Background

The National FGM Centre is a partnership between Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association (LGA) to achieve a systems change in the provision of services for girls and women affected by female genital mutilation (FGM). Funded initially by the Department of Education as part of its Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme, the Centre works closely with key partners from Local Authorities, Health, Education, Police, and the voluntary sector to achieve its vision and aims.

The Centre’s Vision

The vision of the National FGM Centre is to end new cases of FGM for women and girls living in England within the next 15 years, in partnership with statutory agencies, government departments, and grassroots organisations.

The Centre’s Aims

The Centre will develop a model of social work delivery which will result in a systems change in the way that services are provided to girls and women affected by FGM, aiming to:

1. Prevent new cases, by building effective strategies for the identification and support of at risk girls and creating changes in community attitudes.

2. Protect girls and women, through proactive safeguarding and effective prosecutions.

3. Support those who have been affected by FGM, providing long-term holistic support for women and girls.

4. Partner with stakeholders to deliver solutions, bring together experience and learning on what works for tackling FGM.

The Centre Model

The Centre provides direct services to pilot local authorities in the first instance, combining social work services and community outreach, and share this learning nationally through a knowledge hub, consultancy, practice development and training, conferences and workshops. It is the link between these different activities which gives the Centre its transformative power.

CentreModel

National FGM Centre – The model

The Centre will offer a flexible, responsive continuum of intervention, combining direct social work and community outreach. This may include delegated responsibility to the Centre for children’s social care as it relates to FGM. This intervention will be provided by qualified social workers or experienced project workers. Wherever there are delegated statutory duties these will be carried out by qualified social workers. For more information about our services, download our Centre leaflet.

Social work services – commissioning for value

An innovative, flexible offer is available. Social workers are placed directly into each local authority’s multi-agency safeguarding team, and across local authorities. Excellent front-line social workers provide advice and guidance, and work with girls and families affected by FGM. The National FGM Centre employs and supports the social workers, and through economies of scale is able to provide a high quality, cost effective service to deliver identified and agreed outcomes.

This service has been developed successfully with six pilot authorities and is now ready to be expanded nationally. Its package of social work services can be adapted to areas of low prevalence as well as local authorities with significant numbers of families from affected communities.

“Thank you for your support during the Ofsted Inspection…. The excellent work that
you are doing in relation to FGM….was highlighted in the feedback by the Inspectors as an important strength” – Director of a pilot local authority

Consultancy, practice development and training

–   CPD accredited training at advanced level is designed for participants who have understanding and experience of safeguarding. Bespoke training can also be provided.

“There was a frank and clear discussion of issues that are still often seen as ‘taboo’. Also there was clear instruction in terms of what we must do as professionals if a disclosure is made.” – Participant at half day training

“I wasn’t looking forward to the course but I am so glad I came”. – Participant at half day training

“Really developed my knowledge and increased my confidence for managing staff through FGM and reporting” –  Participant at one day training

–   FGM peer challenge reviews the effectiveness of an organisation’s delivery of FGM services, and identifies actions to improve outcomes for affected girls and young women in terms of prevention and protection.

–   Practice development is available around specific topics such as talking with children about FGM, dealing with disclosure, or making FGM referrals.

Community outreach – prevention in practice

The National FGM Centre recognises the need to engage communities in prevention to change embedded attitudes and behaviour. This includes working with men and boys and faith leaders from all faiths. Project workers at the National FGM Centre are experienced in the use of collaborative methods and community champions to support change. Community organisations are engaged through stakeholder events and community intervention programmes, and schools via programmes for teachers and young people.

Helping women and girls understand the consequences of FGM enables them to break the cycle in their families, empowers them to resist family and community pressures to perform the practice and empowers them to support other friends and community members to reject FGM. Our Project Workers provide intensive 1-to-1 support including information, advice, and referrals to specialist services for physical and psychotherapeutic support.

Case Study: Ifrah

“Ifrah, 25, (not her real name) was referred to the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) via a health service where she had disclosed she had FGM. Ifrah cared for a 14-year-old younger sister and health referred her to MASH as part of their policy. Ifrah had been informed and consented to the referral.

The MASH assessed that there were no safeguarding concerns for the younger sister but Ifrah could benefit from some additional support. The case was referred to the Barnardo’s National FGM Centre on a voluntary basis. A Specialist Social Worker (SSW) contacted Ifrah and explained the remit of her role, suggesting it might be useful to discuss FGM in more detail, her understanding of the practice, and any support needs she may have around this.

The SSW visited Ifrah, and initiated discussion around the different countries in which she had lived. She encouraged Ifrah to consider cultural practices and expectations of women in each country. When the SSW discussed with Ifrah why she felt FGM was practiced in her culture she stated she did not know. She said she felt this was a “traditional” practice that happened in secrecy.

They moved on to discuss what FGM was, different reasons for the practice and the multitude of health implications that can be associated with it. Ifrah recognized for the first time some health implications that she was experiencing as a result of FGM. Ifrah informed the SSW that information about FGM was not provided via her health appointment. Ifrah indicated that she knew she had had FGM but she didn’t really know what this meant, and how she was different from other women. She stated that she had never spoken about it with anyone but was relieved to finally understand what she had experienced, and how it still affected her today.

A month after the meeting, Ifrah contacted the SSW to inform her that she had gone away and researched more about FGM. She had gained the confidence to give a presentation on FGM in front of her college classmates. She sounded very positive and proud, and felt empowered to finally tell her story. Ifrah said she could now come to terms with what has happened to her and help others in her community reject the practice.”

Knowledge Hub – available to all professionals

The interactive Knowledge Hub is an online library of quality assured national and international data, information and resources regarding FGM. It helps to support the continued learning of professionals, the development of good practice, and the understanding of excellence in FGM services. The Centre’s own resources are also stored in the Knowledge Hub for use by professionals.