Safeguarding Concerns at GIDS

by Sonia Appleby

Safeguarding Concerns at GIDS

by Sonia Appleby
Sonia Appleby
Case Owner
I have 39 years' post-qualification experience as a social worker specializing in safeguarding and child protection within social care, court proceedings (children's guardian) and health settings.
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Sonia Appleby
Case Owner
I have 39 years' post-qualification experience as a social worker specializing in safeguarding and child protection within social care, court proceedings (children's guardian) and health settings.
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Safeguarding Scrutiny and the National Gender Identity Development Service

My Details

My name is Sonia Appleby.  I am a qualified social worker (1981); adult psychoanalytic psychotherapist (I992); MSc. in health psychology, (research) and MBA.  I have a long career safeguarding and protecting children in social care, health and as a children’s guardian in public and private proceedings. 

I  am currently  the Named Professional for Safeguarding Children and the Safeguarding Children Lead at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. I am therefore still employed by the Trust against which I am bringing my claim.

What is Safeguarding?

In all NHS trusts and organisations there are professionals such as myself, who work with other internal departments and external agencies to ensure there are 'root and branch' systems to keep patients and service users safe. This means responding to patient/service users' personal experiences, also including their environmental, familial, community/peer circumstances and sometimes any of the aforementioned domains could require the intervention of other professionals in different agencies.  Safeguarding children and young people also concerns ensuring there is a sufficiently, healthy culture that does not unwittingly contribute to potential harm regarding the people who use and deliver NHS services.

Safeguarding within the Trust

My primary task is to ensure that clinicians protect their patients/service users from avoidable harm and are also able to recognize and appropriately respond to situations where under 18s are in need of safeguarding.  My secondary task is challenge practices which are either harmful or could lead to harm. The Trust is commissioned by NHS England to deliver a National Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), which provides services for children and adolescents diagnosed with gender dysphoria. The treatments available also include "puberty blockers". 

I have sought to ensure the principle of ''safeguarding children and young people'' is upheld whilst service users are being assessed and treated within the GIDS service. 

My Claim

I lodged a whistle-blowing claim in November  2019 at the Central London Employment Tribunal. Since then I have made 2 applications to amend my claim as new information came to light. 

In my claim, I allege that because I made "protected disclosures" to my line manager regarding concerns raised by  GIDS staff ( that the health or safety of patients was being, had been or was likely to be endangered), I was subjected to detriments. 

I allege these detriments are:

i)  the Tavistock misused it's own procedures to besmirch me and therefore jeopardize the role of safeguarding within the Trust;

ii) there was an unwritten but mandated directive from the Tavistock management that safeguarding concerns should not be brought to my attention despite being the Trust Safeguarding Children Lead;

iii) and, clinicians were discouraged from reporting safeguarding concerns to me.

I also allege various other detriments. 

Further to disclosures made to Newsnight by former staff, BBC Newsnight produced a programme focusing on the allegation that the Trust did not want to report any concerns to me.  

and you can watch it here 

Can you Help?

Your support will assist in the payment for expert lawyers to prove that I was subjected to various detriments because of my protected disclosures before the impartial employment tribunal. I maintain that there needs to be proper and effective safeguarding scrutiny of GIDS especially given the nature of its work, and to prove that some clinicians have been told by the GIDS Director not to seek safeguarding input from the Trust's Safeguarding Children Lead, which is dangerous, in terms of patient/service user safety and contributes to a detrimental, organisational culture to keep safeguarding concerns hidden from scrutiny. 

I want it known that I have always supported the availability of a gender identity service for children, adolescents, adults and their families, and staff who deliver these services, but like other NHS services, the National Gender Identity Service,  in doing its work, needs to be transparent and open to safeguarding commentary regarding the delivery of its services.  

This is not an "anti-trans" case. I am supportive of the transgender community and their right to seek services that are both supportive and safe.

Thank you for your support. 

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