Mutual Aid Trans Edinburgh

Response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland:

To help ensure those staying at home still have some level of connection with society, one support group set-up during the COVID-19 pandemic has been MATE (Mutual Aid Trans Edinburgh). Their targeted support is for trans and queer people in the Edinburgh area, with an individually tailored approach for those who engage.

The process of engagement is displayed below:

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MATE use a range of ways for the community to engage, such as Signal (a messaging system with a core focus on privacy and security), WhatsApp and SMS. They also have a central email address to receive requests for support.

The services being offered included grocery shopping, collecting prescriptions, advice for accessing trans healthcare, technology advice, mental health support and a range of others.

They have further gone onto deliver care packages for people in need, as well as distributing masks and hand sanitiser for free or through donations to the general public.

MATE also made it clear that they can’t support under-18s, but instead referred to LGBT Youth Scotland for this, and they are also unable to respond to critically urgent needs as their messaging systems are checked once per day, and it could take a few days to provide support to the individual.

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When evaluating the provision of service, around 1/3 of the support requests came from people engaging externally with MATE, and 2/3 was internal requests. It’s expected that as folk join a mutual aid project, they may also find themselves needing support from it at some stage down the line.

Despite the limited resources and being a new support group, MATE consider their service to be a success. As their only reach is via. online provision, they do wish to work more to reach other to others who don’t have such connectivity to queer and trans online networks. They are also aware that the current reach is very white, as well as those providing the support – they are looking to establish a more equal network as part of their outreach.

They’d also like to offer more support, as their currently pool capacity is bigger than the number of requests coming through. It’s feared that people aren’t comfortable to ask for help when they are perfectly entitled to.

In regard to the future support needed, it’s felt important to provide advice and guidance on trans healthcare as lockdown lifts and GIC services change as a result. It’s also viewed that as the economic impacts of the lockdown became more broadly clear, government support for community-based services will be withdrawn. Meanwhile it’s expected that there will be greater support regarding benefits and financial aid, particularly for those coming off furlough or have lost their job as a result of the lockdown.

In the event of a second wave, it’s anticipated that mental health support for the trans and queer community will be important, particularly if a second wave or the winter months create further isolation. It’s suggested peers with lived experience or clear understanding should be best placed to provide such support.

It’s important to note that MATE has been able to provide such a service localised to the Edinburgh region, as within their ability and remit. They were able to cater for some outside of Edinburgh where possible. But, regrettably, this does mean those outside this part of Scotland may continue to be cut-off from mutual aid at such a difficult and trying time.