An organisation helping people who have been victims of homophobic and transphobic bullying and hate crime has been given a boost from the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner.
The LGBT Dorset Equality Network has received funding to enable the service to represent gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people across the county who have been subjected to prejudice and abuse.
The funding was awarded from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner's Community Grant Scheme and paid for officers and volunteers from the network to receive training from Dorset Advocacy, providing them with the skills needed to work with people who have been victimised and need additional support.
This could be when making a complaint about hate crime to the police, or dealing with allegations about discrimination to local authorities or the NHS.
The funding also helped set up a partnership between the Network and Dorset Advocacy, enabling more complicated cases to be referred to specialists.
The Network, which is a third party reporting centre for victims of LGBT hate crime, now deals with a wide range of cases, including those taking place in care homes and other healthcare settings. The organisation is also working with HMP The Verne to assist with effective LGBT community support and engagement.
Alan Mercel-Sanca, lead officer from the Network, said the training sessions have given the organisation more confidence to promote their services to members of the county's LGBT community.
He said: "We want to encourage an environment across Dorset where people can speak up and come forward. We're now much clearer on getting the message out about what people can do when they have issues, because we know the structures that Dorset Advocacy use.
"We're now far better as an outreach service because of this training, and we're able to offer much better support to people across Dorset who feel they've been bullied or victimised."
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said: "Nobody should ever have to tolerate being unfairly targeted or discriminated against because of their sexuality or gender identity.
"However, if anyone does find themselves in that situation – as well as having support from the police if a crime has been committed – it's vital they have access to skilled advocates who are able to stand in their corner and argue their case. I'm proud to support the network and I hope during Pride Month, other people who have been victimised will come forward to benefit from their work."