The ideological capture of Dorset – nowhere to turn


The following account of a council completely captured by gender ideology was written by Shelley Charlesworth, with our thanks to the persistent, hard-working women in Dorset for their essential help in compiling this report.

Children with gender-related distress in Dorset are being badly let down by all public bodies that are meant to protect them. They will not find any other explanation about this distress from local health, educational and voluntary bodies other than that they are ‘trans.’

They and their parents are unable to escape this activist message as the county’s schools, youth groups, and local health services all promote gender ideology, each endorsing the other. At the centre of this is Dorset Council, a Stonewall Diversity Champion. The council runs the schools, employs the social workers, and funds the voluntary bodies like Space Youth Project (SYP) the main trans charity in the county.

Head of education at SYP and at Pop’n’Olly is former primary school teacher, Mel Lane, who also runs her own LGBT training outfit, called Diversity Mel. In both roles, she takes her pro-transitioning message into schools into the county.

Dorset Youth, the umbrella body for all the youth groups in the county, ought to hold a neutral space of discussion of gender distress but fails to do so. They signpost to the local charity SYP, in addition to other trans activist groups like The Proud Trust.

There’s evidence that the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) for Dorset views their troubled teenage clients through a ‘transgender’ lens, affirming children with autism and referring them to the Tavistock GIDS behind their parents’ backs.

Dorset has referred more children than most Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at the Tavistock. In the years 2011-2013 the average number of children referred by the county to the gender service was 4, by 2019 the average was 44.67 making it one of the highest numbers sent in by a CCG in England. In 2022 it sent 59 children who are on the waiting list for whatever services replace the discredited and now closed GIDS. Latest figures show that 40 children were referred by the end of August 2023, just two thirds of the way through the year.

While we can’t know for sure the definitive reasons for the high numbers of referrals from Dorset to GIDS, the interconnectedness of the council, the groups they fund, local health bodies and Stonewall is likely a prime factor. This is unlikely to change while Dorset remains a Stonewall Diversity Champion.

Dorset, a Stonewalled Council

Dorset Council has been a Diversity Champion since 2019, that’s five years in which Stonewall’s ideas in policies and staff practices have become embedded. The Council has added Stonewall language to its Equality and Diversity statement where, in addition to the nine protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010, they’ve added ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression.’ It’s claimed these contested concepts lead to “additional disadvantage and discrimination” and the Council promises to “consider these when making decisions.”

So it is unsurprising that Dorset Council’s latest EDI strategy and action plan for 2024 – 2027 reads as if it was written by Stonewall. The Council is under the illusion that everyone in Dorset has a ‘gender identity’ which they have designated as one of seven ‘local protected characteristics.’

Stonewall monitors and marks the Council’s work in embedding gender identity via their Workplace Equality Index (WEI). Dorset’s completed WEI form comes in at just under 400 pages.  

The WEI requires that the Council shows how it removes ‘barriers to LGBTQ+ people’ accessing their services. Dorset’s evidence of this reveals a close relationship with the discredited children’s trans charity Mermaids: “Targeted engagement sessions with a variety of partner organisations are also scheduled during specific consultations, for example, the LGBTQ+ Network and Mermaids UK. Research was also conducted using publicly available material such as on”

A Freedom of Information request in July 2023 asking for details of training courses for Council staff in gender and gender identity revealed a long list of courses. Those specifically for Children’s Services included gender training for those working with children in care, those with ADHD, autism, learning difficulties and mental health problems. These are the sorts of children the Cass Review highlighted as being at risk from believing their problems were gender related. They are at further risk from the professionals who’ve been taught to see gender distressed children through the lens of gender identity.

The council’s policy for children’ residential services states that ‘gender identity’ and gender reassignment require gender neutral accommodation: “Facilities (including toilets and bathrooms) will be designed to be uni-sex and non-gender specific” These requirements were subject to an Equalities Impact Assessment, written by three council staff, one of whom is chair of the LGBT Staff Support Group. The policy also applies to children and young people up to the age of 25 with disabilities and complex needs. The privacy of disabled girls and young women and their rights to single-sex spaces are to be disregarded in favour of the politicised notion of ‘gender identity.’

Safeguarding failures at all levels

Gender identity beliefs are entrenched in the Pan Dorset Safeguarding Children Partnership (PDSCP) which is run jointly by Dorset Council, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, Dorset Police and NHS Dorset, the bodies that ought to be protecting children.

In June 2024, they’ll deliver a Gender Identity/Trans Awareness Training session. (As the same training was given in June and October 2023, this clearly represents the PDSCP’s approach children with gender-related distress.) June’s training this year will discuss such topics such as pronouns, being non-binary and intersex and gender as a spectrum as well as “Space Youth Project and support for young people, families, carers and professionals.”

In January 2024 PDSCP held “Trans Awareness Training” for social workers in the Council’s Children’s Services, given by a “trainer who identifies as a transman … sharing his own experience, strength and hope about his journey and his professional career. The trainer will create a safe space for you to ask questions, to gain an understanding in how you can support young people on their transgender journeys by making it more seamless.”

At their Annual Safeguarding Conference in October 2023 the session on ‘gender identity,’ attended by SYP, failed to mention the crucial work of the Cass Review. SYP’s influence on the work of the PDSCP is in itself a major safeguarding failure. The 2023 Conference included a film made with SYP’s help called Broken Rainbow. In it a group of mainly girls discuss being trans and non-binary. It’s painful to watch these vulnerable teenagers discuss feeling different and being bullied. But the directorial voiceover suggests they are uniquely at risk of harm from being ‘misgendered’ or ‘dead-named.’ A girl who wears a binder talks about it being hard to do PE, other girls say they can’t do PE because they have to get changed with…girls; it’s the script used by all the LGBT activist groups.

FOIs reveal that SYP has worked with the PDSCP on the development of the Gender Identity/Trans Awareness courses for over two years but, despite repeated requests, Dorset Council have refused to provide course details such as slides, citing commercial interests. While the Council’s refusal is being contested, what it shows is that Council officials place a greater value on protecting the interests of a trans lobby group than transparency with Dorset parents and taxpayers.

Safeguarding professionals in Dorset are well aware they have a problem with vulnerable young people with gender-related distress, but they’ve come to the wrong conclusions about how to deal with it. Minutes of a meeting of the council and PDSCP in February 2023 confirmed “that they are driving forwards a transgender sub group. There is a concern that 8/10 of their most vulnerable young people have issues with gender identity and they are hearing anecdotally from young people that it is better to be transgender than gay.” It’s concerning that PDSCP’s answer to this is to ignore safeguarding and take an activist affirmative approach and to involve the very people who are helping to fuel this contagion of gender distress, Space Youth Project.

Space Youth Project

The activities of the locally based charity Space Youth Project, SYP, are threaded through all the county’s services for children and young people. The group has been operating in the area for over two decades under the leadership of the same person, Helen Walsh. Like most LGBT groups, SYP started life as a youth group for gay and bi-sexual young people, setting up a separate T+ group in 2014. They’ve been funded by the Lottery and Children in Need, and hosted by the Prime Minister and royalty. Dorset Council, and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council have been a consistent source of income, paying SYP £261,083 in grants and contracts over the last five years.

Their views echo every other LGBT activist group in the UK. They support a ban on conversion therapy and call Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria a “transphobic argument.” When the High Court ruled in favour of Keira Bell, exposing the shocking details of the unsafe treatment pathways at the Tavistock, SYP said:

“Our hearts go out to the young trans people across the UK who have been affected by this ruling and we understand how disheartening this news can be.”

They call puberty blockers safe, reversible and best practice for young people. A recent addition to the website is a link to Gender Plus, the new private clinic run by ex GIDS staff, which will offer cross-sex hormones to children aged ‘around’ 16. Their “Helpful links” section is weighted towards gender rather than LGB; Gendered Intelligence, Pop’n’Olly, and a pronoun app “a game that allows you to practice using different pronouns.”

Most concerning is the link to Gender Construction Kit, a website that in two clicks will take you to sites where you can buy breast binders, tuckers, or find details of every type of drug and surgery to change your sex. The menstruation page has 8 links telling girls which cross-sex hormones stop periods. It also includes details of radical surgeries for the removal of ovaries and wombs. There’s information how much these operations cost and a link to private clinics who perform them.

SYP is open to anyone under the age of 25. While they are separated into 18-25, 16-18, and under 16s, it’s not clear if they operate a lower age limit. One local SYP group say they are open to 0-25 years. The monthly T+ group, a “session for anyone who identifies as trans, non-binary, or gender questioning” does not specify age restrictions. 

SYP’s latest report for the Charity Commission says the overwhelming majority, 212, of the LGBT+ people they support are “vulnerable.” A breakdown by age of the total membership of 262 shows that the majority of their users, 196, are in the 13-18 age range.

From this the picture emerges of a large cohort of vulnerable teenagers who are being grouped together as LGBT+.

Data from the same report records only gender not sex. 49 members are transgender, 46 say they are male, 44 say female and the rest are a mixture of ‘prefer not to say’ and identities taken from the transactivist drop-down menu of genderfluid, genderqueer, and demiboy etc. 27 claim to be non-binary. But as sex isn’t recorded it’s not clear how many SYP users are male or female; even those ticking the male or female box may be the opposite sex. It’s unlikely that Dorset bucks the trend for the overwhelming majority of trans identifying teens to be girls, but they are hidden here under trans or other genders.

Whatever the true sex breakdown of members, only a few girls represent the L in LGBT+, assuming these are indeed girls. SYP data for sexual identity shows only 14 members are lesbian, 21 say they are gay, and 45 are bi-sexual. The vast majority of these vulnerable young people are either preferring not to state a preference, or are adopting activist sexualities such as pansexual (45) or asexual (9).

However, we know from materials used by SYP’s educational lead Mel Lane that trans and all the activist identities under the trans umbrella are central to their training and belief system.

Mel Lane says she has been active in Dorset schools “all year round.” This is unfortunate for Dorset school children as what she teaches is extreme gender identity ideology. Her materials for teachers include advice on how to socially transition a child at school, the Allsorts trans inclusion toolkit, an LGBT+ glossary, links to information from Gendered Intelligence, Mermaids and Equaliteach.

A queer theory inspired resource, Diversity in Biology, is a farrago of nonsense, full of false claims which was “compiled and edited by Space Youth Project.” The language guide for physiology removes all reference to biological sex. It advises replacing “women produce eggs” with “ovaries produce eggs,” “When the mum gives birth to the fetus or infant” with “When the baby exits the womb.”

In lessons on evolution teachers are told to replace “A major characteristic of life is reproduction. Things are alive if they reproduce” with “Your cells are always reproducing asexually within your body for growth and repair. Reproduction is required for a species, not an individual.” Creationism isn’t taught in schools, but these clumsy falsehoods have crept in under the banner of LGBT+ inclusion. Mel Lane says she’s been into 80 schools, trained over 2,000 staff and 8,000 children.

Given SYP’s extremist gender beliefs, their rejection of evidence of the harms of puberty blockers and their description of ROGD as ‘transphobic’ it’s extraordinary that SYP is now being funded to deliver mental health services. Buried in the detail of Dorset Council spending in September 2023 is an item titled “Alt to CAMHS in the VCSE sector” which allocates £33,881.00 to Space Youth Project. The money comes from a fund administered by the Council and the NHS’s Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group and is intended, as it says, to provide an alternative to CAMHS. SYP offers 1-2-1 sessions for young people who are “especially vulnerable.”

They have a small team and according to their website do not employ anyone with a mental health qualification so it’s likely that this work will be undertaken by one of the four part-time Youth Support workers or the trainee Youth Support worker.

The persistent, circular connections between Mel Lane, Stonewall and Dorset schools which have extreme pro-affirmation policies for children with gender-related distress is illustrated by Damer First School in Dorchester. Mel Lane visited the school, which takes children only up to year 4 or aged 8/9, in autumn 2023 when she delivered assemblies and class sessions. The school’s DEI policy for children states, under the heading of sex:

“For the purpose of this policy, sex refers to a pupil’s biological assignment at birth depending on their reproductive organs. We understand some pupils identify as a gender different to the one they were assigned at birth, and we will support pupils through their transitioning phases.”


“We will make reasonable adjustments to accommodate absence requests for treatment and support of trans pupils by external sources, e.g. charities such as Stonewall.”

In other words, the school believes a pupil under the age of 8 may change sex and that this is something positive, and possibly celebrated by a Diversity Mel assembly.

CAMHS Dorset: a pathway to puberty blockers?

Dorset CAMHS’s website has a section on gender identity which describes ‘gender dysphoria’ in affirmative, activist terms. Treatment may be a referral to GIDS where “You may be prescribed hormone blockers, which can give you time to explore your developing gender identity before making decisions about irreversible forms of treatment. If you are over the age of 16 and have been taking hormone blockers for at least a year, you may then be prescribed ‘cross-sex hormones.’”

This advice was wrong when it was written in suggesting puberty blockers give a child time to think, but is now out of date since the NHS banned these drugs for the under 18s. For further support and advice young people are advised by CAMHS Dorset to contact SYP. The pro-affirmative online mental health service Kooth is also widely recommended by Dorset CAMHS despite being under investigation by the NHS over safeguarding concerns.

Some CAMHS practitioners are treating children with gender-related distress according to the affirmation model.

We’ve been sent evidence from the mother of a teenage girl who first contacted CAMHS for gender-related issues. Diagnosed with autism at age 7, ‘Emma’ found puberty traumatic, especially when her breasts developed. At 13 she started seeing a CAMHS therapist who referred to Emma as Ed, using male pronouns, despite her mother’s objections. Emma’s mother was alarmed when she found out the therapist had “requested an appointment for my daughter at the Tavistock Clinic, London (this was just before The Tavistock hit the headlines). I was terrified for my child, nobody at CAMHS would listen to me, as a parent I was told it wasn’t up to me if my child went to the Tavistock.” 

Emma’s mother’s view is that CAMHS “coerced my daughter into believing she could be a male, how that would help her mentally, told her how to safely bind her breasts.”

Only her mother’s persistence prevented Emma from continuing on a path to transition; both the mother and her now 19-yr old daughter agree that it was puberty that led to her mental health problems, not gender.         

In another worrying case a member of Mental Health Support Teams in Schools (MHST), a local CAMHS/NHS initiative working with nearly 100 primary and secondary schools in the county, directed a 15-year old child to both SYP and Gender GP. We’ve seen the 2023 letter, ending a programme of 8 CBT sessions, which says that the teenager initially saw the MHST councillor for anxiety issues and eating disorders. But the letter ends with advice on gender transition:

“you were keen to talk about your gender transition process and the next steps and you were happy for me to include this in the letter, we looked at as there is support available for you and the family should you need this. We also looked at the, however, this one has cost implications, and you may wish to discuss further with your family.”  

The private, overseas registered, Gender GP operates online only and offers puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to under 18s, in contradiction of NHS guidelines.   

Both cases are illustrations of ‘diagnostic overshadowing’ as highlighted in the Cass Review, which occurs when gender is allowed to dominate all other considerations of child’s mental health problems.

Gender ideology in Dorset NHS 

Gender ideology operates at all levels in Dorset’s healthcare services.

In an online talk for Wellnet, an internal site for Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust, called “Menopause and Gender” WPATH member and transwoman Dr Christine Mimnagh, suggested that if child services “worked as they should” we would induce “menopause” in some 9 year old girls before menarche. The YouTube recording was changed to private after it was highlighted on X in March 2024, but it had been available since November 2022, indicating that no one at the Trust found Mimnagh’s view disturbing.

The Children’s Outpatients Department at Poole Hospital is currently displaying a poster directing “gender diverse young people and their families” to Mermaids.

University Hospitals Dorset NHS Trust is signed up to the Rainbow Badge scheme, which was run by Stonewall and the LGBT Consortium. The human rights charity Sex Matters summed up the scheme with this: “NHS Trusts pay to implement “Stonewall Law.””

Rainbow Dorset is an NHS backed and funded group which is “An NHS Initiative for the local Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBTQIA+) Community.” Rainbow Dorset proclaims the activist slogan “Trans Rights Are Human Rights.” Although it is mainly concerned with HIV and other sexual health conditions it runs an under 19s group and links to SYP. The About Us page has photos of drag artists. They run a counselling service: “We are staffed by doctors and nurses from West Dorset General Hospitals NHS Trust and supported by the community.”


Dorset is not unique. Links between activists in the NHS, local LGBT+ groups and captured institutions are to be found in all parts of the UK and like Dorset they put children at risk. As more evidence emerges of the harms of gender ideology in our schools and health services it’s unconscionable that local government and the health service in Dorset continue to work with internal and external activist groups. As a matter of urgency for the children of Dorset, they must cut all links with Stonewall, SYP and similar groups, and commit to promoting good safeguarding, following the Cass findings and backing the DfE’s draft guidance for gender distressed children.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Stephen Simpson

    Vicky Slade – The Lib Dem leader in Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole Council has a “trans child”.

  2. Linda West

    I found this report absolutely shocking and thank you for producing it and for all the work you are doing to counter this terrifying and insidious movement. All power to your team. Thank you so much.

  3. MS Joan C Appleton

    Dorset is a middle class area. This may appear to be insignificant, however, along with increased availability to up market material gain comes access to new worlds of thoughts and ideas.
    Trans now being taken up by the money trip league.
    Trans is now becoming the ‘Brave New World’ ‘ for and of those who can afford to be seduced into ‘ideas’, via vulnerable young people.
    A creeping virus full of poison.

  4. Nathan Clark

    The mass transing of kids by people who are into the gender meme to the point it’s become a religion need to be held accountable. Looking forward to #TransDayOfAccountability

  5. Carol Lawrence

    Thank you Transgender Trend for this in-depth investigation of how false ideas are leading to direct physical and mental harm to young people that will come back to bite us all in our communities for decades to come.

    The duration of the Cass Review has seen an expansion of dangerous false ideology under its watch.

    Please can Transgender Trend call upon Cass to speak out beyond her narrow remit. It’s time for a series of demos led by us parents.

  6. Susan Mulholland

    This is very worrying and concerning, I have a grandaughter going to school and im terrified about this, she has her head screwed on though she is undergoing assessments for anxiety and ADHD and is under CAMHS! This needs a proper investigation and Dorset Council needs to kick STONEWALL into touch

  7. Una-Jane Winfield

    The entire NHS is in thrall to the ideology, because meak and uneducated people do NOT challenge something which is frightening, until it is totally obvious. They simply wish it would “Go Away”. And yet they know that GI ideology IS insane and therefore dangerous. Their meakness is an understandable reaction. Serious mental disorder is grey and chilling, and requires courage to confront. I know from first hand experience: I am @STranswidows on Twitter and is my site. My brother finds my passion to denounce “gender identity” ideology disturbing and his wife finds me “frightening”, so I have had to really tone it down for them. PS: is the Times article “Why do schools let children choose pronouns at four, ask parents” still accepting comments? I put the following, but it doesn’t show:
    The social contagion of Gender has been spread in other places apart from in schools. Eg: in the NHS itself. Why has the Royal College of Psychiatrists embraced the utterly “flat Earth” idea that it is “possible to change sex”? Why have endocrinologists and urologists jumped onto this bandwagon of delusion? Why have some psychiatrists chosen to specialise in this form of abuse of mentally disordered adults OF ANY AGE? TRUTH matters. It matters for the health of individuals and Society as a whole. An dishonest and destructive belief system must be confronted and rejected by all courageous, critical thinkers. Step forward JK Rowling! Thank you Venice Allan, and so, so many more brilliant women, like Mrs Anna Castle. TRUTH MATTERS.

  8. Jessica Rogers

    Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention. I have spoken on a number of occasions to senior leadership at my children’s schools in order to highlight to them times when they have obviously pushed gender ideology or the LGBT+ movement, particularly over and above any other beliefs. I have had to explain and speak up in defence of the truth as I believe we all must do and when I asked other parents at one of the schools if they agreed with me, I was asked not to do this. This shows a blatant disregard for what I still hope is a majority of parents who are being systematically shut down in an effort to protect and promote gender ideology. I will continue to support the transition of children into adults as is their natural right, as girls to women and boys to men.

  9. Clair Honnor

    I’m in Dorset, I’d love to know who the other GC employees are. I go to work with my fingers crossed every day hoping the mob leaves me alone. Feel very isolated.

    1. Women of Dorset

      Don’t worry. There are other GC employees at Dorset Council. Keep an eye out for future developments regarding this or contact us.

      1. Clair Honnor

        Splendid. Thank you 😊

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