A specialist service to tackle female genital mutilation (FGM) across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent has directly supported more than 55 local families in its first year of operation.
More than 800 professionals across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent have also received specialist training and awareness sessions to help them identify and support women and girls who have undergone FGM, or who may be at risk from the procedure.
Appointed by the Staffordshire Commissioner for Police, Fire and Rescue and Crime Matthew Ellis, the local FGM service was set up in July 2018 with funding from the Home Office. It is run by the National FGM Centre, a partnership between Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association.
Deputy Commissioner Sue Arnold, who leads on FGM awareness on behalf of the Commissioner, said: “Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent saw 45 newly recorded cases of FGM between April 2018 and March 2019, according to the latest figures from NHS Digital.
“FGM can have serious consequences for women and girls, physically, emotionally and psychologically, and these consequences are likely to continue throughout the victim’s life.
“This FGM service has already made a significant impact in supporting victims and raising awareness and reporting of this often hidden, distressing crime.”
Focusing on three pilot locations – Stoke-on-Trent, East Staffordshire and Stafford – the project links in with leading experts, local authorities and organisations already active in the field of FGM to build a specialist, joined-up service to safeguard girls with the ultimate aim of preventing further cases.
Activities in the project’s first year have included:
·Appointing two specialist project workers to provide support to survivors and girls at risk of FGM and their families, as well as guidance for social workers and other professionals.
·Supporting more than 55 families where women and girls have had, or were at risk of, FGM, with local FGM staff working with them, other professionals and their families in the local community.
·Supporting work to obtain three FGM Protection Orders to safeguard girls believed to be at risk from the procedure.
·Holding over 40 FGM awareness sessions with social care, police, health and education professionals, supported by other specialist workers from the National FGM Centre, with more than 700 people taking part in this training.
·Engaging with over 150 community members with the aim of changing attitudes and beliefs around the procedure. The Staffordshire FGM service has also been working to build relations with local communities where a high proportion of the population have links with countries where FGM is practised.
·Holding women’s events offering health support and advice, and appointing a new community worker.
·Working to create ‘community champions’, who will forge trusting relationships, advocating for social change to end FGM by working with community members and faith leaders.
Head of the National FGM Centre, Leethen Bartholomew, said: “Female genital mutilation is an issue people often don’t talk about and can remain hidden in society, but this has to change if we are to bring about longer lasting change and put a stop to this harmful procedure for good. The fact there have been 45 newly recorded cases of FGM in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent in the past 12 months alone highlights this practice is present within communities in this region, as it is across the UK.
“Over the past year, we have done a significant amount of work with professionals, families and communities in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent to educate them about the implications of FGM, as well as help to safeguard girls at risk, better equip frontline staff with more specialised skills and knowledge and provide the right specialist support to those living with FGM.
“A key focus of our work going forward is to create stronger links with communities and groups and we have recently appointed a new community worker to build upon these relationships. It is only by working at this community level that we can educate people and change hearts and minds about this unlawful practice and reach our aim of no new cases of FGM in the UK by the year 2030.”
For further information about FGM, please visit www.nationalfgmcentre.org.uk