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5th June 2014
We know that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people are highly vulnerable to a range of issues including mental health (self-harm and suicide), substance misuse, sexual health issues, homelessness, and this is usually the result of bullying, abuse, isolation, parental rejection.I believe that, in order to reduce this vulnerability, when a young LGBTQ person accesses a service, the providers have a duty to comprehensively assess their needs in a holistic and empowering way. I realised how important it was to develop a screening tool back in 2000 when one of the first members of my youth group died from a heroin overdose. As result I developed the Needs Assessment Tool (or NAT), which I used, developed and improved, over the 13 years I ran Gay and Lesbian Youth in Calderdale (1999-2012). The NAT is wide-ranging and covers everything from coming out, bullying, substance misuse, sexual health, mental health, homelessness, to emotional abuse, etc. Working with the young person, using the results of the NAT, together we would develop an action plan. This could include, for example, referral for counselling, a sexual health check-up, access to housing, and so on. This method enabled young people to understand whether and how they were vulnerable, why they were vulnerable and have control over what to do about it. After six months an Impact Assessment (IMP) would take place to review progress. The report would enable me, and the young person, to see the journey the young person had taken and identify improvements made and any further action needed. This method of comprehensively assessing the needs of LGBTQ young people was identified as an example of good practice in research by the London-based, LGBT mental health organisation, PACE (Where to Turn, 2010). Just in itself, the NATnIMP can be a life saver. But there are significant added benefits, not least that after, say, 20 NATs, a consolidated report can be requested to show what percentage of young people have, for example, attempted suicide, smoke, misuse alcohol, etc. This data can then be used to access funding (we were successful in a BBC Children in Need funding bid using this method). The combined NATnIMP also provide hard evidence of the success of interventions, again extremely useful when reporting back to funders. I will be discussing the NATnIMP at the WorldPride Human Rights Conference in Toronto on 27th June 2014 and encouraging other agencies world-wide to utilise this, or other similar screening methods, when working with LGBTQ young people. I am delighted to have been chosen to make a presentation as nearly 400 applicants from almost 60 countries applied for such a privilege. Here is a link to my presentation: "Assessing the Needs of LGBTQ Youth" Jan Bridget