LGBTIQ organisations have called for federal funding to be restored to an outreach service in Victoria connecting LGBTIQ elders to their broader community.
Switchboard Victoria’s Out and About program is an LGBTIQ elder outreach program seeking to address the social isolation experienced by older LGBTIQ people with regular community visits.
The organisation was told of the looming cuts last month, losing two-thirds of the funding provided through the federal government’s Community Visitors Scheme (CVS).
“I strongly believe we would be transitioning them to nowhere, that’s what I believe,” Switchboard’s chief executive Joe Ball told The Guardian.
“Every person who is in our service was not in a previous community visitor scheme.
“They haven’t come from the mainstream to us, they’ve come from social isolation to us.”
The organisation is now attempting to fundraise over $300,000 to continue the Out and About program, and have vowed to continue the visits and are still accepting elders into the program.
Drummond Street Services CEO Karen Field said for many older LGBTIQ Victorians, the program was their only connection to community.
“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,” she said.
“Switchboard’s funding should remain and Out and About should be fully funded so Switchboard Victoria can continue to support our LGBTIQ+ elders.”
Transgender Victoria’s Sally Goldner said the funding cuts were very disappointing and the money must be reinstated.
“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,” Goldner said.
“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.”
Federal Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said despite the cuts there had been no reduction in funding to LGBTIQ-focused services, and other groups in Victoria supported LGBTIQ needs.
“While Switchboard has not been allocated the amount of funding it applied for there has been no reduction in funding for CVS services targeting people from the LGBTI community,” he told The Guardian.
“In Victoria, 10 organisations which identified LGBTIQ as a special needs groups to receive CVS services have received offers of funding.”
But Ball said the government’s changes to the CVS funding mechanism had stripped money from the only group providing a specialised service for what the federal government had identified as a priority group.
Community members can support Switchboard Victoria by making a tax-deductible donation through the organisation’s website.