The south-west London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames, which earlier this year awarded an £89,000 contract to the homophobic Catholic Children’s Society to offer counselling and support to children in the borough’s school, are seeking to reassure critics over the decision.

According to the National Secular Society, Richmond Council have claimed that staff from the Catholic Children’s Society were committed “first and foremost” to their professional standards and “not by standards of the Catholic Church”.

The Society, which is accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, said in a statement that its counsellors respect other beliefs and would not try to convert or pass judgement on children.

But Baroness Jenny Tonge said: “It is unfair and irrational for the council to impose Catholic thinking on the entire population of young people in this borough, the vast majority of whom are not Catholic or may have no religion at all.”

The Society famously gave up working with potential adoptive parents after the Sexual Orientation Equality Act Regulations came into force in 2007, which meant that they would no longer be able to discriminate against gay couples wanting to adopt.

Although the Society was required to sign the Council’s equalities policy before it was awarded the contract, Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “If the Catholic Children’s Society is so detached from Catholic teaching, why is it called the Catholic Children’s Society? I am highly dubious about claims of impartiality from an organisation that has in its title the name of a religious body whose teachings are so at odds with modern thinking on human nature.”