A NEW LGBT+ digital help service and the first of its kind in the country is being piloted in Bolton.

Proud Connections, has been created in response to a steep rise in requests for support during the pandemic.

The scheme is being piloted in Bolton and around the North West, ahead of being rolled out nationwide later in the year.

The Proud Trust, the UK’s largest charity for LGBT+ young people, runs groups locally and has seen a peak in demand for services during lockdown.

The trust aims to be the first port of call for young people, where they can be signposted, informed and join in with an online chat function.

The hub also includes resources and information for trusted adults looking for advice on how to support an LGBT+ young person as they explore their identity. This could be anybody - from a parent, carer or grandparent to teacher, youth group leader, hairdresser or employer.

Ashley Hind, scheme manager, said: “We have seen many more enquiries for our services than we would usually, reflecting how difficult the pandemic has been for people from all walks of life, and our own research has highlighted some worrying mental health statistics.

“For some young people who identify as LGBT+ the pandemic has been particularly tough, amplifying issues they experience in their everyday lives and removing support networks or safe spaces where they can truly be themselves.

“It could be they are living with a person or people who do not accept their identity or who are LGBT+phobic. Some may have experienced online bullying, and others have sadly reported to us they have been locked down in dangerous or abusive situations.

The Bolton Together Consortium has part funded the project in the local area A spokeswoman said: “The trust is supporting service providers through delivery of comprehensive training and offering one-to-one support for emotional health and wellbeing to LGBT+ young people."