We have all sorts of conversations, and we take every one seriously. Whatever made you reach out, we’re glad you did, and we want to help you.
Here are some things people might call us for: Information about support groups for someone who is struggling with their gender identity Support for a man who has been the victim of homophobic abuse, but has previously had a bad experience going to the police. Contact details for an LGBT-friendly therapist. Support for a lesbian teenager thrown out of her home by her parents, and who needs somewhere to stay. Information on how to get to local gay pubs for someone with mobility issues. Times and places for a local bisexual social group. Listening to some concerns a mother has about her child who is trans.
If it’s your first time, well done. We know how nervous you might feel, but you have taken the most difficult step.
If you’ve reached out before, welcome back!
You can get it touch on the phone, or through the Instant Messaging.
Our helpline number is 0800 0119 100
We are open between 10am and 10pm every day of the week, 365 days of the year.
Who will answer the call?
There are about 160 trained telephone volunteers at Switchboard who all identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans.
Can anyone call you?
The majority of those who call are LGBT+ but we also get lots of callers who are considering issues around their sexuality. And then there are friends, parents or family members of LGBT+ loved ones who are looking for some independent advice and support – we welcome them all!
What can I talk about?
We are here to listen to anything that you want to talk about. Nothing is off limits, and if you feel nervous when you hear that strange voice – there’s no rush, take your time.
For over 40 years people have been talking to us about:
- Coming out
- Relationship issues
- Family problems
- Issues at work or college
- Safer sex and sexual health
- Having sex for the first time
- Looking for LGBT+ venues
- LGBT+ social and support groups
Sometimes it takes a while to get to the heart of an issue. We understand it might take you some time to get to the main thing you really want to talk about. We also believe you are best placed to know your situation and the answer that’s right for you. We will listen while you talk through your options with you and hope that you’ll feel empowered by coming up with your own solutions.
One of the things we are committed to discussing with our callers is safer sex to prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. While we never judge your choices, we aim to make you aware of your own sexual health.
How long will it take for my call to be answered?
The helpline is staffed by volunteers and we answer thousands of calls a year. Some calls last a few minutes, others can last almost an hour. The speed with which you are answered can also depend on the number of volunteers available at the time of your call. We try to aim to have more volunteers on shift in the evenings and at weekends when demand is higher. We are also keen for you to use our Instant Messaging service. There is more than one way of getting in touch.
When you call us you are placed in a queue. We understand how frustrating that can feel, but please be patient.
Don’t give up. Ring back. We want to take your call and we’ll answer it as soon as we can.
If you send us an email, we aim to reply within 5 business days.
Can I leave a message? Will you call me back?
When you call the helpline we do not have a caller display so we don’t see your number. You are not able to leave a message and we aren’t able to return calls. We hope you understand.
This is part of our commitment to ensure your confidentiality. Because even if we rang a number someone had left for us on a message, how could we be sure we’d be speaking to the person who’d left the message?
Where is Switchboard?
We’re based in Islington, North London – a convenient location for many of our volunteers.
Switchboard’s offices are fully accessible and were paid for by community fundraising and grants. A few years ago a volunteer’s generous legacy meant that a new phone system could be installed. The legacy also allowed us to clear the outstanding debt on the building.
Switchboard is a bright, airy office with a dedicated phone room where volunteers answer the phones and connect with people through email and Instant Messaging. Usually there are a few volunteers on each shift so we can ask each other for advice and provide support for each other if necessary.
What if our helpline is closed?
We know that finding the right support is important, especially if you need someone to talk to right now. Switchboard operates from 10am to 10pm, 365 days a year but if we’re not available to support you and you can’t wait until we are Crisis Text Line and Shout can help.
If you don’t need a response immediately, you can always email us at [email protected] and we aim to reply within 5 business days.