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A ground-breaking report from the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee has paved the way for social workers to deliver more support to people affected by transgender issues. 

MPs highlighted significant gaps in knowledge and a lack of sufficient understanding of transgender issues by professionals in the public sector, with particular shortcomings identified within the NHS, police and prison service. 

The committee report on transgender equality – the first of its kind – also noted “worrying evidence about some social workers’ lack of knowledge on gender variance.”

Better support to clients

Within 30 key recommendations from the parliamentary committee to tackle transgender issues, was a recommendation that social workers should be given specific training in this area “as a matter of urgency” to enable them to better support clients.

The same document also found that the NHS and prison service needed “urgent reform” and that there should be more training for police officers and teachers in handling transgender issues.

Gender identity issues

Among the bodies submitting evidence to the committee was Mermaids UK, which offers support for teenagers and children with gender identity issues. 

It cited cases where, if families support their child’s gender variance, social services have attempted to remove children from the family home by treating this as a safeguarding concern and investigating the parents. 

“Social workers have no formal knowledge or training around gender variance and appear to act on their own prejudices rather than researching gender issues,” it said.
The committee also heard evidence that there is a lack of appropriate training of social care staff in transgender issues, raising particular issues for gender variant looked-after children or gender variant children in secure accommodation.

Concern over action plan

Mermaids UK observed that the experience of children in care, or families dealing with social services, had been “poor.” 

This was set in the context of the parliamentary report noting that “across the board, government departments are struggling to support trans people effectively, with the 2011 Advancing Transgender Equality action plan remaining largely unimplemented.”

Wide-ranging recommendations

The report’s recommendations also included a “root-and-branch review” of the NHS’s treatment of transgender people; urgent clarification on the position of transgender prisoners; official recognition of gender to be based on “self-declaration”, rather than a “medicalised” assessment.; mandatory training for police officers on transphobic hate crimes, and the extension of hate crime laws to cover gender identity; and more training for school staff to better support “gender-variant” young people.

Making a difference

Having identified the issues and made recommendations, the parliamentary committee report has kick-started a process that could begin to make a difference for people with transgender issues.

Through better training, social workers and social care staff are set to be placed to make an impact within that process.

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