The borough identified the need to work with at risk communities to increase reporting for support (voluntary or statutory support) and the need for greater understanding among professionals in supporting FGM victims.
Newham is one of the youngest and most diverse local authorities in the UK, with 83 per cent of the population identifying as BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic). The 2011 Census identified 256,468, BAME residents in Newham, while the 2011 Newham Household panel survey found 30 per cent of residents living in the borough were born outside the UK.
Because of the demographics of Newham, the borough expected to see high numbers of recorded female genital mutilation; however, this was not the case. According to Newham Children Safeguarding data, there were only six recorded cases of FGM in Newham in 2013, and five reported to the police. However, in 2007 FORWARD, in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, estimated that the number of maternities to women with FGM in Newham from 2001-2004 was 6.7 to 7.19 per cent a year. Using these estimates in 2012 there were between 435-467 births in Newham from women who had undergone FGM, and in turn, whose children are at risk of FGM. This meant that Newham has one of the highest estimates of residents who have experienced FGM in London.
The borough identified that this discrepancy in data highlighted the need to work with at risk communities to increase reporting for support (voluntary or statutory support) and the need for greater understanding among professionals in supporting FGM victims.
Newham VAWG One-Stop Shop
In 2013, the London Borough of Newham was awarded London Crime Prevention Funding to provide a One-Stop Shop support service to victims of violence against women and girls (VAWG), this includes domestic violence, sexual violence, so-called ‘honour-based violence', forced marriage, exiting sex work and female genital mutilation. While the services maintain their independence, they share advertising, building space and developing awareness raising in the community.
The One-Stop Shop serves as the single point of contact for victims and professionals accessing DSV services in Newham. The One-Stop Shop is open from 9.00 am – 6.00 pm Monday to Friday, Thursday 9.00 am – 8.00 pm, supported by a 24-hour phone number.
The Newham FGM Prevention Service
The FGM Prevention service is one of many services that sit within the One-Stop Shop. The service is commissioned to intervene when health professionals first become aware of FGM (normally during routine examinations in pregnancy). When a professional in Maternity becomes aware of a mother who is a victim of FGM, they are required to make a referral to safeguarding, and at the same time, invite the woman to access the FGM Prevention Service. This service supports victims of FGM to empower them to understand the negative consequences of FGM and not allow FGM for their daughters.
The FGM Prevention Service is still new however the aim of the service is to provide the following:
- Casework advocacy for 50 victims per year.
- Interventions to extended family and spouses where appropriate,
- Training for 20 Community based FGM Champions per annum.
- Support for victims to report DSV to the police.
- A service to male allies. An in-depth screening process will occur before advice is offered to male allies.
- 20 seminars to antenatal services, health visitors, GPs, education, children services and police professionals regarding FGM, providing training to a minimum of 200 professionals a year.
- The development, implementation and management of a FGM Steering Group that is a subgroup to the DV Forum.
- 10 community events on the subject of FGM per year to facilitate awareness raising, safeguarding issue of FGM and challenge cultural acceptance of FGM.
- Support for professionals in making referrals to safeguarding for FGM.
- Empowerment for victims to understand that criminal justice services can protect their daughters and prosecute those that carry out FGM.
- An FGM survivors support group, engaging at least 30 individual women a year.
- Support for 4 DSV community awareness raising events. These events will facilitate awareness raising campaigns, dialogues and community participation in the service and will be joint events delivered by the One-Stop Shop contracted services.
- Support for the LBN to gather intelligence on trends and issues in the Borough related to this client group.
While commissioning the service Newham became aware that the market for commissioning an FGM services was quite small and underdeveloped. Small services and community groups that had experience in delivering support to victims of FGM were not able to meet other legal commissioning requirements such as high insurance levels, relevant policies and an understanding of the procurement process.
Newham were limited in ways they could support these smaller groups due to time constraints set by the funders and procurement rules, however, would suggest to other local authorities endeavouring to commission a FGM Service to first introduce community development funding to support local women's groups and work with them to enable them to bid for the contract.
The work has also had an impact internally with a new data monitoring flag agreed across the safeguarding case management systems, referral pathways for adults and children have also been agreed at Director level within the council. Referrals from maternity to children safeguarding are monitored quarterly, and Newham is better able to monitor the scale of FGM in the borough.
Kelly Simmons, Domestic and Sexual Violence Commissioner
London Borough of Newham