Newly appointed children and families minister Robert Goodwill has announced funding for 24 projects as part of the Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme.
In his first address to the children’s social care sector since becoming minister, to the Association of Directors of Children’s Services annual conference in Manchester, Mr Goodwill confirmed that a portion of the grant would go to Barnardo’s, which runs the National FGM Centre alongside the Local Government Association, to maintain and expand the role of the centre.
The National FGM Centre was established in 2015 with the aim of ending FGM in England within 15 years. It works with girls and their families to raise awareness in schools and communities, and trains professionals including social workers and teachers in identifying girls at risk of FGM and reporting it to the police.
News of the grant comes as figures published by NHS Digital have recorded more than 5,000 previously unreported cases of FGM from April 2016 to March 2017 – with 39 per cent of cases where the age of the child was known in children under five.
More than 80 per cent of newly reported cases of FGM, where the age at the time of the procedure was known, were carried out on children aged under ten, according to the figures.
The statistics show that in the 1,673 of these the most common age of the victim was between five and nine years old, accounting for 44 per cent of the total. The report also found that in 57 newly reported cases, the practice had been undertaken in the UK.
FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985 and is viewed as child abuse. In 2003 it became illegal to take a girl abroad for FGM. Since July 2015, anyone can apply to the court for an FGM protection order if they are concerned a child is at risk, and a statutory duty to report known cases of FGM in under-18s to the police was introduced in October 2015.
Director of the National FGM Centre, Michelle Lee-Izu said, ‘Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association are delighted the Government has given the National FGM Centre further funding to help wipe out this hidden form of child abuse by 2030. It will enable us to extend the reach and remit of the Centre’s vital work and support more girls and families in areas of both high and low prevalence of female genital mutilation.
‘Since working with some local authorities that claimed to rarely come across cases of FGM, we have been supporting 198 families in these areas, which clearly demonstrates how much the FGM Centre is needed. It also shows how much more we need to do in terms of training professionals to identify girls at risk and report cases of concern.
‘The funding will also allow us to extend our work to other harmful traditional practices such as breast ironing and flattening.’
Working in six pilot sites across England in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Thurrock, Southend and Hertfordshire, the centre runs a variety of training programmes including Bloodlines, an interactive play that toured the country earlier this year as part of a full day’s training for school staff, social workers, children’s centre workers and other professionals.
- Other initiatives awarded funding by the Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme include a Credo Care project aiming to find specialist foster placements for young disabled people in Hertfordshire and Staffordshire, and projects run by Derby City Council, the Adolescent and Children’s Trust, and Munro, Turnell & Murphy Child Protection Consulting.