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Supporting people who are at risk or have experienced FGM

Supporting people who are at risk or have experienced FGM

If you suspect a client is affected by female genital mutilation (FGM), their safety comes first.

If there is any immediate danger you have to report to the police and, in the case of children, to social services.

If you are concerned that a person you are working with (or their children) may be at risk of FGM, you need to be sensitive to the cultural and social background of the person at risk. There are many myths surrounding FGM handed down generation to generation which may influence how the individual responds or they may find it difficult to discuss such an intimate matter.

It is therefore important that you contact one of the specialist services in Wales or call the NPSCC’s FGM Helpline on 0800 028 3550.

General Guidance

Individuals who have undergone FGM require a multi agency response to look after their physical and mental well-being. There should therefore be co-operation between services across the third sector, child protection, health care, the police and the prosecution services.

If you are working with people who have disclosed that they have had FGM, you should:

  • create an opportunity for the individual to disclose by speaking to them alone and in private – this may require making arrangements for the person to speak to you in a safe setting on a later occasion
  • ensure no family or community member is present – consider using an appropriate adult rather than a family member when interviewing a minor
  • make no assumptions
  • give the individual time to talk
  • be sensitive to the intimate nature of the subject
  • be sensitive to the fact that the individual may be loyal to their parents
  • be non-judgmental (pointing out the illegality and health risks of the practice but not blaming the girl or woman)
  • use simple language and ask straightforward questions
  • avoid loaded or offensive terminology such as ‘mutilation’ 
  • adopt a victim-centred approach ‒ offer accurate information about the person’s choices and rights and respect their wishes where possible.

Healthcare professionals should be aware of specific factors which may make a person more at risk:

  • Any girl born to a woman who has been subjected to FGM (or other female children in the extended family).
  • Any girl whose sister has undergone treatment for FGM (or other female children in the extended family).

Reporting for children identified at risk of FGM

Professionals who suspect a girl or women is at risk of FGM should report the matter to social services under the regular safeguarding arrangements.

Mandatory Reporting of known victims

Section 74 of the Serious Crime Act introduces a mandatory reporting duty on people who work in a “regulated profession” in England and Wales to notify police of known cases of FGM in those that are under 18 years of age. It is anticipated that this requirement will come into force in Autumn 2015 and further information will be added to this section once it is available.  

Until further guidance is available, professionals who suspect a girl or women is at risk of FGM should report the matter to social services under the regular safeguarding arrangements.

Available Guidance and information for all professionals

The UK Government has produced Multi – agency Practice Guidelines (External link) which  provide advice and support to frontline professionals who have responsibilities to safeguard children and protect and support adults from the abuses associated with FGM.

It is unlikely any single agency will be able to meet the multiple needs of someone affected by FGM. This document sets out a multi-agency response and strategies to encourage agencies to cooperate and work together.

The guidance provides information on:

  • identifying when a girl (including an unborn girl) or young woman may be at risk of FGM and responding appropriately to protect them
  • identifying when a girl or young woman has had FGM and responding appropriately to support them.

FGM Protection Orders

In July 2015, the UK Government introduced FGM Protection Orders through Section 73 of the Serious Crime Act 2015. These are legally binding  and put in place restrictions designed to protect the person at risk, such as:

  • removing passports or any other travel document, including the passport/travel documentation of the girl to be protected or other named individuals
  • ordering that family members of other named individuals should not aid in anyway the committing of an FGM offence in the UK or abroad, for FGM to be performed on the person to be protected. This would include bringing a ‘cutter into the UK to commit the offence’.

An FGM Protection Order can be applied for through a family court.  Breach of an FGM Protection Order is a criminal offence carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison. Alternatively a breach could be dealt with through the family court carrying a maximum of two years’ imprisonment.

Further Guidance on general issues that need to be considered when making an application to a court can be found in the FGM Protection Order Guidance (External link).

It is not only victims of violence and abuse who can be traumatised by their experience. Those who help them can experience difficult reactions too. This is known as vicarious trauma. You may also need to undertake or understand more about undertaking a risk and needs assessment. You may also need to consider safety planning with your client.

Resources

FGM  (External link)

This series from the Home Office brings together all documents relating to FGM, including campaign materials, guidance and fact sheets.

Resource pack (External link)

Case studies and support materials for local authorities, professional services and specialist voluntary organisations.

Guidelines to protect children and women (External link)

Updated guidelines to support and assist frontline professionals, such as teachers, health professionals, police officers and social workers, in safeguarding children and protecting adults from the abuses associated with FGM.

National Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) (External link)

Training

The Home Office has launched free online training (External link) for frontline professionals in identifying and helping girls at risk of FGM.

The free e-learning module gives teachers, police, doctors, social workers and Border Force staff the training they need to help them identify and assist girls who are at risk.

Sector Specific Guidance

Health

In 2014, the Welsh Government held a Health Summit in response to the report on ‘Tackling FGM in the UK: Intercollegiate recommendations for identifying, recording and reporting’.

As a result of this event Welsh Government and NHS Wales have put in place a programme of work to ensure NHS Wales is equipped to deal with FGM as a clinical need.

FGM Care Pathway

Healthcare professionals who have identified FGM should follow the FGM pathway which will be published in Autumn 2015.

FGM Safeguarding Leads

FGM Safeguarding Leads are in each local health board. They are a focal point to disseminate information and oversee health board and trust care pathways. If healthcare professionals have any questions about the pathway, data recording or training requirements then they should contact their health board or trust FGM lead. If you are not sure who the FGM lead is, then contact your safeguarding officer.

Training

Specific training has been put in place to support practitioners to identify and tackle FGM. This is currently being incorporated into the mandatory NHS Wales child safeguarding training.

Other Health related guidance and information

‘Tackling FGM in the UK: Intercollegiate recommendations for identifying, recording and reporting’ (External link). This ground-breaking report and collaboration recognises that implementing a comprehensive multi-agency action plan is urgently required to ensure that young girls at risk of undergoing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are protected. It was produced by a unique coalition of Royal Colleges, trade unions and Equality.

Media

A DVD has been produced featuring survivors of FGM and doctors discussing the issue and warning mothers and carers of the health dangers of the procedure. Watch the video on YouTube (External link).

Education

‘Keeping learners safe Guidance’ (External link) published by the Welsh Government in January 2015 includes advice on FGM (chapter 4) and how education services should contribute to multi-agency safeguarding arrangements. You should refer to this and raise any questions with your safeguarding lead or your designated senior person if you are in a school.  

Social Services

The ‘All Wales Protocol on FGM’ (External link) issued under the All Wales child protection procedures to ensure that all statutory partners apply a consistent multi-agency approach to addressing FGM.

Safeguarding Children: Working Together Under the Children Act 2004 (External link) sets out multi-agency guidance  on how all agencies and professional should work together to safeguard and protect children’s welfare and protect them from harm.

Chapter 9 outlines some special considerations that apply to safeguarding children in a range of specific circumstances such as FGM. It adds to, rather than substitutes for Chapter 8, which sets out the basic framework of action to be taken in all circumstances when a parent, professional, or any other person has concerns about the welfare of a child.

Police

In addition to the general guidance, you will need to refer to your Force specific guidelines available on the internal intranet. This should outline how you should deal with cases of FGM, partner agencies available for advice and who to refer information to including force leads and the department responsible for dealing with such offences.

Policies & Guidance

Find relevant guidance and information on the VAWDASV Act.

Find out more

 

Related links

A Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Protection Order is a court order which protects victims or potential victims.

About Live Fear Free

Live Fear Free is a Welsh Government website, providing information and advice for those suffering with violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

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