Rowan Windsor 1st August 2017
Royal College of Nursing reveals number of cases not falling fast enough and newly reported cases happening in the UK has risen since last year.
Last year the NHS reported over 9000 attendances to the service were involved in the identification and treatment of female genital mutilation. The breakdown of the findings report a total of 9179 were recorded in the UK in which FGM was either identified, provided treatment, or an FGM survivor had given birth. A total of 5391 were recorded as first time attendances; 114 girls were under the age of 16. This includes figures from both the NHS and GP practices.
The reported numbers represent only a slight drop in figures from the previous year by 44 fewer attendances. Head of nursing at the Royal College of Nursing, Wendy Preston said that despite the growing discussion and concern over FGM “...the number of women and girls subjected to [FGM] is not falling fast enough.”, adding that the drop in school nurses in recent years has had detrimental impact on the effort to tackle FGM. It must be the responsibility of the government to attract and maintain the number of school nurses rather than cut local authority health budgets.
Preston added “Mandatory reporting and compulsory sex and relationships education are important weapons in the fight against FGM, and school nurses play a vital role in both educating children and young women, and spotting those who may be at risk”.
Preston also mentioned how “recent figures show the number of school nurses has fallen by 16% since 2010, largely as a result of government cuts. It is not right that vulnerable children pay the price for funding reductions and poor workforce planning.”.
Only 2385 of women involved in newly reported cases revealed the country in which FGM took place, reporting 1229 cases taking place in parts of Africa, while 57 cases took place in the UK. This is a significant rise in newly reported cases of FGM carried out in the UK compared to figures from 2015-2016 which recorded 18 new cases.
The acting director ofthe National FGM centre, Meg Fassam-Wright believes the data is helping provide a clearer picture of FGM in England; “It is important that the cases are being identified,” she said of the overall report. “These are often cases of women who have had FGM a number years ago. Their health needs and other needs are potentially being identified through the collection of this data, so we can plan for a better future because these women – some of them – will have long-term health problems as a result of FGM.” Additionally, the report demonstrates the need for all statutory services to respond to FGM for both girls and women.
Fassam-Wright also believes that government cuts pose a threat to public and third-party sector organisations that work with FGM survivors and tackle FGM.
“We’ve got a number of discussions which are taking place at the present time – we are in the position where unless we get decisions about our funding by 21 July then the centre will unfortunately have to close.”
This fear follows recent closure of the Action African Well Woman Centre, a london based clinic for FGM survivors, due to a lack of funding. A government spokesperson said that the funding provided to the National FGM Centre (which was part of the £200m Children’s Social Care innovation Programme) was never intended to be ongoing, and instead expected to establish the service to help it become self-sustaining.
“Protecting women and girls from violence and supporting victims is a key priority for this government and a personal priority for the minister for women and equalities, Justine Greening,” he said.
“We have strengthened the law on this through the Serious Crime Act 2015. It is now an offence if you fail to protect a girl from FGM. We have also created a mandatory reporting duty requiring professionals to report known cases of FGM to the police and have provided lifelong anonymity for victims.”