Response to request for comment by Mermaids
From time to time Mermaids receives queries from media organisations. Mermaids believes that the best way to respond to these queries is to do so publicly and calmly. When appropriate Mermaids will publish the queries and our replies on this Blog. There is no reason why our replies should be exclusive to any media organisation.
This morning we got this email. Our replies are the set out below.
I'm a journalist at <newspaper>, and I've spoken to former staff at GIDS who express concern about the "unethical" influence Mermaids exerts upon NHS staff within the clinic.
We'll be running the story tomorrow, and wondered if you would like to respond to the following allegations?
If so, we'd be grateful for your response to the following allegations, before our deadline this afternoon:
1. The former staff allege that the group attempts to influence the executive members of the Tavistock, often calling them directly to discuss medical pathways. They claim that the group "acts as if it were their service".
They allege that Mermaids, which supports positive affirmation of transgender children and young people, shows "little or no empathy" for the other vulnerable children, for whom a transgender identity may not be permanent. Staff fear these children are being accidentally or unnecessarily sent down a medical pathway to life-changing physical intervention. They allege these children are being "sacrificed" by Mermaids in the group's commitment to secure medical intervention for the young people, whom they believe to be transgender.
How does the group respond to these concerns?
2. In its submission for the £500,000 grant, Mermaids told the National Lottery that "it does not "favour", "lobby" or "push" for medical intervention. That is not the role of the charity. Mermaids provides a wide range of advice and support to children and their families and its focus is not medical treatment.”
The former staff dispute this claim. They say that they would frequently deal with young people and their families, whom they believe had been told by Mermaids to demand access to puberty blockers as quickly as possible.
How does Mermaids respond to these allegations?
Thanks very much and look forward to hearing from you,
Any concerns which former staff may have should of course be made to the appropriate NHS body so that there can be a fair and thorough investigation. Mermaids would cooperate fully. We are however not aware any such complaints have been made.
Mermaids is a support group. Any medical intervention is entirely a matter for clinicians working with children and their families. Mermaids is not involved in those discussions. That is not the role of Mermaids.
Mermaids believes there should not be delays for anyone accessing any medical services. To want to avoid delays is not the same as demanding fast-tracking.
Mermaids does not encourage parents to demand any particular treatment. That is because that is a matter for clinicians working with children and their families.
Mermaids believes children and their families should have access to accurate information about the treatments available. That is because it is better to have accurate information than inaccurate information.
Mermaids communicates with the Tavistock clinic, the only NHS clinic providing the relevant services. If Mermaids did not communicate with the clinic then it would face legitimate criticism at not communicating with the clinic.
Mermaids, alongside other charities supporting trans youth including GIRES and Gendered Intelligence, were stakeholders on the standards of care for the service, to ensure that service user voices were represented. There is an open and transparent relationship between the Tavistock clinic and Mermaids, and other charities that work in this field. The Tavistock clinic delivers general information talks at Mermaids residential weekends for families to inform about the service and the pathways, and hold regular meetings with senior management of both organisations to continue to maintain a respectful relationship.
This does not, however, ever involve conversations around individual medical interventions for service users. This is not within the remit of Mermaids and never has been.
Mermaids cannot be accused of 'sacrificing' children when we have no input into or knowledge of individual cases.
We hope this Blog provides a complete and accessible response to these media queries, and we will if possible answer further media queries on this Blog.