More Than 70 Children Aged 3 And 4 Referred To NHS Gender Clinic

The NHS has called for a minimum age of seven for child referrals for therapy following revelations about a London clinic, which will close next year.
More Than 70 Children Aged 3 And 4 Referred To NHS Gender Clinic
The NHS's Tavistock Centre in London on June 23, 2023. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Rachel Roberts
Dozens of pre-school aged children were referred to the Tavistock Clinic for psychological assessment before the north London facility was ordered to be closed following a series of revelations from staff.

A total of 382 youngsters aged six and under were referred to the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) over the past decade, official figure show.

The clinic is due to close in March 2024 following a damning report in 2022 by the independent Cass Review which looked into the practice of the controversial clinic and found it was “not safe” for children.

Figures released by the trust, first reported in the Daily Mail, show a sharp rise in the numbers of children referred to the clinic for gender confusion over the past decade—up from 136 in 2010-2011 to 3,585 in 2021-2022.

A further breakdown reveals that 12 three-year-olds, 61 four-year-olds, 140 five-year-olds and 169 six-year-olds were referred during the same ten-year period.

Campaigners who oppose the teaching of gender ideology in schools say that such young children should never be referred by doctors or parents for psychological assessment because children commonly go through phases of saying they are something they are not.

Concerns have also been raised that transgender activist groups, such as Mermaids, have been allowed to refer children to GIDS even when GPs have refused to do so.

NHS England bosses are now considering introducing a minimum age of seven for future referrals and have issued interim guidelines saying that puberty blockers should not be prescribed for gender questioning children unless they are taking part in a clinical trial.

A new consultation from NHS England states: “To date, there has been no minimum age threshold and children have been referred into the Tavistock GIDS from as young as four years.

“For some people, this just seems too young, and they are concerned that it could result in unnecessary and inappropriate referrals being made. For example, we know that showing an interest in clothes or toys of the opposite sex or—displaying behaviours more commonly associated with the opposite sex—is reasonably common behaviour in childhood and is usually not indicative of gender incongruence.”

The consultation also presents the argument in favour of referring very young children, saying that some would argue there should not be a minimum age threshold as expert NHS support should be available “to any child experiencing gender distress.”

“Furthermore, they would argue that having no minimum age threshold may also provide an important safeguarding measure against children being encouraged or supported to take any premature action with regards to their gender identity which might narrow or close down future choices.”

The GIDS clinic was run by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust since 1989 which confirms it had no lower age limit on referrals—although not all were accepted and not all would have led to any kind of treatment beyond support and advice.

The clinic had legal action taken against it for giving hormonal treatment, such as puberty blockers, to children as young as eleven, until this was halted following a High Court case in 2020.

Stephanie Davies-Arai of campaign group Transgender Trend said, “Children really don’t need gender clinics. Unfortunately, some parents are now worried that their gender non-conforming child may have been ‘born in the wrong body’ and need professional help. This has been pushed by transgender activists who have no understanding of perfectly normal childhood developmental stages.”

She said that waiting until the age of seven to allow referrals does not go far enough if the child is allowed to “transition” by misguided parents and schools.

“The problem is that by that age, the parent may have ’socially transitioned' their child for years so the child arrives at the clinic fully convinced they are really the opposite sex.

“What’s really needed is sensible training for all NHS health professionals who can advise parents on ways to support their child to be happy as they are, without the need for future hormones or surgery.”

The latest revelation concerning pre-school children comes in the same month as the government released new guidelines for schools to deal with the increasing number of children questioning their gender amid fears of a social contagion.

The non-statutory guidance, published by the Department for Education and currently out for consultation, states that teachers do not have to affirm a gender-confused child’s chosen “identity” or use their preferred pronouns, outlining the need to safeguard vulnerable children and protect the sex-based rights and safety of girls.

Minster for Women and Equalities Kemi Badenoch recently highlighted the problem of social contagion in schools and online and the issue of children who may be gay falsely believing they are the opposite gender.

Ms. Badenoch received widespread praise from concerned parents and child safeguarding groups after she told MPs that it was “harmful” to teach children they could be “born in the wrong body.”

“We are seeing, I would say, almost an epidemic of young gay children being told that they are trans and being put on a medical pathway for irreversible decisions and they are regretting it,” Ms. Badenoch said earlier this month.

Launching the new guidance, she said that at primary school, children should be banned from socially transitioning, “except in the most extreme safeguarding cases, and I expect that to include clinical advice.”

A spokesman for the Tavistock Clinic, which is set to be replaced by regional hubs, said: ‘The GIDS pathway provides psychological assessment, treatment, and support for families, so we are unable to provide figures on those who have undergone physical interventions.

“The outcome of gender identity development in pre-pubertal young people is uncertain and so “treatment” is not provided.

“Most often there would be a one-off discussion with the parents or carers to provide support and advice.”

Rachel Roberts is a London-based journalist with a background in local then national news. She focuses on health and education stories and has a particular interest in vaccines and issues impacting children.
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