The London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard has expanded its services to include digital channels including email and instant messaging for the first time.
Changes unveiled this month by the volunteer-run service hope to reach more gay, bi and trans people in need of confidential advice, support or information across the UK.
The switchboard says emails will be answered as soon as possible, usually within hours, while online chat offers a similar experience to phone calls, with instant answers and a “conversation” between caller and volunteer, an online service which has appealed to younger users.
In 2007, the Switchboard won a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service for its provision of confidential and non-judgemental listening, support, information and referrals for people across the UK, becoming the second LGBT organisation to have done so.
LLGS is also changing its telephone helpline operations, moving from an 020 to an 0300 number.
The new number is 0300 330 0630 and phone lines will remain open from 10am to 11pm every day of the year.
Mark Gatiss, patron of LLGS, said: “After nearly forty years of serving the LGBT community, it’s fantastic to see LLGS embracing the 21st Century with their new instant messaging and email services.”
Gatiss also recorded a birthday message for the Switchboard, which launched in 1974, which can be viewed below.
Joe Lee, co-chair of the organisation, said: “We are very proud of the service we offer, and the value for money we provide. Our overheads are so low because our organisation is led and run by volunteers, with only one paid staff member.”
Last month, the Bristol Lesbian and Gay Switchboard closed and redirected its lines to London after nearly 40 years, saying demand for the phone services had fallen as life became “much easier for gay people”.
The London service’s telephone switchboard speaks to around 20,000 people a year on issues including coming out, where to meet other gay, bi or trans people, sexual health or experiences of homophobia.
London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard’s new helpline number is 0300 330 0630, and lines are open 10am to 11pm, seven days a week.