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Date published: June 27, 2024

Supporting the trans community in adult social care – a Q&A with Rachel Turner, Shared Lives ambassador

Rachel has been supported in Shared Lives since 2011. Speaking at the autism conference back in 2019, Rachel said:

“I am a citizen, a Disney fan, a self-advocate, a Manchester United supporter. I have Asperger’s syndrome, and, in case you were wondering. Yes, I am transgender! I was a bit worried about telling you that, but I think these days people are more broad-minded than they used to be.”

Shared Lives Plus have recently launched a new equality, diversity, and inclusion policy, so we caught up with Rachel to discuss her thoughts and opinions on the work that can be done across adult social care to better support trans people and others in the LGBTQ+ community.

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Rachel we’d like to hear from you about what you think the main issues that trans and LGBTQ+ people face in adult social care?

It’s hard to find other people in adult social care, or generally, that are in the same category as you, for instance for me other supported trans people. They really aren’t easy to find, and I’d like more opportunities to meet up with people that have similar experiences to me.

I used to be based in Blackburn, and when I was there, I didn’t feel that well supported to go places to meet with others in the community. It didn’t feel safe to go out to events at night, and there was no support in making sure I could attend and then get back safely later at night. My carers did not have any knowledge around how they could support me as a trans person, so training for carers would have really helped us all.

I also had an experience where someone working in adult social care told me I was ‘going against God’s wishes’ which was unacceptable. We need to feel empowered and that we can be open with all types of support workers, therefore training needs should be top of the priority list.

Has the model of Shared Lives benefited you at all, as an LGBTQ+ person?

In general, I think more needs to be done in adult social care to support the needs of the LGBTQ+ community.

However, for me, the carers I now have, are good at their job and supporting me, they help me with finding places to go, to connect with others. I’m part of an LGBTQ+ football group, and it was my carers who looked online for me and helped set this up. I go every Thursday and really enjoy it!

I was also well supported with buying clothes, and having support on what to try, this helped me figure out the types of clothes I like to wear and feel comfortable in – it was such a relief.

Do you think Shared Lives can benefit LGBTQ+ people?

Yes it can, but more training is needed. It would also be good if people supported in Shared Lives had more opportunity to choose who supports them, and LGBTQ+ people can then be matched with carers who have the experience to support their needs.

Shared Lives and social care in general can do more to provide information about being LGBTQ+ to supported people; for example, I did not know that I could transition until I was in my mid-twenties. It’s important we are given this information to help us understand ourselves. Something that would help carers and support workers is training as this will help them to know how to provide us with more information around being LGBTQ+.

Training for social workers and carers would also help them to signpost LGBTQ+ people in terms of support and opportunities to connect with others in the community. I was quite fortunate that I had a support worker who already knew someone who had experienced transitioning, but a lot of Shared Lives carers may not know someone who has experienced this or had first-hand experience.

The most important thing is having people on your side who can support you emotionally and practically, as you navigate your own journey.