At least 1.5 million people in the UK identify as LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and other sexuality and gender identities) and approximately 300,000 are over the age of 50.

Research shows that older people who are LGBTQ+ often have a greater need to access social care, as they are more likely to live alone and rely more on heavily on social care services. Yet many experience discrimination when they use these services, including residential care homes. At the same time, care staff feel they lack the knowledge and skills to provide adequate LGBTQ+ inclusive care.

A new research project, Creating Inclusive Residential Care of LGBTQ+ Elders (CIRCLE), led by Dr Jolie Keemink from the Centre for Health Services Studies at the University of Kent and funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Kent, Surrey and Sussex (ARC KSS), has been set up to look at how residential care providers can be supported to make their care services more LGBTQ+ inclusive.

The CIRCLE project pilots the implementation of the UK-accredited Pride in Care programme in five care homes in Kent, Surrey, and Sussex. This programme was designed by Opening Doors, the largest UK charity for LGBTQ+ people over 50, and aims to help organisations to improve their quality of care and support for older LGBTQ+ people, whilst challenging any form of poor practice. The programme offers policy reviews, a staff survey, internal training, and ongoing consultancy advice. Organisations that successfully complete the programme receive a registered Pride in Care accreditation. This is the first time the Pride in Care programme will be used in residential care homes, and the project will evaluate what factors help and what factors hinder implementing and using the programme in practice. 

Another way in which the CIRCLE project is support care providers to be more LGBTQ+ inclusive is by setting up an online community of practice to share knowledge, experience and best practice around this important issue. In May, the research team ran its first CIRCLE community of practice event for care providers, LGBTQ+ elders and other stakeholders.

Dr Jolie Keemink, the project’s Principal Investigator, said:

"This online group is a safe space for people to discuss concerns or issues regarding creating an inclusive LGBTQ+ environment for people in residential care, as well as increasing their knowledge. We will discuss relevant topics, invite guest speakers and signpost relevant information, support and training opportunities.

"We wanted to make the event as inclusive and safe as possible for all, so right at the start of the session, we invited attendees to add their pronouns next to their screen name. As one LGBTQ+ participant with lived experience later pointed out, it was very positive to see how, at the start, only 6 people had pronouns next to their names but that, by the end of the session, this had increased to 28. That's real progress."

The CIRCLE project team will be holding its next Community of Practice event on Wednesday 27 September 2023 from 2-3.30pm. Sign up here.

For more information about the CIRCLE project, or if you are interested in attending one of our events, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can also follow the progress of the project on Twitter: @CIRCLE_res.


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