Government to fund National Conversion Therapy Helpline – despite refusal to ban practice outright

Minister for Equalities Mike Freer has announced a support service for victims of conversion therapy

A new National Conversion Therapy Helpline has been announced days after it was confirmed a ban on the practice will contain several loopholes.

Mike Freer, minister for equalities, announced on Friday (13 May) that a government-funded support service for victims of conversion therapy, accessible via a helpline or online, will be operated by LGBTQ+ anti-abuse charity Galop.

The announcement comes in the same week that the Tory government confirmed its conversion therapy ban will not cover trans conversion therapy, and will allow any “consenting” adult to undergo the debunked and dangerous practice.

Activists have said the loopholes in the proposed ban will “continue to put lives at risk”.

The new helpline will provide victims – or those at risk – of conversion therapy with “initial pastoral support, information, and tailored advice”.

“Conversion therapy blights people’s lives, and it will never achieve its intended outcomes,” Freer said in a statement.

“This practice has no place in modern society and we are taking action to ensure it is banned in the UK.

“We have chosen Galop to deliver this new service as they can draw on their significant expertise to deliver a successful service that provides victims of conversion therapy with effective and compassionate support.”

Leni Morris, Galop’s CEO, added: “We have been working with victims and survivors of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ for many years, and we see the long-term, even life-long, effects this type of abuse can have.

“The people we work with often face significant barriers in finding information and seeking support when they are subjected to this kind of abuse, and we are glad to be able to use this funding to extend and expand the information and support available to all victims of conversion practices in the UK.

“The National Conversion Therapy Helpline is a vital lifeline for our community, and we are pleased it will continue to be here for all LGBT+ people who need it.”

Delivering the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament on Tuesday (10 May), Prince Charles announced that “legislation will be introduced to ban conversion therapy”.

But the government confirmed in the speech’s guidance notes, seen by ITV News, that the Conversion Therapy (Prohibition) Bill will only “ban conversion therapy practices intended to change sexual orientation” – and not those targeting a person’s gender identity.

The measure “will protect under-18s, regardless of circumstance, and over-18s who do not consent and who are coerced or forced to undergo conversion therapy practice”.
Campaigners have warned that previous proposals for a conversion therapy ban have allowed a loophole for religious conversion therapy, one of the most common forms of the practice.

Jayne Ozanne, a former LGBTQ+ government advisor, told PinkNews: “By creating a loophole of consent, the government continues to ignore the advice of legal experts and survivors like myself, who know that this will continue to put many lives at risk.

“It is utterly immoral they have omitted trans people from a ban and created so many loopholes, that risk making this is a ban in name only.”