Comment: Why the Government is spending £2 million to tackle bullying, by Jo Swinson

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Minister for Women and Equalities Jo Swinson writes for PinkNews on why the Government has announced new spending to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

Earlier this year singer-songwriter Sam Smith publicly came out and talked openly about being bullied at school. Denying he was gay made the bullying worse and the thing he most hated was how his friends and family heard the names he was called. Fortunately he’s gone on to have a multi-million album selling, Grammy winning career so I think we know who has had the last laugh.

But hindsight is a wonderful thing; bullying can take a terrible toll, have a devastating effect on a young person’s education, isolate them from their peers and damage their self-esteem for life. This absolutely must be stopped, and that is why we have already taken a number of steps to stamp it out in schools. We are providing more than £4 million to organisations that work with schools to tackle all forms of bullying, including homophobic bullying, we have given teachers increased powers, including to search mobiles and tablets to help combat cyber bullying, and I’m very pleased that schools are now inspected on the issue.
Metro’s Youth Chances Survey found that the vast majority of LGB&T young people experience name-calling or abuse and more than half had experienced either discrimination or harassment. Stonewall has found that an estimated quarter will miss school because of it and the schoolwork of 70,000 will suffer. Some teachers report that homophobic language has become so engrained that the children using it don’t even realise it is offensive. This is an unacceptable situation and one the government is committed to changing.
Fortunately there are some signs that homophobic bullying in schools is decreasing: 55 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people surveyed for Stonewall’s 2012 School Report said they had experienced homophobic bullying, down from 65 percent in 2009. But that is still far too many young people suffering needlessly, so further action is needed.

This week I announced eight organisations that will receive a share of a £2 million fund for innovative projects to tackle homophobic bullying. These organisations, including Barnardo’s, Diversity Role Models, Stonewall, and Educational Action Challenging Homophobia (EACH), will work across the country to train teachers, provide face-to-face support for victims, and help schools promote inclusiveness throughout the school environment and embed it into their curriculum.

The trauma of being bullied at school can stay with you for life, and it is completely unacceptable that anyone should have to live their life in fear. The excellent projects funded this week will help eradicate homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying for good.

Jo Swinson is the Lib Dem MP for East Dunbartonshire and Minister for Women and Equalities.