The trans takeover of social work

Social workers are being bullied and coerced into accepting a dangerous ideology.

Ken McLaughlin

Topics Identity Politics UK

Women’s rights campaign group Sex Matters has accused the social-work profession of teaching trans ideology to vulnerable children and treating contested ideas about gender ‘as fact’.

As the Telegraph reported earlier this week, guidance produced by the UK’s Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS), an independent body under the Ministry of Justice, suggests that social workers ask children as young as 13 questions like: ‘Your parents have told me that you are a girl / boy, is that what you think, too?’ It also recommends asking children about their sexuality, sexual orientation and ‘gender identity’. According to Sex Matters, such advice is ‘dangerous and unscientific’.

CAFCASS has form for this kind of ideologically motivated guidance. In another document, published in 2021, it tells practitioners that if they fail to ask a child over 13 about their gender identity or sexuality, they should ‘record a defensible decision’ as to why they chose not to. It might also be helpful, CAFCASS suggests, for practitioners to introduce themselves with their ‘preferred pronouns’ before asking children which pronouns they use.

The incursion of trans ideology into social work is not a new phenomenon. As far back as 2017, CAFCASS was encouraging practitioners to use the term ‘gender assigned at birth’. At the end of many of these documents, you will find a list of external resources for social workers to consult, which includes trans-activist organisations like Stonewall and Mermaids.

Even outside of CAFCASS, trans ideology is endemic within the social-work profession. The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) – the largest professional association for social workers in the UK – regularly publishes posts on its website with titles such as ‘How social workers can support the struggle for trans rights’ and ‘Dog whistles in context – transphobia’.

With a few exceptions, such as the Evidence-Based Social Work Alliance and a handful of brave individuals, social-work groups and individual social workers who hold gender-critical views are generally afraid of making them known. Not least as they might face the threat of sanction by their employer or regulatory body.

In 2021, social worker Rachel Meade was sanctioned by Social Work England (SWE) for her gender-critical beliefs. Meade was given a one-year warning after SWE found that her ‘fitness to practice was impaired by way of misconduct’, all because she had posted sceptical comments about the trans issue on a private Facebook group. Thankfully, Meade later appealed the decision and SWE discontinued the case.

Lizzy Pitt, a social-work manager, faced a similar ordeal this year. She describes herself as a ‘lesbian who knows that sex is real’. When she made these views known in a workplace LGBT group, her colleagues made a complaint and she was subjected to disciplinary action. She is now suing her employer, Cambridgeshire County Council, for harassment and discrimination.

As a lecturer in social work, I have myself been the target of an attempted cancellation. In response to an article I wrote for spiked in 2019, a complaint was made to my employer. Funnily enough, the article warned that ‘trans activists’ intolerance knows no bounds’. Thankfully, the complaint was dismissed. But often the process itself serves as a punishment, as well as a signal to others to keep their views to themselves.

This climate is disastrous for social workers on the ground – and for the young people they work with. Social workers must deal with disturbed and vulnerable children in a caring and sympathetic manner. Many social workers now feel that they need to endorse, rather than gently question, a child’s feelings of gender dysphoria – even if they believe doing so would be detrimental to the child’s welfare in the long run.

Then there is the mantra of ‘transwomen are women’. It is incredibly dangerous for social workers to adopt this wholesale. The primary goal of social work is child protection and adult safeguarding. To do this effectively, it must be acknowledged that there is, at times, a conflict between trans rights and women’s or children’s rights. When dealing with trans clients, social workers need to be both supportive and sympathetic, discussing their problems and finding ways to address them. This may sometimes include saying things their clients don’t want to hear, such as telling trans children and adults that they cannot play on the sports teams nor access the changing rooms of the gender they identify as.

Most social workers are able to deal with these conflicts appropriately. After all, they deal with far more complex issues on a daily basis. But the capture of the profession by trans extremists means that many social workers are becoming wary of using their judgement. Ultimately, it is some of the most vulnerable children in society who will pay the heaviest price for this.

Ken McLaughlin is an academic and author. His latest book is Stigma – and its discontents.

Picture by Cottonbro Studio, published under a creative-commons licence.

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Topics Identity Politics UK


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