Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram has committed to helping the LGBTQ+ community after recently facing criticism.
Coinciding with the return of the city’s Pride celebrations, the Mayor pledged his support to the ongoing fight against discrimination in an act of solidarity with the region’s LGBTQ+ community. He claimed he was “fiercely committed” to protecting diversity ahead of the event as he sees it as one of the city’s “greatest strengths”, while also recognising that “despite some progress, we still have work to do”.
In light of Mr Rotheram’s message of support, Liverpool’s longest continuously running LGBTQ+ health and wellbeing charity, Sahir House, dubbed his claims as “lip service” and emphasised the importance of “action over words.” Anthony Hopkinson, the charity’s CEO, told the ECHO : “The Metro Mayor’s sentiment might be true enough but actions speak louder than words. It can feel like lip service when we look at how little action and investment is underfoot - especially in comparison to other metropolitan areas of similar size and status like Greater Manchester.
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" Ongoing discrimination and violence - stemming from intolerance and marginalisation - continues to impact the lives of queer folk across Liverpool and the Liverpool City Region. LGBTQ+ health and wellbeing inequalities are significant, LGBTQ+ hate crimes and hate speech are on the rise, and local LGBTQ+ culture continues to be underfunded. LGBTQ+ visibility - where it matters - is waning. There are numerous barriers to equity and opportunity for LGBTQ+ people and their families that we should be working together to remove.
Asked what else needs to be done, Mr Hopkinson added: “Our local leaders have the power and agency to enact policies and programmes that would better protect our LGBTQ+ communities, increase community engagement, and open doors to opportunity - and yet action and funding are thin on the ground. It’s time to move beyond words and promises and invest in our community. I'd like to meet with Steve and talk to him about our community and our ideas and plans. I'd like him to commit to the development of a new LGBTQ+ action plan for the Liverpool City Region. I also like him to commit to creating a new centre and cultural hub for our community.”
Now, Mayor Rotheram has said he would be “happy to meet” with Sahir House and has applauded their "fantastic reputation". A spokesperson for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority added: “Mayor Rotheram has a longstanding and proud record as an ally of the LGBTQ+ community both as a Member of Parliament and now as Mayor – including a commitment to funding LCR Pride every year since being elected. Shortly after his election in 2017, one of the Mayor’s first visits was to see the brilliant work the charity (Sahir House) was doing, however, it isn’t within the Combined Authority’s core responsibilities to directly fund charitable organisations – especially without going through a full, transparent, and thorough procurement process and funding framework.
They added: "There are almost 10,000 charity and voluntary sector organisations across the region and, while the Mayor would love to meet them all, this simply isn’t realistic. The Combined Authority regularly engage with a range of organisations and charities that directly support the LGBTQ+ community, such as the LCR Pride Foundation and will continue to work to support and protect all of the region’s 1.6m residents.”
Anthony Hopkinson’s comments come shortly after it was revealed that Sahir House’s future remains uncertain as a result of losing two-thirds of its funding, something which Mayor Rotherman was “sorry to hear”. The charity has integrated itself into carrying out vital work across Merseyside “but historically at the reliance of local authority funding”. Now, the charity, which has been offering HIV support, prevention, information and training across Merseyside since 1985, is urging the community to mobilise together and support a campaign to secure its future.
The "Come Together for Sahir House " campaign aims to raise funds and secure the services the charity has provided to communities in Liverpool and Merseyside for nearly four decades. The plea comes after the charity gave out hundreds of free at-home oral HIV self-tests during Pride in Liverpool, demonstrating just how valued the charity’s services are in the region.
Antony Hopkinson previously told the ECHO : “We lost out in a competitive tender process earlier this year in relation to our HIV support services for Liverpool. This is now threatening our funding model. The money we did have we made it stretch as far as possible for the community, but now it leaves the future uncertain. It has been challenging but these challenges have been developing for some time now and I have inherited them. As a queer man myself who is very passionate about LGBTQ+ issues, half the reason I am here is to get the organisation to what it can be and what it has been in the past.”
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