At GenderGP we take safeguarding very seriously. Our experienced safeguarding panel, of which I am the lead, operates according to a robust policy which is available to view here.
A safeguarding concern is raised when a person of any age is considered to be a danger to themselves or others, or when a person is at risk from others.
Where young people are concerned, in situations where they are totally reliant on their parents or guardians for their basic needs to be met, if the parents or guardians are not able to provide adequate care, a safeguarding concern can be raised.
As a therapist, when embarking on counselling, I agree with all my clients before they start to speak that, if there is a risk that they are facing and I deem them to be in danger, it is within my power to escalate their case to a higher authority. This may be their GP or their parents. It goes without saying that this would only ever happen if it were in the best interest of the client.
Unfortunately, when we are talking about transgender healthcare, there appears to be a watering down of conditions that might constitute a safeguarding concern.
Some will claim that offering a child affirmative support – where you listen and believe that what the child is saying is true – is tantamount to abuse and will claim a safeguarding concern to enable them to escalate the case to a higher authority. I have heard many stories of parents who have had their GP call social services merely because a child is being supported in their transition. Sadly, in some cases, this is picked up by a social worker and the case is pursued.
The opposite of affirming care is a lack of care or, worse, conversion therapy, which aims to use external factors, including shock therapy, to change the way someone feels about their identity. This isn’t an exaggeration. I have met people who have undergone electro-shock treatment or aversion therapy to be cured of their desire to be a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth – a safeguarding concern if ever there was one!
Needless to say this approach doesn’t work, it only serves to destroy the patient’s will until they claim that it works just to get the ‘treatment’ to stop. It is little wonder that some branches of psychiatry hold very little credibility within the trans community.
The prevention of affirmative care is a safeguarding issue in and of itself. Affirmative care and an affirming environment will provide child the best chance to alleviate distress and help them to flourish and thrive.
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