Switchboard LGBT+ sees helpline calls surge amid cost of living crisis and rise in anti-LGBTQ+ hate

Switchboard website on phone

Switchboard LGBT+, the LGBTQ+ helpline, has seen a huge increase in the number of calls to its services since changing to a free 0800 number. 

The charity moved to the freephone number on 3 March amid the continued pressure of the cost-of-living crisis. 

Sharing its data with PinkNews, the charity revealed that in the week following the launch of the 0800 number it handled 610 conversations – three times the amount during the same week in 2022. 

Stephanie Fuller, Switchboard’s CEO, explained that there could be many factors driving this rise in calls: “It is hard to pinpoint what exactly is the most prevalent cause for that rise in contact with our service – increased awareness of Switchboard due to the publicity of the free phone number and the cost of living crisis, as well as the ongoing public discourse around LGBTQ+ rights and, the fact that we have more volunteers on the lines who are able to handle a higher volume of calls are also typical factors influencing calls to Switchboard.”

This is not the first time this year the service has seen a spike in demand. 

In February, both Switchboard and trans children’s charity Mermaids saw an increase in calls after the death of trans teenager Brianna Ghey

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Compared to the same week in February 2022, Switchboard saw a 79 per cent rise in the number of calls they received with a significant shift in focus to topics around transphobia, gender identity and hate crimes; 40 per cent specifically referencing Ghey specifically. 

Switchboard has ‘never been more vital’

“When our volunteers answer the phone, they never know what that next conversation will be, but just like the 610 conversations last week, our amazing volunteers will be here to listen to whoever needs us,” Fuller added. 

Switchboard’s move to the free number was confirmed to ensure anyone who needs the service is able to access it. 

When launching the service at the beginning of March, Fuller said that with the cost-of-living crisis, it has “never been more vital” that the LGBTQ+ community can access the charity, at no charge to them. 

“Moving the helpline to a free phone number ensures that no caller will have to consider the cost when deciding to make the decision to pick up the phone to call Switchboard,” the CEO noted. 

To promote the move and celebrate the work of Switchboard, the charity collaborated on a short film entitled The Call, starring Waterloo Road’s Adam Ali. 

Written, directed and produced by Jordan Rossi of Rankin Creative, the short focused on a “troubled, nervous, prospective university student” who is struggling with their sexuality.

Through calls to Switchboard, Ali’s character embarks on a journey of self-discovery. 

Switchboard is staffed by 160 LGBTQ+ volunteers who handle phone calls between 10am and 10pm, 365 days a year. 

Since taking its first call in 1974, the charity has had more than four million conversations with LGBTQ+ people about everything ranging from coming out to safe sex and finding local support groups. 

Switchboard LGBT+ can be contacted on its new number 0800 0119 100

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