On behalf of the Wirral Safeguarding Children Board (WSCB) I am very pleased to send you this week’s Safeguarding News Update.
The weekly emails are designed to update you about specific safeguarding items; these may be issues of local or national significance, information about an aspect of the WSCB’s work or information designed to support good professional practice. This week the update is about Female Genital Mutilation, particularly the publication of the WSCB FGM Multi-agency Protocol and the mandatory reporting duty for regulated health and social care professionals and teachers.
What is Female Genital Mutilation?
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), sometimes mistakenly referred to as Female Circumcision, is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as all procedures that involve “the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”.
The procedure is, in most cases carried out by an older woman with no medical training. There are severe consequences, both psychological and emotional and the medical consequences include extreme pain, shock, infection, haemorrhage, infertility, incontinence, HIV and death.
It is estimated that approximately 138 million African women have undergone FGM worldwide and although there is greater prevalence there in the UK FGM has also been found amongst other communities.
An FGM factsheet and poster published by the Home Office are attached.
The new Multi-agency protocol for FGM is attached and will be published on the http://wirrallscb.proceduresonline.com/ procedures website within the next week. The protocol provides a definition and detailed background to FGM and includes FGM Practice Guidance for professionals which sets out safeguarding actions to be taken, referral pathways and risk assessment guidance.
The Law in the UK
Any FGM procedure on a woman or girl is unlawful under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003. It is also an offence under the Act for UK nationals or permanent residents to carry out FGM abroad, or to aid, abet, counsel or procure the carrying out of FGM abroad, even in countries where the practice is legal.
Mandatory Reporting Duty
The FGM mandatory reporting duty introduced in October 2015 is a legal duty provided for in the FGM Act 2003 (as amended by the Serious Crime Act 2015). The duty requires regulated health and social care professionals and teachers in England and Wales to make a report to the police where, in the course of their professional duties, they either:
- are informed by a girl under 18 that an act of FGM has been carried out on her; or
- observe physical signs which appear to show that an act of FGM has been carried out on a girl under 18 and they have no reason to believe that the act was necessary for the girl’s physical or mental health or for purposes connected with labour or birth
This is a personal duty and cannot be passed to someone else; the professional who received the disclosure or identifies FGM must make the report. Reporting to the Police is made via the 101 telephone number. This duty does not replace usual safeguarding procedures which should always be followed if you believe a child is at risk of harm.
The duty is summarised in the attached poster and detailed in the home office guidance. The referral pathway is also in the attached WSCB protocol.
Free Government e-learning
Virtual College in conjunction with the Home Office have published an FGM Awareness Raising e-learning package. The e-learning is free of charge and is available here: https://www.fgmelearning.co.uk/
Useful Home Office Links
The home office website also contains links to FGM resources and guidance documents:
- Guidance and advice for FGM: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/female-genital-mutilation
- FGM Education and Support materials: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fgm-suppport-materials
- Three FGM case studies: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fgm-case-studies