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Speak to a trained member of the Mermaids team. 08088010400

Everyone deserves timely access to holistic, high-quality healthcare and to be treated with dignity, privacy and respect throughout their treatment and care. 

This includes trans, non-binary and intersex people who already face significant barriers and inequality when accessing NHS care.
The consultation closes on 25th June 2024, and will inform changes to the NHS Constitution that will be in place until 2035. 

We have concerns about some of the changes proposed, particularly those likely to impact trans patients and healthcare professionals. 

In the meantime, we’d like to remind everyone that these proposals are under consultation, and will not change how NHS healthcare is provided at this time. There is likely to be a lot said and written about these proposals, not all of which will be balanced.  

We’re looking carefully at the proposed changes and working with experts to understand their legal and practical impacts on trans, non-binary and intersex people and will share more with our communities in the coming weeks.

If you have concerns about your wellbeing or healthcare please reach out for support. 

Signed by/On behalf of:

Mermaids

On Thursday 11 April, we were made aware that the Charity Commission has allegedly liked and reposted gender-critical content on its official X account, including potentially defamatory content about Mermaids. 

In response to an email from us, the Commission confirmed that this appears to have been accidental activity during monitoring. We recognise that accidents do happen, however vigilance is required to ensure that these are addressed as soon as possible.

As a public body, the Commission must appear to be scrupulously independent and unbiased across its work, including its activity on social media, and it is disappointing that it has taken approaches by outside parties for these accidents to be resolved. 

We welcome the reassurance that the Commission is exploring additional safeguards to prevent a recurrence, however, during a particularly difficult time for the trans community following the release of The Cass Review, we remain concerned at the potential impact of such mistakes on trans children and young people who, instead of being treated with compassion and respect, are seeing their experiences invalidated and questioned across the media and platforms such as X. 

We look forward to an apology from the Commission for the potential impacts of these mistakes, and additional assurance for those charities working in areas at the centre of highly politicised discussion that there will be no recurrence.

Everyone deserves access to timely, supportive and holistic healthcare. However, across all of the UK, the NHS is failing trans youth, with appalling waiting lists of more than six years, virtually no first appointments offered for over a year, and increased politicisation of the support offered to children and young people. 

Trans youth tell us they want services which are accepting and respectful, which offer supportive spaces to explore their gender, and provide access to medical transition if and when they need it. 

The Cass Review, an independent review of NHS England gender services for children and young people, published today (Wednesday 10 April) after almost four years, echoes much of this and recognises the current system is failing trans youth. 

We are pleased the voices and experiences of trans young people appear to have been heard and respected, and we welcome Dr Cass’ calls for trans children and young people, and their families, to be “treated with compassion and respect”. We hope for the same, and for the sharing of clear, accurate information when discussing this topic.

However, we are concerned that some of the language in the report is open to misinterpretation and could be used to justify additional barriers to accessing care for some trans young people in the same way the interim report has been. We will publish our full analysis of The Cass Review in due course.

NHS England has published their immediate response to The Cass Review and written to all adult providers, explaining the changes they plan to make in the short to medium term. Very few of these will have an immediate effect on children and young people, and we will keep trans young people and their families informed about any changes that might impact them. 

In the meantime, we call on NHS England, and the NHS across the UK, to resist pressures from those who seek to limit access to healthcare, listen to trans youth directly, and act urgently to provide gender services which are timely, supportive and holistic. 

If you need support or have questions about what this might mean for yourself or your young person, please contact our helpline team. We’re here for you Monday – Friday, 9am – 9pm. 

Lauren Stoner has been appointed permanent CEO of Mermaids on a two-year fixed term basis. 

An experienced charity professional with a background in health and social care, Lauren (she/her) joined the charity as Interim CEO in December 2022 and has successfully steered the organisation through challenging times. Her leadership will see us into our 30th anniversary year in 2025. 

On Lauren’s appointment, incoming Chair of Trustees Kathryn Downs (she/her) said: “Lauren has demonstrated impressive leadership, implemented new working practices and, in particular, begun the crucial process of improving the culture at Mermaids.

“Her leadership on EDI matters has been strong and the new strategy for 2024-2027, co-created with our community and all of our people, lays out a path for the future.”

“It’s a pivotal moment for Mermaids,” Kathryn adds. “As the organisation looks to transform itself, I’m honoured to be able to support Lauren and the wider team to deliver some exciting changes.”

Here, Lauren answers questions from Mermaids’ Youth Advisory Panel about Mermaids’ mission, vision and values, our priorities for the year ahead, and our journey towards becoming a trans-led organisation. 

What’s the best thing about being CEO of Mermaids? 

Honestly, I think I have the best job in the world, so it’s hard to pick the single “best” thing. Over the last year the opportunities to meet young people and families and understand the impact of our work has been a real highlight. I also really value the opportunities we have to work in partnership with other organisations who share our values to respond to transphobic policy and practice and build a more inclusive society for trans children and young people to grow up in.

What’s been the most challenging? 

I’ve never worked in an organisation experiencing this level of hostility and external scrutiny, and that is phenomenally taxing for everyone who works and volunteers at Mermaids. I’ve been blown away by the strength and resilience of our people, and the support from our community and allies, which enables us to support children, young people and their families and campaign for better education and healthcare, in the face of this hostility.

What are you most proud of in 2023?

Firstly, the work that we’ve done to support staff wellbeing, including piloting the four-day week, recognising a union and improving the leave we offer to all staff. We will always have more to do in this area, and I’m excited about what we’ve got in the pipeline for 2024.

Secondly, that we went to our community first in developing our strategy, and have developed a strategy for the next three years which will enable us to respond to the changing external environment while setting ourselves up for long term success.

And I’m also really proud that we took the brave step to be one of the first charities in our sector to leave X/Twitter, and that we continue to grow our reach on social media despite this. 

What are you most looking forward to in 2024? 

Working with young people, our staff, volunteers and other stakeholders, supported by external facilitators, to develop our approach to trans leadership at Mermaids. I’m delighted that we’ve appointed a new chair designate who is herself trans, and that we’ve continued to improve trans representation over the last year, but we have more to do to establish how best we can identify, retain and nurture trans leaders for today and the future at Mermaids.

Can you tell us more about Mermaids’ new mission, vision and values?

I’m really excited that these were co-created across the team, and that they put youth voice at the centre of everything that we do. Our mission sets out the change we want to achieve, and feels relatable and relevant to the work we do. Our vision is how we’re going to get there, and our values are the principles that we will apply to all of our work internally and externally. 

What are your priorities going forward?

Fundamentally, to put our strategy into action, establishing us as a resilient, collaborative organisation and getting us ready to celebrate our 30th birthday in 2025. This includes the work I’m most looking forward to around developing our principles for trans leadership, continuing to improve our systems and processes, and to developing new services which best meet the needs of trans children and young people, their families and the professionals who support them today and for the future.

Rishi Sunak’s shameful and heartless comment today (Wednesday 7 February) at Prime Minister’s Questions demonstrates just how little his Government thinks of trans young people and the important people in their lives. 

Words spoken in Parliament have real-world consequences for people like the late Brianna Ghey, and so to have made a joke like this, in front of her mother who was invited there, is just downright cruel. 

Trans young people need their politicians to build supportive school environments, to fix our broken NHS and to protect them from violence. They are tired of being spoken about, rather than listened to.  

We call on the Prime Minister to apologise for the harm he has caused, set an appropriate tone ahead of the General Election, and to treat trans people with respect. 

On 25 November 2022 we announced that Susie Green had left Mermaids. Following this, various media outlets reported that Susie has resigned from the organisation due to issues in relation to her leadership of the organisation.

This was not correct and this false speculation has been upsetting to Susie, who has been involved with Mermaids for many years. We regret that we did not address this speculation at the time and are sorry for any negative impact this reporting has had on Susie and her family.

Throughout her time with the organisation Susie has shown hard work, passion and commitment in an increasingly hostile environment and as CEO grew the charity from a completely volunteer-run organisation to be the largest trans support charity in the UK.

We would like to again thank Susie for her years of dedication and the support and hope she has given to countless children, young people and their families during her 22 years at Mermaids, in both a voluntary and employed capacity.

In the last week, senior Conservatives, including the Prime Minister, have used their Party Conference to distract from the real social, economic and environmental issues faced by everyone in the UK by repeatedly sharing transphobic rhetoric and undermining the existence and rights of the trans community.

Nothing that has been said is a change to the law, or to the rights of our community, but these statements further legitimise the harassment which many trans young people and their families experience every day in the media, at home, at work, school and online.

Trans young people and their families are asking for easier access to healthcare, supportive schools and the ability to live their lives with dignity and without discrimination, hatred or abuse. This is no different to what any other young person wants and deserves.

We exist to support trans children and young people and their families, and will continue to campaign for a better world for them to grow up in. 

If you’re struggling with the news this week, our helpline team is here for you via phone, email or webchat. We’re open Monday to Friday, 9am to 9pm.

Help us continue to provide supportive, safe spaces for trans children and young people by donating today.

Mermaids has been supporting transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse young people to survive and thrive since 1995 and has been a registered charity since 2015. We’ve experienced significant growth and change in that time, and in 2022-23 our income exceeded £2,000,000 for the first time, while we supported over 10,000 individuals. 

Given this growth, and following our report into equity, diversity and inclusion, which highlighted significant concerns about governance and leadership at Mermaids, the trustees decided to commission a comprehensive, independent review of our governance. We knew that doing so would invite ever more scrutiny into our organisation at an already difficult time. However, we felt it important that we face our challenges head-on.

Trustees met with a number of providers and were reassured by the thoroughness of the approach which the team at NCVO proposed to take. We are pleased today to share their report, which you can read here.  

NCVO’s report has identified many areas we need to work on, and as a board, we have reviewed and accepted all of the recommendations and agreed on an action plan with our leadership team on how we will address them. 

Some of the recommendations had already been completed by the time we received the report, and others have been addressed since. The areas we are focusing on over the coming weeks and months are:

  1. Improving how we explain how our governance works and how decisions are made to staff, volunteers and external stakeholders.
  2. Improving how trustees work with senior staff and their visibility and ability to hear feedback from all our staff and volunteers.
  3. Testing out our new recruitment and induction processes for staff and trustees through a round of trustee recruitment, which is underway.

We look forward to sharing more of this journey with you.

Belinda Bell

Chair of Trustees

Lauren Stoner, Interim CEO at Mermaids said: “We’re really pleased that NCVO’s report shows the strengths of our governance, and highlights the areas where we’ve still got some work to do.

“The team and I are looking forward to working on these areas with our trustees over the coming months, especially as we look to diversify our board with a new Chair and additional trustees.”

Sarah Vibert, CEO at NCVO, said: “Regularly reviewing governance structures and processes is an important part of good charity practices. We encourage all charities to commission a governance review at least every three years, in line with the Charity Governance Code. This will help to ensure that decision making is effective, considered and focussed on the missions, values and long-term health of an organisation. 

“We look forward to seeing how the recommendations of this review are actioned as Mermaids continues to grow and develop as an organisation.”

Notes to editors

1. Mermaids is a registered charity in England and Wales (charity number 1160575) supporting transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse children, young people and their families. We aim to create a world where trans youth can be themselves and thrive.

2. NCVO is a membership community for charities, voluntary organisations and community groups in England. 

3. The report was commissioned in early 2023 following an independent equity, diversity and inclusion review which highlighted concerns about Mermaids’ governance and management. 

4. Anyone interested in becoming a Mermaids trustee can apply via mermaidsuk.org.uk/recruitment-growth. Applications close on 10 September 2023. 

5. All media enquiries should be directed to [email protected].

In June 2021, Mermaids, supported by a coalition of LGBT+ organisations, appealed the decision by the Charity Commission to register LGB Alliance (LGBA) as a charity. We argued that LGBA shouldn’t be recognised as a charity because it was focused on hostile anti-trans activism and not (as it claimed) on the promotion of lesbian, gay and bisexual rights. 

The hearing took place over seven days in September and November 2022, and the Tribunal handed down its decision on Thursday 6 July 2023.

Their decision is that Mermaids doesn’t have legal standing to bring the appeal. Standing in this context is not well-defined, and we always knew this was a complex aspect of the case.

Because they found against us on standing, the Tribunal didn’t have to rule on the main issue in the appeal – namely whether or not LGBA should have been registered as a charity to begin with. 

But the two judges indicated that they had given that question careful consideration and had been split on the answer. That is, one of the judges agreed with us that LGBA should not have been registered as a charity, and one disagreed. 

We don’t know the details of their reasoning, but we think that is a really significant outcome. Had we been found to have standing, there is a chance that the tie would have been resolved in our favour and we would have won the case. 

That puts a huge question mark over LGBA’s status. In addition, key points of our evidence about LGBA were accepted by both judges. They agreed with us that some of LGBA’s output on social media went beyond the boundaries of civilised debate, and they accepted our evidence that LGBA had progressed the “pro-LGB” activities it claims to be focused on “only to a limited extent”. They suggested that a combination of public scrutiny and oversight by the Charity Commission would “deter LGBA from crossing the line” in future.

We are glad to have been able to shine a light on the harmful nature of LGBA’s activities and the need for ongoing scrutiny, and we are pleased that one of the judges accepted our evidence that LGBA should never have been registered as a charity. But we are disappointed that the Tribunal wasn’t able to go further.

If we don’t meet the test for standing in this case, it is hard to imagine that anyone could have done. In effect, that means that the decision to register LGBA as a charity cannot be challenged by a third party, even though the judgment confirms that there are serious doubts over whether LGBA should have charitable status. 

We are taking legal advice on whether to appeal the finding on standing. In the meantime, our focus remains on channelling all of our energies into the urgent, critical challenges facing trans young people today. This includes demanding access to timely healthcare and robustly challenging forthcoming trans guidance for schools which, if reports are true, could have devastating consequences not only for trans children and young people, but any young person who doesn’t conform to gender norms.

Thank you to everyone who has supported our case, and to all those who continue to stand up for trans young people in an increasingly hostile climate. We are grateful for the support and solidarity of the LGBTQ+ community and LGBTQ+ organisations across the UK and globally, who resist attempts to divide our community. Together, we can create a better world to grow up trans. 

Frequently asked questions

What is “standing”?

In legal terms, “standing” means whether the person (or organisation) bringing a claim has the right to do so. In this case, the question was whether Mermaids had been “directly affected” by the Charity Commission’s decision to register LGBA as a charity. “Directly affected” is not defined in the relevant statute (the Charities Act 2011) so it is open to interpretation in different ways.


In 2021, LGBA asked for a separate preliminary hearing to determine whether or not Mermaids had standing. We argued that the issue of standing was inextricably linked to our broader points about LGBA’s activities, and the Tribunal agreed, which is why the matter of standing was decided as part of a full hearing looking at all the issues together. 

Why did the judges find that Mermaids doesn’t have standing?

The Tribunal didn’t consider that LGBA’s attacks on Mermaids, and their attempts to undermine our reputation, amounted to the kind of “direct affect” that is required by the Charities Act 2011. They also concluded that, because many of LGBA’s criticisms of Mermaids had pre-dated LGBA’s registration as a charity, the decision to register LGBA was not in itself the cause of the impact – indeed they thought that it might have reduced the impact, by constraining LGBA’s conduct.

Why haven’t the judges ruled on whether LGBA should have been registered as a charity?

We and LGBA had asked the judges to consider setting out their conclusions on whether or not LGBA is a charity, even if they decided that Mermaids didn’t have standing to bring the case. The judges, however, were unable to reach agreement on whether or not LGBA is a charity. There is a mechanism for resolving “ties”, but it didn’t need to be used because the judges had already agreed that we didn’t have standing. They therefore didn’t think it was necessary or appropriate to set out their respective conclusions on this issue.

What does this mean for Mermaids? 

This decision has no reflection on Mermaids, the work we do or the people that we exist for. We will continue to focus on providing the highest quality support to trans, non-binary and gender diverse children and young people, their families and the important people in their lives, and to making the world a better place to grow up trans.

Will you appeal the decision?

We are taking legal advice on a possible appeal.

What happens now? 

Mermaids will continue to focus on the critical, urgent challenges which trans young people and their families have told us they’re experiencing. This includes accessing healthcare, being safe and affirmed at school, and living their lives with dignity and respect.

Notes to editors

1. Mermaids is a registered charity in England and Wales (charity number 1160575) supporting transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse children, young people and their families. We aim to create a world where gender-diverse children and young people can be themselves and thrive.

3. The appeal was supported by a number of organisations, including Good Law Project and LGBT+ Consortium.

4. The appeal was crowdfunded.

5. All media enquiries should be directed to [email protected].

In 2022, Mermaids decided to carry out a frank and honest appraisal of our internal culture and how we measure up in terms of equity, diversity and inclusion and to understand oppression which our staff experienced. We thank our staff for their honesty and bravery throughout this process.

An independent external report which we commissioned has highlighted a number of significant challenges for us. Today we are sharing the recommendations from this report and the next steps which the team are already taking. 

We know we must do better and we are absolutely committed to doing so, and are implementing the report’s recommendations as a priority.