More clarity needed for social workers on transgender issues

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In a short time, transgender issues have become part of mainstream society, but it seems that many institutions are failing to keep up with shifting attitudes alongside higher rates of people wishing to change their sex.

This is especially true for those working in social work jobs who may come across children who believe they have been born in to the wrong body and might have to deal with extended families who may support or reject the child’s view.

The House of Commons Women’s and Equalities Committee have now published their first report which looks into why transgender people in the UK are yet to receive full equality and what can be done to tackle this.

The report came out in January and part of it looked into issues concerning transgender youths and social care services. The committee took evidence, both written and orally, while compiling the report and apparently the feedback they received was that those working in the social care sector do not have good enough training or awareness about transgender topics.

There appears to be a lot of confusion still surrounding the rights of transgender children and individuals and the law. Apparently some social workers have treated the matter of parents who support their transgender-identifying children as a safeguarding concern, and have attempted to remove the child while investigating the family. Sadly, it was concluded that some in the sector have based their work in this area on personal prejudice, however without formal training on gender variance, this is not surprising.

Social workers have to face myriad complex problems daily and most manage to take these in their stride. However, the nuance and sensitivity of dealing with transgender cases without proper guidance is leaving some feeling all at sea.

Unfortunately, this lack of awareness within the social work system of how isolated transgender youths already are has led to some young children feeling unsafe and without support at a time when they are already vulnerable.

Evidently, this needs to change and the report by the equality committee has recommended that the government confront these issues by ensuring that social workers are properly trained and briefed on transgender issues as a matter of urgency.

Social workers need to be both comfortable dealing with transgender children and their parents and confident that they know the law in this most delicate of spheres.

Some rights reserved by Alessia Cross

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