Sonia Appleby is the safeguarding lead for the Trust that houses the Tavistock, or Gender Identity Development Service (GIDs). Sonia bravely took her employer to an Employment Tribunal ; which she won. You can read the full judgment below.
The full judgment contains many of the red flags that, no doubt, form part of the background to the closure of the Tavistock (G.I.Ds).
Sonia Appleby was the safeguarding lead for the NHS Trust which, until recently, housed the Gender Identity Service. Sonia’s case centred on the six issues she raised under the whistleblower policy and whether she suffered detriment as a result. She won her case and was awarded £20,000 in compensation.
In order to determine the case many staff were interviewed and some were cross examined.
Matt Bristow was not cross examined but his witness statement, on behalf of Sonia Appleby is on the public record. 👇 This encapsulates his concerns. Gay Conversion Therapy, in a nutshell.
Sonia was in the middle of an internal dispute between staff at the Tavistock about the best way to treat their referrals. Some staff believed in an innate “gender identity” where the children know best and it’s the clinician’s role to affirm their “authentic self”. This is an ideologically predicated perspective. Others were concerned about the other potential influences on the child’s internal belief system. Autism, same sex attraction, backgrounds of abuse or other trauma were present in a lot of the children. Some clinician were worried about the role of social media and the explosion of “trans” in the media fuelling a social contagion. Appleby was in the eye of the storm attempting to enforce child safeguarding in the midst of this, highly charged, environment.
The service had seen a steep rise in referrals, from mainly male it had switched to 76% female, waiting lists were long and the first court case, questioning the use of “affirmation” only had already been heard. This was the case of Keira Bell, a case I cover here:
It was not just internal strife that bedevilled the service. The issue had become highly politicised with women’s groups springing up to contest the attacks on female only spaces by trans activists. Controversial lobby group, Mermaids, was garnering a lot of media attention and the promotion of “transgender” children was peddled across the U.K media. Accusations of “transphobia” were rife.
Sonia Appleby had experience as a social worker and a psychoanalytical psychotherapist and was named lead for safeguarding children for the Trust. By June 2016 she was raising the alarm at the rise in referrals and the increasing workloads. She also noted deficiencies in record keeping. Staff were also raising concerns about the role of a private practitioner who had entered the fray.
Dr Webberley has been suspended from practice for a number of years, her husband, who worked alongside her, was actually removed from the medical register this year. G.I.Ds staff were beginning to see children who had not only socially “transitioned” but had already accessed puberty blocking drugs from private practitioners such as Webberley.
Dr Carmichael’s response to this requested meeting is described as “interesting” in that she expressed concern that she “was unsure the agenda here”. She claimed she was simply wondering what the agenda was for the meeting. The tribunal was not convinced by this explanation”.
This was Sonia Appleby’s first protected disclosure. Mermaids, Rogue Medics and tensions within the team.
The second list of concerns is even more damning. Again Dr Webberley features; as does the number of gay kids presenting as “transgender”; parental encouragement of their child’s identity; and Dr Carmichael’s unwillingness to listen all feature.
There emerged some confusion about who was taking these issues forwarded and during a flurry of emails Appleby became aware that Dr Carmichael resented her being approached by her own staff. At this point a Garry Richardom is brought on board to play a role in safeguarding internal to G.I.Ds. This relationship gets off to a rocky start because he objects to her use of Jimmy Savile as a warning to the service.
Sonia explains this was something she routinely did to embed safeguarding in the service by using the example of Jimmy Savile who is the most high profile example of the NHS failing to spot /act upon a major safeguarding risk.
By 2018 a group of ten staff raised concerns with Dr David Bell. The claimant also raised another list of concerns raised by a staff member. Again the issue of homophobic parents raises its ugly head and a lack of understanding of the effects of puberty blockers.
She then conducted an audit of safeguarding referrals and noted that the rate of referrals was very low at G.I.Ds compared to other areas of the Trust. Appleby felt relations with Dr Carmichael were strained she was cast as someone asking “awkward questions”. At the same time Dr David Bell began interviewing staff and preparing his own report documenting concerns. This report was damning and would be leaked to the press. Once again homophobia is identified as an issue as well as the “excessively affirmative” attitude of staff who were seen as unable to withstand pressure to medically intervene.
Dr Carmichael’s response appears defensive.
At this point the claimant needed to establish a working relationship with a Dr Sinha who joined the service. This got off to a rocky start as he was briefed that she did not like to be managed and worked too independently, he reported that he found her argumentative but was unable to provide examples, to the tribunal, of incidents that led to this conclusion. There follows some exchanges that illustrate that Sonia Appleby was regarded with suspicion even when collecting data which was required for her job.
There followed a fifth protected disclosure based on the exit interview of Dr Matt Bristow. By this time Sonia Appleby is regarded with suspicion across the service and evidence is brought to the tribunal that staff were being discouraged from bringing safeguarding concerns to Sonia. Email trails who that staff were complaining about her “insubordination” and Dr Sinha embarks on disciplinary proceedings resulting in a letter being placed on her file. The tribunal found the way this was handled to be unfair to the claimant. Dr Sinha was found to be hostile and “punitive”.
Sonia was labelled as “not on side” by Dr Carmichael and evidence is presented illustrating that Sonia was safeguarding issues were not being referred, to her, by staff.
The tribunal concluded that there was a message being communicated that Appleby was hostile to the service and being cut out of issues in relation to her role as child safeguarding lead.
The tribunal found that the claimant had suffered detriment and an award of £20,000 was made. The picture that emerges is of a service riven with tension and suspicion where raising safeguarding concerns was viewed as a hostile act. The recurrent theme is one of homophobia which echoes my own experience. Our gay youth are poorly served/actively harmed by this service, in my view. The removal of the service from the Tavistock was long overdue.
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