LGBTQ+ Action Plan for Wales - Background
Our plan to make Wales the most LGBTQ+ friendly nation in Europe.
A PDF download of this document will be available soon.
In this page
We developed a vision, or a higher-level framework, that can guide us towards what we want to achieve with this Action Plan. This will help us all pull in the same direction, and towards the same destination. We believe in the importance of creating sustainable, long-term change, starting today. We have gained commitment from a wide range of partners in the creation of this Action Plan who share our vision:
For all LGBTQ+ people, we will:
- strengthen equality and human rights (Welsh Government 2022a)
- make Wales a safer place
- make Wales a Nation of Sanctuary for LGBTQ+ migrants
- improve healthcare outcomes
- ensure education in Wales is inclusive
- improve inclusion and participation in all areas of life
- listen to, and work with, our LGBTQ+ communities
- defend and promote the rights of trans and non-binary people
This Plan sets a benchmark for how we will achieve these challenging and ambitious goals and build a society where LGBTQ+ people are included and celebrated.
“Forty years ago, gay and bisexual people were subject to hateful slurs and prejudiced attacks. Trans people today are being subjected to a similar barrage of hate-fuelled debates. We believe that extending rights for one group does not mean eroding rights from another. We do not believe improving rights for trans women will damage rights for cisgender women and girls. Our trans communities are hurting, they're afraid, and they're experiencing harm. As a society, we can and must do better than this”.
Hannah Blythyn MS, Deputy Minister for Social Partnership (Senedd Cymru 2022a).
How did we get here?
We have come a long way in the past few decades when it comes to strengthening equality and human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, non-binary, intersex or VSC (or Variations of Sex Characteristics), asexual, and aromantic people in Wales and across the UK, in short, all LGBTQ+ communities. However, we cannot be complacent, with LGBTQ+ rights often under attack, and hard-fought-for rights at risk of being rolled back around the world, including here in the UK.
Changes to the law have meant schools, organisations and public services are now doing much more to advance these rights and tackle LGBTQ+ discrimination. Equal marriage and adoption rights are now a reality and we have now consigned Section 28 to history; a law passed in 1988 that stopped local authorities and schools "promoting the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship” (Local Government Act 1988). We have seen a huge shift in positive public attitudes towards LGBTQ+ communities and for LGBTQ+ inclusion, as well as gaining a better picture of LGBTQ+ groups in Wales. The inclusion of voluntary questions on sexual orientation and gender identity, asked for the first time in the 2021 Census, can serve as an example of this (Office for National Statistics 2023; Welsh Government 2023), where 92.4% of the population aged 16 years and over responded to the voluntary sexual orientation question in Wales, and c.77,000 usual residents in Wales selected an LGB+ sexual orientation in 2021.
However, many continue to face significant barriers to participating fully and equally in Welsh society. In a survey commissioned to support development of this Plan in summer 2020 (Welsh Government 2021c), it was found that, among those who took part in the survey, 78% of respondents have avoided being open about their sexual orientation or gender for fear of a negative reaction from others. Furthermore, 46% of LGBTQ+ people in Wales had experienced verbal harassment in the year prior to the survey. Such findings show the distressing experiences LGBTQ+ people continue to go through in Wales today and demonstrate how far we still have to go to achieve equality, and for people to feel happy and safe by just simply being who they are.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, we knew LGBTQ+ communities were more likely to experience a range of inequalities or worse outcomes compared with heterosexual and cisgender populations (WCEC 2022; Welsh Government 2021c; Welsh Government 2021d: page 3). In particular, those communities reported experiencing:
- lower life satisfaction levels
- poorer access to healthcare services
- bullying, discrimination and hate crime in school, the workplace or in their communities
- higher-level of substance misuse, including alcohol and smoke
- poorer mental health including loneliness, depression, and suicide
These disadvantages are further exacerbated when the specific needs and vulnerabilities of being LGBTQ+ intersects with other protected characteristics including age, race, religion, and disability (Switchboard 2018).
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the structural inequalities faced by the most marginalised and disadvantaged LGBTQ+ communities in Wales and in some cases has made those inequalities worse (WCEC 2022). For LGBTQ+ people, research highlights ongoing concerns in education, personal and community safety, health and social care, and the workplace (Welsh Government 2021c). The Welsh Government commissioned research, a review of existing evidence, and published a report in April 2022 on the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ+ communities, and a similar picture emerged (WCEC 2022). These reports also highlighted the need for improved strategic coordination on LGBTQ+ issues, including collection of robust data, and using data to improve policies. Moreover, additional observations by Welsh Government, for instance in the Locked Out report (Welsh Government 2021e) and in our response to the COVID-19 Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Socio-economic Sub-Group Report (Welsh Government 2020a), revealed further inequalities experienced during the pandemic by ethnic minority communities and disabled people in Wales.
Emerging evidence also suggests LGBTQ+ people may have faced barriers in being unable to access healthcare services or medication as a result of the pandemic, while in certain cases being at increased risk of violence, abuse, homelessness, lower rates of employment, social isolation and loneliness (EHRC 2020; LGBT Foundation 2020; EHRC, 2018a: pp139–140). Research shows that LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be victims of domestic abuse (EHRC 2018a: pp139-140). Furthermore, LGBT Foundation’s Domestic Abuse Support Programme has seen demand for support rise since lockdown measures were introduced: a 38% rise in the number of people referred for domestic abuse support, and a 38% increase in calls to the helpline referring to domestic abuse (LGBT Foundation 2020). LGBT young people are more likely to find themselves homeless than their non LGBT peers, comprising up to 24% of the youth homeless population (Albert Kennedy Trust 2015) and employment rates are considerably lower for trans and non-binary people, and lower again for Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic people who are transgender (GEO 2018a). Parts of the LGBTQ+ population are also more likely to be lonely or socially isolated, especially older people (LGBT Foundation 2020).
The actions within this plan aim to address several of these issues and barriers, through providing tangible and measurable actions to be taken to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people in Wales. Progress can and never should be taken for granted and more work needs to be done for Wales to lead by example and safeguard the hard-won freedoms of LGBTQ+ people.
The international context
We have witnessed a rise in anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes and hostility in many parts of the world. Looking at our neighbours in Europe, including within the UK, we have seen a rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. However, this is at odds with strong levels of support among the public to tackle exclusion of LGBTQ+ people. As the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association stated in their 2022 report, there are 2 sides to the story that clearly emerge (ILGA-Europe 2022a):
“On 1 hand, there was a severe rise in 2021 of anti-LGBTI rhetoric from politicians and other leaders, which has fuelled a wave of violence, with anti-LGBTI hate crime reported in every country this year; while on the other the response to this has been an allied determination in many countries, and at the European level, to tackle hatred and exclusion of LGBTI people”.
We should not fail to acknowledge that the UK, once ranked the most LGBT-friendly nation in Europe, finished in 14th place in the most recent European rankings (ILGA-Europe 2022b). We must recognise that disadvantage, inequality, and discrimination remain a reality for many LGBTQ+ people living in Wales. More broadly, the human rights of LGBTQ+ people are under continuing or renewed threat in many countries.
From an international perspective, this Action Plan is underpinned by the Human Rights-based approach set out by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNSDG 2022) and the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (IESOGI) (OHCHR 2022b), and supports the realisation of rights guaranteed to LGBTQ+ people included those in the:
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
- International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
- United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
- United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)
- United Nations Principles for Older Persons (UNPOP)
In this respect, we also welcome the UN Human Rights Council decision to renew the mandate of the UN IESOGI in July 2022 (OHCHR 2022c). In 2016, when the Council created the first ever IESOGI mandate in the human rights system, it sent the clear message to the world that all LGBTQ+ people, with no exception, should be able to live a life free of violence and discrimination. The renewal of the mandate was not a given, and we are pleased that this important work will continue, showing clear support for tackling violence and discrimination against people of diverse sexual orientations and gender globally.
This approach ensures the Plan will also contribute strongly to the Welsh Government’s fulfilment of its Public Sector Equality Duty functions, under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010. It will link to related work on gender equality, disability, race, and other protected characteristics under this Act. We recognise the need to ensure our equality Action Plans work together.
While this is the first policy framework to focus on the specific needs and vulnerabilities of LGBTQ+ people, it forms part of a wider approach to mainstream equality and strengthen human rights protections for everyone. As such, it should be read alongside our Strategic Equality Plan, Anti-racist Wales Action Plan, Framework for Action on Disability, and Gender Equality Plan (Welsh Government 2020b; Welsh Government 2022b; Welsh Government 2019a; and Welsh Government 2020e).
The making of an LGBTQ+ Action Plan for Wales
The Welsh Government has worked with a wide range of LGBTQ+ communities and the organisations that support these communities to help develop this Action Plan. In the summer of 2020, we commissioned a survey to capture LGBTQ+ people’s lived experiences in Wales, alongside holding a series of focus groups. Some of the important subjects raised in the survey, to which over 600 responses were received, included (1) tackling LGBTQ+ discrimination, (2) improving safety, and (3) addressing health inequalities, particularly trans health.
Focus groups looked at the needs of LGBTQ+ young people; older people; disabled people; and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people, and we also worked with other organisations including the Wales TUC, Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales, Pride Cymru, and LGBT Helpline Cymru.
In November 2020, we brought together an LGBTQ+ External Reference Group to provide advice and guidance and in January 2021, the Independent LGBTQ+ Expert Panel was established to provide detailed advice on LGBTQ+ equality in Wales. We are indebted to the wide range of stakeholders from across communities who have worked with us to get to this stage, particularly the Independent LGBTQ+ Expert Panel. This Expert Panel was comprised of people with a depth of community-based, professional, and academic experience, as well as personal lived experience. The work of the Panel was enhanced by separate working groups which considered many issues in more detail. The Expert Panel produced a report (Welsh Government 2021c) including recommendations on incorporation of human rights into domestic law, strategic coordination and integration of plans, and training, awareness-raising and capacity building.
The report included recommendations for a broad range of policy areas, including:
- recognition of trans and non-binary people
- home and communities
- health and social care
- education and lifelong learning
- supporting the COVID-19 response
These recommendations formed the basis of the draft LGBTQ+ Action Plan on which the Welsh Government consulted from July to October 2021 (Welsh Government 2021c).
More than 1,300 responses were received from individuals and organisations, offering views on the proposed Plan. A full analysis of the responses was undertaken by an external research company which has been used to help finalise the action plan. We are grateful to all individuals and organisations that took the time to respond to the consultation. A summary of consultation responses has been published along this Action Plan.
There were 2 significant campaigns identified within the responses. One centred on banning conversion practices, sometimes known as “conversion therapy”, and advocated a more explicit definition within the Action Plan. These responses felt that a clearer definition would be valuable in ensuring a balanced application of the law. Another campaign centred on concerns and the belief that issues relating to sex, sexual orientation, and gender should be addressed under a separate action plan.
In this respect, it is important to set out that the Welsh Government’s position on trans people is clear (Welsh Government 2020c; Senedd Cymru 2022b):
“Trans women are women, trans men are men, and non-binary identities are valid”.
Through Impact Assessments, engagement with the LGBTQ+ Expert Panel, and the consultation responses, we continue to evaluate potential effects of our LGBTQ+ Action Plan. We have developed an Integrated Impact Assessment, we evaluated the potential effects of the LGBTQ+ Action Plan on women’s rights and, in considering provision set out in Schedule 3 of the Equality Act 2010, we are of the view that support for LGBTQ+ people and publishing this Plan will not result in the erosion of the rights of women, including cisgender and transgender women.
Improving, implementing, and monitoring actions
In response to our consultation on the draft Action Plan, the need for clarity on some actions and their implementation was raised. Some of the actions were described as too broad and more detailed proposals were required, including who was responsible for each action (e.g., “action owners”), when each action would be undertaken, and what the outcome would be for LGBTQ+ people in Wales. It was also mentioned that, throughout the draft Action Plan, actions concerning research and collection of data were suggested multiple times, without clear purpose or aims. Finally, a recurrent point was around unclear terminology and the need to provide a glossary of terms.
To clarify those aspects, we have separated out the vision we have for the LGBTQ+ Action Plan and the wider outcomes we want to achieve with the updated actions. The table of actions “LGBTQ+ Action Plan: Actions and Key Performance Indicators” has been updated to set out some measurable activities, including outputs; who is responsible for each action; how each action will be carried out; and how we will measure success. Actions concerning research and data collection have been clarified in the context of achieving a specific aim, whether on improving services or devising strategies and plans in a specific area. We aim to provide an annual progress update to show what has been achieved and what more needs to be done and, ultimately, we hope to measure the impact of this Action Plan on LGBTQ+ communities in future. A glossary of terms, which has been shared with representatives of LGBTQ+ communities for accuracy and inclusion, has been added to this plan.
Measuring the impact of this Action Plan on LGBTQ+ communities will be crucial in evaluating its success and efficacy. Work will be done initially by the Welsh Government to outline how this Action Plan can be evaluated. This includes developing a theory of change to account for how activities will lead to desired outcomes and impacts, and upon which assumptions this success is based. We will also identify what information can be used to indicate the impact of the Action Plan, and whether this data is already collected by Welsh Government and other public bodies or if further data need to be collected. Designing and implementing the evaluation of the Action Plan will be undertaken in close collaboration with Welsh Government’s Equality, Poverty and Children’s Evidence and Support Division.
The impact of this Action Plan, and other Welsh Government Action Plans, will depend on our approach to implementation. An intersectional approach will be crucial. Through our work with internal and external stakeholders, we will consider and draw-in expertise from across a range of protected characteristics, to ensure that combined impacts are considered, as the Plan is put into action. Our internal stakeholder group, mostly composed of Deputy Directors and Heads of Policy, will be a central point for the governance of LGBTQ+ related work in the Welsh Government, and ensure that work is joined up in shaping and delivering the plan. Governance frameworks for all other equality plans will also be adjusted for the same purpose, and reporting mechanisms, including risk reporting, identified, and put in place.
The Welsh Government’s activities affect more than 3 million people every day. Impact Assessment (IA) is a structured way to consider the factors that mean our policies affect different people‘s lives in different ways. Impact assessment guides us to better policy making and implementation and it supports our efforts to work collaboratively across portfolios to deliver the Ministers’ vision to make a real difference for people in Wales. It is the process of identifying the possible consequences of a current or proposed action, and it plays an important part in options appraisal and decision making. This is the reason why our Impact Assessments are published alongside this LGBTQ+ Action Plan, including the assessment of impact through our Integrated Impact Assessment (IIA) approach.
Data and research
The collection and analysis of data, including personal narratives from those who are experts by experience, is key to understanding the extent of the inequalities facing LGBTQ+ people in Wales. We are aware we must do more to improve the collection and reporting of equality data in Wales. Hence, we have established the Welsh Government Equality Evidence Unit which will provide cross-cutting analytical support to improve the collation, availability, and use of equalities evidence which in turn can help drive forward on-the-ground change to tackle inequalities in Wales. For instance, for those Actions in this Plan where Welsh Government leads on data collection and use, best practice concerning compliance with GDPR will be used.
It is important for Welsh Government to collect actionable evidence about its ability to deliver government priorities, and whether or not they are effectively implemented. The lawful basis for processing information as part of any data collection exercise is our public task; that is, exercising our official authority to undertake the core role and functions of the Welsh Government. There may be occasions when we collect special category data and the lawful basis for processing this information is that it is for statistical or research purposes. All personal data provided to Welsh Government is held on secure servers, with contact details and any personal data we collect stored in restricted folders. Research projects might have different requirements when it comes to how long personal data is retained, hence participants of each research project will be informed separately of the relevant data destruction timeframe.
All data collected by Welsh Government will be reported in an anonymised format. Welsh Government reports will not contain contact details and any identifiable information in open-ended answers will be removed. This will always be the case unless otherwise agreed with the individual(s) concerned. Under UK GDPR, providers of personal information to Welsh Government have the following rights:
- to access a copy of their own data
- for us to rectify inaccuracies in that data
- to object to or restrict processing (in certain circumstances)
- for their data to be ‘erased’ (in certain circumstances)
- to lodge a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) who is our independent regulator for data protection
The contact details for the Information Commissioner’s Office are: Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF. Phone: 01625 545 745 or 0303 123 1113. Website: ico.gov.uk. The Welsh Government’s Data Protection Officer can be contacted at: Welsh Government, Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF10 3NQ, Email: DataProtectionOfficer@gov.wales.
A plan for all LGBTQ+ people
The consultation responses pointed to the lack of acknowledgement of certain LGBTQ+ groups or communities, such as bisexual, intersex, and asexual and aromantic people (Ace/Aro) in the Action Plan, as well as the lack of focus on the experiences of non-binary people. Some of the actions now clearly state that they concern all groups under the broader LGBTQ+ umbrella, which includes those communities; while others specifically address the needs of underserved groups, such as bisexual, non-binary and intersex people.
Stakeholder groups have recommended that we should use the acronym LGBTQ+ in relation to this work. Both the Expert Panel and the Welsh Government recognise there are different views and usages across our communities, and that practice is likely to change again in future. For further details, please our Glossary of Terms.
This Action Plan will be published in the most accessible form possible, to make sure that it reaches all LGBTQ+ people, including young people and disabled people. When the plan makes reference to LGBTQ+ people, this includes people of all ages.
The Welsh language is one of the treasures of Wales. It is part of what defines us as people and as a nation. Our ambition as Welsh Government is to see the number of people able to enjoy speaking and using Welsh reach a million by 2050. At the beginning of the 6th Senedd, the Welsh Government published a 5 year work programme for delivering “Cymraeg 2050: A million Welsh speakers” during 2021 to 2026 (Welsh Government 2022c). Whilst not a protected characteristic, Welsh speaking LGBTQT+ people also have specific Welsh language needs and intersectional identities. Therefore this LGBTQ+ Action Plan should be read in combination with the Welsh Language strategy and plans, considering the role of Welsh language across the activities outlined below. The Welsh language, and the responsibility for acting to protect it, belongs to us all. Everyone has their role, regardless of where they live or how much Welsh language they can speak. We hope to see more organisations and public leaders taking responsibility for the language.
We will recognise 'intersectionality'
Recognising the intersecting needs across several characteristics of an individual or group such as sexual orientation, gender reassignment, race, disability, and religion, is often defined as “intersectionality” (see below, “Glossary of Terms”). In the responses, there was a clear desire to see more recognition of LGBTQ+ people as individuals, who may have many other aspects and layers of their identity and lives. Some of these other characteristics can also be linked to additional barriers or inequality. As a government, we believe we should not be addressing LGBTQ+ inequalities in isolation, which is the motivation behind the Action Plans to address minorities, underserved, or disadvantaged groups.
The LGBTQ+ Action Plan is intended to be used alongside other plans and initiatives, such as the Anti-racist Wales Action Plan, Framework for Action on Disability, and Gender Equality Plan, to make sure that all discrimination is addressed and reduced for everyone, whatever their personal circumstances. For instance, the Welsh Government has a clear plan to develop and implement learning disability policy from 2022 to 2026, and guidance to support the delivery of autism services. Additionally, our Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence National Strategy 2022 to 2026 aims to take action to tackle violence, gender inequality and misogyny head on gender-based violence, misogyny, and sexism remain issues faced by many LGBTQ+ people. Therefore, when working we must consider other aspects of discrimination and how they intersect with disability, gender, age, race, and LGBTQ+. The above-mentioned strategies and plans should also be used in conjunction with this LGBTQ+ Action Plan.
“Attaining cultural humility with the full appreciation of the intersectionality of humanity is an ultimate educational goal”.
Stakeholder groups: nothing about us without us
In rewriting this plan we aimed to say what we will do, in clearer terms, especially concerning the work with communities and groups across Wales. The active role of stakeholders and community representatives has been a key component during the development of this plan. This vital engagement will continue as we move to implement the actions. We will continue to listen to and understand the needs of groups, organisations and communities under the broad LGBTQ+ umbrella.
The LGBTQ+ Expert Panel, which provided invaluable help in the formation of this plan, will be refreshed and formalised into an ongoing advisory group that will continue to provide advice and insight to help the implementation of the plan, focusing on the needs of LGBTQ+ communities in Wales.
We will also continue to improve and increase our engagement with grassroots organisations that support LGBTQ+ people in Wales, as well as groups across Wales who have a direct interest in this area of policy. Particular attention will be given to the matter of banning conversion practices and to the establishment of a working group of people with professional and lived experiences in this area.