Trans charity Mermaids apologises for ‘discriminating against its own staff’

Susie Green Mermaids transgender charity - Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock
Susie Green Mermaids transgender charity - Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock

Mermaids, the youth transgender charity, has been forced to apologise for discrimination and oppression against its own staff.

The controversial group ordered a review of its internal culture last spring following complaints from staff, which forced the departure of Susie Green, its long-standing chief executive.

On Tuesday, the charity published the report recommendations, vowing to create “safe spaces” for trans staff and staff of colour, and to “hold leadership accountable”.

An ongoing statutory inquiry was opened last year by the Charity Commission amid concerns about Mermaids’ governance and alleged failings in safeguarding children.

‘No one should ever feel abandoned’

Belinda Bell, Mermaids’ chairman of trustees, told staff that “the review has shone a light on representation and discrimination within the organisation” and “no one at Mermaids should ever feel abandoned or confronted by... stereotypes”.

Describing the findings as “deeply concerning”, she said: “I want to apologise unreservedly to anyone who has experienced oppression in any form.

“Our internal processes also require urgent review. We need structures that acknowledge and confront the issues raised by staff, that prioritise staff wellbeing, and that ensure decision-makers are held accountable.”

The report made no mention of safeguarding, despite scandals over it offering puberty blocker advice to children as young as 13 or 14 behind their parents’ backs, or the appointment of an ex-trustee who had previously spoken at a conference sympathetic to paedophiles.

The report was compiled by the Social Justice Collective, an external consultancy, but its full case studies are not published.

Zero-tolerance policies recommended

Its recommendations include to “review and publish clear zero-tolerance policies and processes around racist, transphobic and ableist incidents” and improve “reporting routes”.

Mermaids will also introduce a staff “rolling learning programme covering; trans and non-binary identities, white fragility, racial equity, power and privilege, microaggressions, intersectional identities, having challenging conversations and EDI [equality, diversity and inclusion] action planning/commitment setting”.

The charity said it would also “set behavioural objectives for senior leaders to role model inclusivity” and “create regular, intentional spaces for brave conversations”.

Following complaints from staff about racism and Mermaids not being led by a transgender person, the report added that it would soon “answer the question” over whether it wants to be trans-led.