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by Kirsteen Paterson
19 April 2024
Scot who led Rotherham inquiry warns of parallels with Cass Review

Professor Alexis Jay | Whyman Photography

Scot who led Rotherham inquiry warns of parallels with Cass Review

The Scot who led the Rotherham inquiry into the grooming of young girls has said parallels have been drawn between what she discovered there and the findings of the Cass Review.

Scotland's former chief social work inspector, Professor Alexis Jay, who also led the UK Government’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England and Wales, highlighted similar issues of toxic debate and fear of professionals to speak up  that let children down in Rotherham that also run through the findings in the Cass Review.

Written by paediatric specialist Dr Hilary Cass, the paper raised concerns over the use of hormone treatments for children expressing gender incongruence.

She said the evidence base for child gender identity services is "remarkably weak" and "polarised" debate is making clinicians "fearful" and compromising informed consent.

In her work on the Rotherham inquiry, Jay recorded how fear and toxicity of debate had contributed to the failures against vulnerable children.

Speaking in the latest edition of Holyrood, she said similarities have been drawn between the culture of discourse between both issues.

Jay said: "None of this is helpful to children at the centre of this febrile debate around sex and gender, and may serve to confuse the issues even further. 

"All organisations, public institutions and politicians need to be clear in their approach to these difficult decisions that the 'paramountcy' principle prevails in law, policy and practice across health, justice and children's services, amongst others. 

"Nothing should be done except in the child's best interests and welfare. That must involve, as Dr Cass has stated, a holistic understanding of the child or young person's needs, supported by robust evidence of the effectiveness of any intervention the various parties concerned recommend."

The use of puberty blockers and gender-affirming hormones for new patients referred to the Sandyford clinic, which runs Scotland's only gender identity service for young people, has been paused.

Bosses at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which runs the service, and its partner NHS Lothian said this was on clinical advice.

The suspension of endocrinology referrals for new patients took place in mid-March but has only now come to light after the publication of the Cass Review.

The decision is backed by Health Secretary Neil Gray and the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Gregor Smith. However, Scottish Trans and the Equality Network said it will cause "harm to trans children".

Jay's comments were made to Holyrood as part of an in-depth look at Scotland's response to the Cass Review.

Smith and others were unavailable for interview.

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