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FGM is child abuse - we need to work together to prevent it

by Barnardo's

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is child abuse and no girl should ever have to live with the harmful physical and emotional consequences of this practice or other harmful practices such as breast ironing.

Alarmingly, figures from the NHS digital state that in 2016-2017 there were 5,391 newly recorded cases of FGM.

Girls and women affected by FGM can suffer from lifelong health problems such as complications during pregnancy and childbirth, depression, fistulas and infertility.

The best ways to prevent the abusive practice is by working with girls and their families; raising awareness in schools; and communities and training professionals like teachers and social workers to spot girls at risk of FGM and know how to report it.

Barnardo's is leading the way in tackling this practice through innovative social work with girls and their families, and through our training and education programmes at the National FGM Centre , run in partnership with the Local Government Association.

Having the right resources to help professionals safeguard children against FGM is vital. Social workers have a mandatory duty to report known cases of FGM to the police, and suspected cases through their usual safeguarding channels.

Speaking at the launch of the Dare2Care, Sonita Pobi from the National FGM Centre spoke about their new innovative tool to help social workers assess if a girl is at risk of FGM.

The online resource takes social workers through the questions they should be asking families if they think FGM is a concern. Based on the answers given, the programme generates a risk level for each case and provides recommendations for the social worker about what action needs to be taken.

Available for free on the Centre’s website  the resource also includes best practice guidance. If you wish to use this resource it is advised that you attend a day of training on FGM and the tool. More details are available on the National FGM Centre’s website.

The National FGM Centre was launched in March 2015 to protect girls and women by preventing new cases of FGM. So far the Centre has supported more than 257 families (more than 300 girls).

Working in local authorities across England the Centre supports girls at risk of FGM, as well as those who have undergone the procedure.

Through this work, a light has been shone on this hidden form of abuse and we have seen a steady increase in the number of FGM referrals to children's services in the areas we are based.

All of us, including Government, must pledge to protect women and girls from hidden crimes such as FGM, giving them the opportunity and right to live happy and healthy lives.