combat both ableism and homophobia or transphobia. So that’s why it’s important and so emotional to be walking in London Pride.”

Pride celebrations are a powerful platform for raising awareness about the unique needs of the LGBTQ+ community. When social care organisations participate in Pride, it sends a clear message that these services are available, inclusive, and supportive. This visibility helps break down barriers of ignorance and prejudice, making it more likely that LGBTQ+ individuals will seek out and receive the help they need.

Karen Roberts, Lifeways Head of Health and Clinical Governance, RNLD, Queens Nurse, and Co-chair North East and Yorkshire Social Care Nursing Advisory Council also marched on Saturday and said: “Lifeways is a hugely diverse organisation, and we celebrate that vibrant diversity. We want to ensure that each one of us at Lifeways is represented – whether that’s through culture, religion, sexual orientation – or simply as a unique individual. So, we are delighted to be taking part in London Pride this year on behalf of Lifeways and The Outstanding Society”

For many LGBTQ+ individuals, the decision to seek help is fraught with fear and uncertainty. Past experiences of OSDF Pride 1 discrimination or rejection can make them wary of accessing social care services. Representation at Pride can help build trust between the community and care providers. When LGBTQ+ individuals see that social care organisations are actively supporting and celebrating Pride, it reassures them that these services are safe, understanding, and affirming.

One of our marchers was Rory McDonnell, CEO, Cavalry Group who shared his story.

“I was subject to some quite bad homophobic attacks which meant I dropped out of school with no a levels. I ended up incredibly depressed about being gay and felt suicidal. I took a job and was advised by my manager to hide the fact that I was gay as no one would take me seriously.

I now run Cavalry Group and employ hundreds of people across our healthcare and recruitment companies. I’m proud to create a space where people can be celebrated for being their authentic self. I’m now so glad to be a part of the LGBT community!”

Furthermore, participating in Pride allows social care organisations to directly engage with the community, providing information about available services, answering questions, and addressing concerns. This direct engagement can ease the process of seeking help and make social care services feel more accessible.

Outstanding Society Director and CEO of Bracebridge Care Group, Samantha Crawley said: “It was such an honour and privilege to be part of London Pride, walking with team members from Bracebridge Care Group, fellow directors of the OS and so many sector colleagues was one of the most special days I have ever experienced.

The streets were filled with joy, hope, love, kindness and sunshine as we marched together as a wholly cohesive Social Care Sector, unforgettable in so many ways. The Out Standing Diversity Forum will no doubt, continue to thrive in a sector filled with hearts of gold and open minds.”

The representation of social care in Pride celebrations is not just important; it is essential. And that is why we are marching!

Another OSDF marcher was Debbie Harris, CEO of Autumna. She said:

“I marched with my husband and stepdaughter and felt such an outpouring of joy and love the whole day. I have quite honestly never felt anything like it. The most inclusive and happy day of celebration!”

The Out Standing Diversity Forum hopes to raise awareness, build trust, advocate for change, and celebrate the diversity and inclusivity of the LGBTQ+ community and the social care sector. By highlighting the critical role of social care, Pride events can help ensure that every individual receives the support and services they need to thrive. In doing so, they uphold the true spirit of Pride: a celebration of love, identity, and solidarity.

So what’s next for the Out Standing Diversity Forum?

As Inclusivity is so important we’re spreading our wings beyond London and plan to attend Manchester, Brighton, Birmingham and London again between 2025 and 2028.

We are also working on a Language guide as we know how confusing language can be in the world of LGBTQ+ conversations and we want those conversations to continue.

We will be facilitating a Roundtable event to begin the development of a training module. And creating a Partners Page where the Out Standing Diversity Forum supporters can showcase their work, creating a culture of inclusion and positive change for the future of Adult Social Care.

And soon after this, we hope to produce and publicise a downloadable pack for care associations / providers to use for local Pride events to allow EVERYONE to show their PRIDE IN ADULT SOCIAL CARE.