27/08/2018 16:26 BST | Updated 28/08/2018 13:37 BST

LGBTQ Groups Criticise Women's Minister Over Transgender Teen Comments

Victoria Atkins said she was "cautious" about treatment of young people.

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Minister for Women Victoria Atkins

The government’s minister for women has come under fire from LGBTQ groups after she raised concerns over a rise in the number of teens identifying as transgender.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Victoria Atkins said experts and politicians needed to “get down to the reasons why” more young people were being referred to undergo gender reassignment treatment.

“It may simply be a case of greater awareness, it may be that for some they see it as an answer to questions they are perhaps not asking themselves.” she told the paper.

“We need to be particularly alert to this with regard to young people.

“The treatments are so serious and life-changing. I’m a little cautious of the use of those treatments because of the potential for the rest of their lives.

“Lots of questions are rightly being asked about how we treat young people. People whose bodies perhaps haven’t developed yet.”

Fox Fisher, a patron of the LGBT+ helpline, told the Guardian that the Conservative MP’s comments were “damaging” and said her concerns “need to be put into perspective”.

“She needs to look into the actual reality of treatment given to trans people, and she needs to consult with trans organisations and people that work on the ground,” Fisher added.

“It is damaging to imply that trans teens are being given treatment lightly, as behind it are decades of research and best practice. Trans people’s lives are at stake here, and we know what we need.”

Figures from the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), an NHS facility based at the Tavistock Centre in north London, show the number of children under 10 referred increased by four times in 2017 compared to 2012/13, and a total of 2,016 youngsters aged between three and 18 accessed the centre’s services, up from 314 five years earlier.

But according to the Scottish Trans Alliance, the number of transgender youngsters is “very small”.

“There’s around 3.5 million young people currently going through puberty in the UK, with only around 300 gender dysphoric teenagers (less than 0.01%) starting reversible puberty delaying medication this year,” said James Morton, the group’s manager.

He added the help youngsters receive from the NHS is “actually very carefully provided and safe”.