Our response to the media attention to our Equality and Diversity policy

25 September 2018

A message from Amanda Medler, Chief Guide and Ruth Marvel, Acting Chief Executive

In the last few days you may have seen that Girlguiding’s Equality and Diversity policy has been criticised in the media, with accusations that our inclusion of trans members puts girls at risk. It does not.

The safety, wellbeing and happiness of our members is at the heart of everything we do in Girlguiding and has been for over 100 years.

We are therefore writing to set the record straight.

Keeping girls, young women and our adult volunteers safe is our number one priority. We’re really proud of our robust safeguarding procedures which apply to everyone and underpin everything volunteers and girls do in guiding. We are deeply saddened that anyone would suggest that we would knowingly put our young members at risk.

As an organisation we pride ourselves on caring for every individual. Simply being transgender does not make someone more of a safeguarding risk than any other person.

Every individual and group is different, so we train and support our volunteers to assess every situation - balancing the needs of all our members, both girls and adults, so everyone can enjoy their guiding experience in a way they feel comfortable with. Our universal policies ensure that all volunteers are required to safeguard and assess risk for all activities on a case by case basis to comply with those policies and procedures.

We’ve been responding directly to practical questions from volunteers and parents about how we can balance the needs of all our members, and we are always happy to offer bespoke support to any leader or parent, including on transgender inclusion.

It's important to us that we listen to girls and young women, 86% of whom have told us, through the Girls’ Attitudes Survey, that they do not think people should be discriminated against because they are transgender.

Girlguiding’s policies, procedures and Volunteer Code of Conduct ensure that all our volunteers understand their roles and responsibilities to treat others with respect, keep everyone safe, and deliver great experiences for girls and young women.

We therefore take breaches of our policies, procedures and Volunteer Code of Conduct very seriously.

Following a number of complaints about two individuals, an independent investigation concluded that both had breached our Volunteer Code of Conduct and our Social Media policy because they did not, and indicated that they were not willing to follow Girlguiding’s Equality and Diversity Policy and actively encouraged others to do the same. We are always willing to listen to feedback about our policies, and remain open to reviewing them wherever necessary.

We will always investigate any breaches of our Volunteer Code of Conduct and related policies. While withdrawal of membership is a last resort for us, our policies are designed to protect our girls and young women. Refusing to comply with our policies is unacceptable. Unfortunately, the circumstances meant that we had no choice but to withdraw these individuals’ membership. This decision was not based on their personal views, but on the way they conducted themselves.

We have been asked to provide further details on these specific disciplinary cases but it would be inappropriate to comment further as the individuals in question have a right to appeal. We’ve tried to avoid being drawn into the highly politicised, emotive and often aggressive debate around transgender inclusion. Girlguiding is not a transgender campaign group, we are a young people’s organisation. Our focus has been, and will remain, providing our young members with opportunities to learn, grow and discover in a fun, safe, inclusive and legally compliant way.

We have developed our policy in line with legal advice and, in the case of our guidance around transgender members, organisations with experience of supporting transgender children and young people. Contrary to claims made on social media we do not make policy based on comments from individuals or pressure groups.

We know that this is a new and complex area of law and we will continue to review our policies against the latest advice and guidance. Under the General Data Protection Regulation 2018 the sharing of personal data of children is afforded greater protection, so we take great care to uphold confidentiality. Any information about an individual’s transgender history is treated in line with the Data Protection Act 2018 / General Data Protection Regulation 2018(GDPR) and Girlguiding’s Data Protection policy.

It hasn’t been easy to hear criticism of our organisation and of the wider Girlguiding family especially when much of it is inaccurate, aggressive and counter to the values we hold dear.

We are incredibly proud of our volunteers and the young people in our movement who sensitively and positively support diversity of all kinds, including our transgender members, as part of their groups. We would like to thank each and every one of our 109,000 volunteers who, week in and week out, offer a safe space for girls and young women to have fun, learn new skills, explore their own identity and beliefs, and to be proud of who they are.

Amidst all the noise we try to remain focused on the children and young people that we support. We call ourselves a movement because we change with the times, whilst staying focused on our core values and purpose, and we will continue to do just that.