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Legal duty for nurses to report female genital mutilation unveiled

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All regulated health and social care professionals will in the future be legally required to report “known” cases of female genital mutilation in children under the age of 18, according to government proposals.

Following a consultation on how to introduce statutory reporting of this abuse, the Home Office has proposed professional health workers and teachers should be required to alert the police within one month of identifying FGM.

In its response to the consultation, it said these workers would only have a legal duty to report FGM when it has been disclosed to them by the person who has been abused or when they are able to confirm it visually, as opposed to cases where it is suspected.

“When a report is made, the police will then work with the relevant agencies to determine the most appropriate response”

Governement consultation response on FGM reporting

If workers do not report FGM in these circumstances they could be referred to their professional regulator – such as the Nursing and Midwifery Council – or the Disclosure and Barring Service, which could lead to them being banned from working with children.

The government confirmed it has put forward amendments to the Serious Crime Bill to ensure the new duty is legislated ahead of the dissolution of parliament at the end of March.

It said it will also include measures to place a statutory requirement on all frontline professionals to make use of guidance on FGM.

Healthcare professionals and organisations made up the largest proportion of respondents to the consultation - 43% of the 147 contributors.

While the majority of respondents (61%) agreed with the government’s proposal that “known” FGM cases should include those visually identified by the worker, “a number” of contributors stressed that visual confirmation was not straightforward and that not all professionals would be expert in this area.

“We will work with local communities to expain the duty…thereby managing any anxieties which could prevent communities from engaging with vital services”

Governement consultation response on FGM reporting

Most respondents said those who breach the duty should be dealt with via the organisation’s disciplinary procedure or regulators and only 2% said that referring workers to the DBS would be appropriate.

Many respondents said they were concerned about referral to the DBS, due to the potentially serious outcome for their careers.

“However, there was general agreement that there would be cases where this was appropriate as a secondary measure,” states the consultation summary report.

There were also concerns from respondents about reporting to the police, with some suggesting that social care agencies should be notified instead due to child safeguarding issues.

However the government said reporting to the police would not necessarily trigger automatic arrests.

“We believe that because FGM is a criminal offence, it is most appropriate for reports to be made to the police,” states the report. “When a report is made, the police will then work with the relevant agencies to determine the most appropriate response.”

“We will also work with local communities and professionals…to explain the duty and its primary focus on safeguarding girls and women, thereby managing any anxieties or concerns which could prevent communities from engaging with vital services,” it adds.

Crime prevention minister Lynne Featherstone said: “FGM is a criminal offence and it is child abuse. It can cause extreme and lifelong physical and emotional suffering and we all have a responsibility to do all we can to put a stop to it.

“We believe that introducing a mandatory duty will provide clarity for professionals and will give them the confidence to confront FGM. It will aid police investigations and increase the number of perpetrators caught and prosecuted.”

  • 3 Comments

Readers' comments (3)

  • “We will also work with local communities and professionals…to explain the duty and its primary focus on safeguarding girls and women, thereby managing any anxieties or concerns which could prevent communities from engaging with vital services,” it adds.

    This is an admirable thought, but sounds just incredibly naive...

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  • The message is gradually getting through. Women say they do not want their own daughters cut as they were as children. They know it is illegal.

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  • FGM is wrong in every way and this does seem a good innitiative but will legislation be brought in to protect young boys who are needlessly circumcised purely for religious reasons...I doubt it very much.

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