Trevor Phillips, chair of the government’s independent Equalities Review, spoke out about the problems of homophobic bullying in a consultation report published today.

“We need to focus our efforts to ensure that all of those who are disadvantaged in some way are given the opportunity to reach their full potential and contribute to a vibrant and successful UK economy,” said Mr Phillips. The social cost and lost earnings are thought to cost billions of pounds a year.

One of the 11 areas of inequality that the report hopes to tackle, is “the educational attainment of lesbian, gay and bisexual teenagers who have suffered homophobic bullying”. 4 out of 5 lesbian and gay adults had faced name calling at school, and over half reported suffering physical violence. This had led to 40% considering suicide and self harm.

Though 82% of teachers were aware of homophobic name calling in their schools, worryingly only 6% of schools questioned have an anti bulling policy to deal specifically with gay issues. Bullying is the number one reason given for teenagers playing truant from school, and a young person not in school is twice as likely to commit a crime than a person in mainstream school.

Trevor Phillips’s report notes that this vulnerability is “likely to produce long-lasting and hard-to-shift disadvantages at this life stage”.

The Equalities Review, which will be published in Autumn 2006 will put forward some workable methods to stop such discriminatory behaviour. “We are moving in the right direction”, said Mr Phillips, “but persistent inequality still exists.”