Belong To, Foróige, Youth Work Ireland, the National Youth Council of Ireland, and over 70 youth workers across the country called on government ministers and HSE officials this week to urgently address the absence of gender-related healthcare services for trans and non-binary youth living in Ireland.
The organisations and youth workers have written the letter to voice their grave concerns regarding the current state of adolescent gender-related healthcare services in Ireland, and the resulting impact on the mental health and wellbeing on trans and non-binary young people.
With the halting of referrals to the UK Tavistock Clinic in January 2021, adolescent gender-related healthcare in Ireland has collapsed. The gender identity adolescent service – situated in Crumlin Children’s Hospital – closed to new referrals in December 2020. For trans young people who are not already receiving medical advice, this means they have no access to healthcare and nowhere to turn. Prior to its closure, there was a waiting list of over three years for trans young people to access the service. Now, those young people are on a waiting list for a service that is no longer really open. From age 17 onwards, adolescents are referred to the adult service, and the waiting list for that is projected to be ten years by December 2021.
The youth work sector has called on Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman TD, Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, and HSE CEO, Paul Reid, to discuss the status of the multi-disciplinary gender identity service for children and adolescents, initially due to be put in place by December 2020 and the interim measures to be put in place pending the establishment of this multi-disciplinary gender identity service.
Despite commitments made by the government and the HSE to improve access to healthcare in the National LGBTI+ Youth Strategy, the National LGBTI+ Inclusion Strategy, and the HSE’s final report on the Development of Transgender Identity Services in December 2020, trans and non-binary young people are suffering as they wait to access healthcare.
Moninne Griffith (she/her), CEO of Belong To, says: The past 18 months have been incredibly difficult for trans and non-binary young people living in Ireland, and the youth workers who support them. Prior to the halting of referrals to the UK Tavistock Clinic, Belong To and youth workers across the country had long been dealing with the distress inflicted on trans and non-binary young people and their families by waiting lists of up to three years to access adolescent gender-related healthcare.
The situation is now at breaking point. Trans and non-binary young people who have sought gender-related healthcare since January 2021 are being referred to a service that simply does not exist.
This has a devastating impact on trans and non-binary youth, their families, and the youth workers who support them. These young people are turning to their youth workers for advice and support, where there is no good news to provide. We have seen the impact this has on our youth workers in Belong To, and youth workers across the country, as the struggle to safeguard the mental health and wellbeing of trans and non-binary young people in their youth groups, while suffering second-hand or vicarious trauma as a result of these young people’s experiences.
Together as a youth work sector, we urgently call on government ministers and healthcare officials to meet with us to discuss this urgent issue.