Staffordshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s office is in the early stages of delivering an initiative to tackle FGM across Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent, after securing £250,000 from the Home Office.
The project, to be delivered by Barnardo’s, aims to raise general awareness of FGM, as well as develop appropriate and sustainable responses to the practice.
Key audiences to be targeted will include children at risk of FGM and their families; victims of FGM; communities where a high proportion of the population originate or have links with countries where FGM is practiced; and professionals from a wide range of agencies.
Initially delivered in three pilot locations in Staffordshire – Stoke on Trent North, East Staffordshire and Stafford, Barnardo’s will work with leading experts, local authorities and organisations already active in the field of FGM to help build a specialist, joined up service that will focus on safeguarding girls and preventing further cases.
Two specialist project workers have been recruited to start in the summer and will provide support to victims and potential victims of FGM and their families with the ultimate aim of preventing FGM.
Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Arnold, who led an awareness campaign on behalf of PCC Matthew Ellis, said: ‘This is a great result for the county and in particular the women and girls of Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.
‘Female genital mutilation is a hideous practice and it’s a crime. It invariably goes unreported and results in tremendous psychological, as well as physical, pain and suffering, which can and does traumatise girls for life.
‘This isn’t just a problem for women in affected communities – it’s an issue which we all need to face and it’s why the PCC’s office has led this project to really change young girls’ lives for the better.’
The project will also provide expert advice and guidance to professionals working with children to ensure a more consistent and informed response to prevent FGM.
This will include providing comprehensive training to health care and social work staff to address gaps in knowledge on how to identify and protect women and children from FGM as well as creating ‘community champions’ who will forge trusting relationships and foster changes in attitudes and practices within the community.
Specialist services will take a victim centred approach and will support, through counselling and other therapeutic interventions, potential victims and/or actual victims of FGM.
The Police and Crime Commissioner’s office led the project on behalf of partners, including the police, county and city councils, health and key voluntary women’s groups, to secure funding to tackle FGM. This was not because of the high prevalence currently of the issue across the county and city, but a desire to prevent it from escalating.
Head of the National FGM Centre, Leethen Bartholomew, said: ‘Professionals working in major cities are likely to come across FGM cases. It’s a different story elsewhere, where less diverse communities in smaller towns and cities make FGM uncommon.
‘Spotting girls at risk or women who’ve already been cut is harder if local authorities don’t always have the necessary specialist skills and knowledge.
‘This is why the National FGM Centre is pleased to be working with the Police and Crime Commissioner and associated organisations in Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent and the communities they serve to help professionals keep girls safe from this harmful, unlawful practice and to provide the right support to them and their families.’