Lottery body to proceed with grant to Mermaids after media criticism

20 Feb 2019 News

A £500,000 grant to gender dysphoria charity, Mermaids, from the National Lottery Community Fund is to go ahead, following an investigation into complaints made against it.

The NLCF, (formerly Big Lottery Fund) launched a review of its grant to Mermaids in December following  an article in the Sunday Times criticising its decision to fund the charity. But its review found no grounds to withhold funding.

The article said that the grant, which was awarded on 14 December 2018 to the charity, had “angered MPs, feminists and women’s organisations, who accuse the charity of bullying doctors, promoting falsehoods and using ‘emotional blackmail’ to pressure parents”. It also claimed that it advanced views that were contrary to NHS recommendations such as early medical intervention for gender dysphoric children.

However, in its report published yesterday, the NLCF found no evidence to substantiate various allegations made against the charity and recommended the proceeding with the funding.

In a statement, the NLCF said: “Following public interest regarding the proposed grant to Mermaids UK, The National Lottery Community Fund undertook a review of a number of concerns expressed in relation to the charity. This review did not find any grounds to withhold funding from Mermaids UK. The grant has therefore been approved by the England Funding Committee.” 

“We will work closely with Mermaids UK to ensure they are supported in their development,” it added.

The charity was established in 1995. It raises awareness about gender nonconformity, supports families with transgender children and lobbies for changes in the practices of GPs and other professional services. It disputed all the claims against it made at the time.

Mermaids received the grant to develop a nationwide network of 45 support groups across the country over the next five years, to deliver training to statutory bodies and to develop gender research via partnerships with universities.

Other criticisms were made at the time in response to the grant. Irish comedian Graham Linehan urged people to email their grievances to the CEO of the NLCF, posting her email address on the parent’s forum Mumsnet. He accused the charity of having an “extreme ideological agenda” and said: “The idea of 45 Mermaids clinics opening round the country is terrifying.”

In response, YouTuber Harry Brewis, ‘Hbomberguy,’ played the video game Donkey Kong 64 last month for as long as he could to raise money for Mermaids. He raised over £250,000.

800 letters

The NLCF received 800 letters addressing the controversy, in support of and against the charity and decided to open a review of the charity. A spokesperson in December said: “in light of the nature and volume of the communication we have received, we have decided to undertake a review of this grant."

It investigated seven allegations, including that the charity uses misleading statistics in its campaigns, and that training courses it offers are “unprofessional” and spread “misinformation”.

In its report, the NLCF said that there was no evidence that the statistics the charities uses are misleading, but noted that gender research was “complex and controversial” and that there needs to be more research and investment into the field.

“The Big Lottery Fund believe that any data or information used should be done so responsibly and thoughtfully given all the audiences for which it is relevant,” it said.

“While there are some areas of practice which can be improved we have not found evidence to support the substantive allegations made about the organisation.”

'Opportunity both to affirm value of increasing support'

Responding to the decision, Mermaids said: “Mermaids warmly welcomes the Fund's decision, following the Fund's review of Mermaids' application for a grant.”

“For Mermaids, the review was an opportunity both to affirm the value of increasing direct support with local groups, alongside training delivery and research development, and to demonstrate to the Fund that the charity was well positioned to produce and manage these initiatives,” it added.


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