The London Borough of Lambeth has incorporated FGM into their wider work on violence against women and girls, working with colleagues in partner organisations for a multi-agency approach to tackling the issue.
Based on proxy estimates using the percentage of maternities to women with FGM, and on local consultations, Lambeth is estimated to have the third highest prevalence of FGM in London. As a result, FGM is featured as a priority in Safer Lambeth's violence against women and girls (VAWG) strategy.
Work to tackle FGM began in October 2012, led by the Borough's Violence Against Women and Girls team, in partnership with colleagues in children services, with an emphasis on approaching the issue from the perspectives of both women and their children. This was kick-started with a roundtable of front-line professionals from key organisations including medical practitioners, the children's safeguarding board, specialist voluntary sector organisations, the police and social care professionals. This group shared their experiences and identified both, that systems should be improved and that more data was required to help understand the extent of the issue. An action plan for the first year of activity was produced and a multi-agency working group was formed to lead on and coordinate this activity.
Initially there was an emphasis on identifying the number of cases and the demographics of the Borough's communities to help identify those at risk. It was recognised that the current systems were not appropriately capturing this data or other information such as whether the practice had taken place in the UK or abroad and when. Lambeth worked with survivors of FGM to develop advice on what questions front-line workers might ask, with the aim of improving data collection across agencies. The team also found that although cases were being identified in Borough hospitals and in frontline voluntary sector agencies, there were challenges in involving Children's Social Care and/or the Police. Lambeth Council's FGM Working Group is now focusing on overcoming these challenges and monitoring the progress of cases to and from relevant agencies to ensure that a multi-agency approach is taken in managing risk to women and girls and ensuring they receive the right support.
A number of actions have been undertaken as a part of Lambeth's work on FGM:
- Training on the issues surrounding the practice has been provided to school nurses and school health visitors. All schools are contacted annually to highlight the issues and encourage identification and response.
- A referrals pathway has been developed for both adults and children who require support and/or safeguarding
- Multi-agency good practice guidance has been disseminated to various organisations, setting out the Borough's referral procedures and summarising how FGM can be identified and responded to.
- FORWARD has run a number of different education sessions within the borough at a secondary school and college.
- FGM is featured as part of wider multi-agency VAWG training programme, available to all Lambeth practitioners.
- The Gaia centre, Lambeth's one-stop shop for VAWG services in the Borough, has developed their staff knowledge, identification methods and data recording processes to strengthen their ability to offer support around FGM.
- Data has become easier to obtain, especially from frontline services.
- The African Advocacy Foundation delivers a number of community events across the borough, including events specifically working with men.
- The Gaia Centre provides health and leadership training for women, who then act as community champions to speak to their communities about FGM and highlight the risks.
Sophie Taylor, VAWG Training and Awareness Officer, LB Lambeth