Over 100 young people are campaigning to save a Somerset youth group credited as life-saving by members. 2BU, the only Somerset-wide youth group for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender young people, is threatened with closure by Somerset County Council. It provides essential support ranging from friendship to young LGBT+ people isolated in the county, to one-to-one help for members struggling with bullying, abusive relationships and severe mental health problems. 2BU’s 2016 survey of members revealed 86% had suffered verbal abuse, 76% had self-harmed and 47% had attempted suicide.
The group leader Andrew Wilson said “The self-acceptance, esteem and community 2BU provides saves lives.”
Cross Party Campaign
2BU has gained national recognition of this. In May 2016 its leaders Andrew and Lisa were invited to a reception with David Cameron at 10 Downing Street, along with Stonewall and other national organisations. The Prime Minister congratulated them for the “outstanding contribution they make to the LGBT community“, but 2BU now faces losing County Council funding from March 2017.
Byron Gilbey, a member, said: “This group saved my life. These leaders saved my life”, while a supporter commented that “People die because they don’t get the support these groups provide. Without them my brother would be dead” adding: “Don’t take this away from the people who need it.”
Homophobic hate crime
The campaign co-ordinator, Fraser Amos, an ex-member, said “By targeting support at vulnerable young people 2BU helps prevent much larger costs being borne later on by the NHS, social services or the education system. If the County Council goes ahead with this false economy, ignoring the government’s support, it will be putting LGBT+ young people in Somerset at risk in a year where homophobic hate crime has risen 147%.”
2BU’s supporters are hoping their campaign will save the group. They have contacted every Somerset County Councillor and MP asking for their support, and are asking the public to support their online petition which gained 500 signatures in the first two days alone https://www.change.org/p/john-osman-save-somerset-youth-support-group-2bu
Bridgwater Labour Youth and Student Officer Diogo Rodrigues is planning to stand for the Somerset County Council elections and speaks from personal experience. Diogo says “Enough with cruel austerity – let’s move forward with social justice! The LGBT community has always been a community where all LGBT people stick together and support one another – a community where our friends become our family because we care so much for who we are. It is a privilege for organisations like 2BU to exist to support members of the LGBT community – and it is now more important than ever for everyone in the community to support 2BU, an organisation based in Somerset which has for years supported the LGBT+ community but is facing having its funding from Somerset County Council axed, despite being recognised by the Prime Minister in May for it’s outstanding work in supporting LGBT young people in Somerset.”
Diogo, a Bridgwater Town Councillor and Chairman of the Town’s Youth Forum, continued “I can speak from experience of how grateful I would have been if an organisation like 2BU existed when I ‘came out’ to my parents 10 years ago. I would have yearned the support of an organisation who knew what I was going through and could support me through the neglect I first felt from people around me when I decided to be who I truly was.
It is important for organisations that support young people like 2BU to be active in the community because they truly make a difference to people’s lives, but to be active in the community they need funding. County Council need to reverse the planned withdrawal of funding for this organisation as it will be putting young LGBT people at risk.
I will wholeheartedly support this organisation to secure the continuation of funding that it desperately needs. ”
To find more about the group, visit their website here.