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Teachers advised about signs a girl might be at risk of FGM

Release Date: 17 Dec 2018

With the Christmas school holidays just days away, teachers and other professionals are being advised to look out for the signs a girl may be at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM).

The warning from the National FGM Centre, which is run by Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association, comes as British girls could be flown abroad to unwittingly undergo the procedure during the festive period.

Any teacher who suspects a pupil is going overseas for this purpose should follow normal safeguarding procedures.

But these professionals can only help protect children by knowing what to look out for.

Some indications may come from the child. She might:

•        Begin to tell her friends about FGM

•        Confide she is going to have a ‘special procedure’, or attend a special occasion to ‘become a woman’.

•        Talk about looking forward to a long holiday to a country where the practice is prevalent.

•        Approach a teacher or another adult if she’s aware or suspects she’s at immediate risk.

The child’s parents may unwittingly give the following clues:

•        Say they are taking their child out of the country for a prolonged period of time

•        Ask permission to take their daughter out of school during term time.

•        Mention they are going to a country with a high prevalence of FGM, especially during holiday periods.

The National FGM Centre, run by Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association, trains professionals to spot the signs which may suggest girls have had FGM.

These include difficulty in walking or sitting down comfortably, taking a long time in the toilet, or a significant change in behaviour such as becoming withdrawn.

The warning comes as NHS Digital publishes the latest figures showing the number of women who have been identified for the first time as having had FGM.

They show progress is being made but there is still a long way to go in the fight against FGM.

There were 925 newly recorded cases of female genital mutilation in England between July and September 2018, according to the latest figures published by NHS Digital.

This is a drop of 12.74% compared to the 1,060 newly recorded cases for the same quarter of 2017.

In all, there were 2,025 attendances reported at NHS trusts and GP practices where FGM was identified or a medical procedure for the practice was undertaken – these attendances involved 1,630 individual women and girls.

Head of the National FGM Centre Leethen Bartholomew said:

Much more needs to be done to support survivors of FGM and protect girls who are at risk.

FGM is child abuse and no girl should ever have to live with the harmful physical and emotional consequences of this practice.

We believe the best way of preventing the 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.

We hope our reminder of the signs will help not just teachers but all agencies to prevent FGM from happening by identifying girls at risk and helping to prosecute those who fail to protect girls from this type of abuse.

The figures are published by NHS Digital and show between July and September 2018, there were 1,630 women and girls who attended a medical setting where FGM was identified or a procedure related to FGM was undertaken:

These accounted for 2,025 attendances reported at NHS trusts and GP practices.

925 women and girls with FGM were recorded in the FGM Enhanced Dataset for the first time.

Since October 31, 2015, it has been mandatory for health, social care workers and teachers in England and Wales to report known cases of FGM for under 18-year-olds to the police.

If any child tells one of these regulated professionals they have had FGM, or if a professional observes she has had FGM, they must phone the police on 101.

If an adult tells someone a child has had FGM, this is a report of child abuse.

If this is the case then the adult should follow their normal child safeguarding procedures.

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