Child safeguarding expert wins damages from NHS gender identity clinic
- Credit: Sonia Appleby
An NHS trust has been ordered to pay £20,000 compensation to an employee who raised concerns about the safety of children.
The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, in Belsize Lane, was instructed to make the payout to Sonia Appleby, its child safeguarding expert, following an employment tribunal case.
The tribunal ruled that Tavistock and Portman’s treatment of the psychotherapist, 62, for whistleblowing harmed her professional standing and “prevented her from proper work on safeguarding”.
A panel of employment judge Sarah Goodman and two lay members upheld Sonia’s claim that the trust subjected her to “detriment on grounds of protected disclosures”. The £20,000 compensation was for “injury to feelings”.
The tribunal heard that Sonia was told by a number of staff of their concerns. These included the high number of children being referred to the trust’s gender identity development service, which specialises in children with gender identity issues.
Staff also raised "a worry that some young children are being actively encouraged to be transgender without effective scrutiny of their circumstances".
They also said the trust’s “model of service delivery does not properly take into account that some children are referred within the context of significant familial adversity”.
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After hearing of her colleagues’ concerns, Sonia reported them to her line manager.
The tribunal heard that after these fears were passed on, the management tried to prevent the 62-year-old south London resident from fulfilling her safeguarding role – which Sonia described as a "full-blown organisational assault".
The trust denied treating Sonia unfairly during the hearing, claiming that elements of her allegations influenced the way she was managed, and that she had been "accusatory in approach".
However the tribunal ruled in favour of the trust’s employee, citing “obvious unfairness”.
Tavistock and Portman is England’s only gender identity clinic for children. It has previously drawn controversy for its treatments, including the administration of drugs – “puberty blockers” – to children as young as 10.
As the trust’s child safeguarding lead, Sonia was responsible for protecting kids at risk from maltreatment.
Elliot Hammer, the claimant’s solicitor from Branch Austin LLP, said: “We are delighted Sonia was successful in tribunal and, as the judgment says, has been vindicated in her position”.
The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust was contacted for comment.