‘Safety of LGBTQ+ youth not a priority,’ activist group argues

‘Safety of LGBTQ+ youth not a priority,’ activist group argues
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In response to the recent youth work’s operating budget being revealed, an activist group has said the safety of LGBTQ+ youth in Flanders is not a priority for the region’s government.

Last Wednesday, Flemish Youth Minister Benjamin Dalle announced he would free up an additional €1.54 million in extra support for youth work, but this announcement failed to specifically mention LGBTQ+ youth, according to Wel Jong Niet Hetero, an LGBTQ+ youth federation.

“The safety of LGBTQ+ youth is not a priority. While every day we notice that the need and quantity of questions from young people are skyrocketing,” Joppe De Campeneere, a Wel Jong Niet Hetero spokesperson wrote in a press release.

The organisation has also created a hashtag #SafetyNotFound and launched a petition, asking the Flemish government for a real investment in the safety of LGBTQ+ youth.

Ahead of operating subsidies for youth associations being allocated for the 2022-2025 period, recognised associations could apply for support up until 1 January 2021.

The Department of Culture, Youth and Media as well as three advisory committees with external experts then examined these policy notes. Based on their findings, advice was given to Dalle for what financial support should be given to each federation.

As part of the new operating budget, it was announced that, alongside six other organisations, Wel Jong Niet Hetero’s funding would be cut, which is what sparked the organisation’s claims.

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In response to the claims that the government is neglecting the safety and rights of these youths, Dalle put out a statement offering transparency on his decision and stressing the “great importance he attaches to the position of LGBTQ+ in society and youth work.”

“We regret the comments made by the organisation about the minister’s stance on this subject, especially as the minister allocated more funds than was recommended by the committee,” Dalle’s spokesperson told The Brussels Times.

‘Objective allocation’

The statement made by Dalle specified that the committee gave a negative assessment of the application submitted by Wel Jong Niet Hetero and that he was advised to cut the funding from €224,017 in 2021 to €152,784.54.

“A lot of questions were raised within the committee about how the organisation is operating,” Dalle’s spokesperson said.

However, because of the “importance of the themes around which Wel Jong Niet Hetero is active,” the sharp decrease in subsidies that was recommended by the committee was limited by Dalle, who cut back the funding to 90% of the original amount: €201,613.3 euros.

According to the group, the reduction of the operational resources is in sharp contrast with the indignant reactions from the Flemish ministers when an incident of hatred or violence against LGBTQ+ people appears in the media.

“I understand the disappointment of the organisation. At the same time, we have to deal responsibly with resources allocated by the government and the procedures that ensure an objective allocation of public funds,” Dalle said, adding that “it is important for the organisation to deal with the negative assessment of the advisory committee.”

Dalle stressed that the government will also continue to engage with the organisation in the coming months about how they operate and “how they can further professionalise.”

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