Jennette Arnold
London assembly member for North East London — fighting your corner at City Hall

My Letter to the Mayor’s Draft Police and Crime Plan

 

Female Genital Mutilation and the Mayor’s Draft Police and Crime Plan 

The campaign against the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has gained significant momentum in the last few years. Positive steps have been taken to tackle FGM, but we know new cases are being discovered in London, and we know that there is more that we must do to prevent it.

Over 50 per cent of all cases of FGM recorded in England are in London. We must therefore make FGM one of the most important crime issues in London affecting girls, and stamp it out as a matter of urgency.

While laws are in place to stop FGM, we know legislation is only part of the solution. Prevention and education are so important. Training is key to empowering professionals and communities to speak up about what is going on in London, and schools need to take the right steps to protect vulnerable girls from FGM.

As you know, the London Assembly held a conference in January 2017 that brought together frontline professionals with a responsibility for tackling FGM from across the capital for the first time. It provided an opportunity for professionals to share best practice and talk frankly and openly about the challenges and barriers to tackling FGM. We heard the views and first-hand accounts of those working to end FGM in London.

The presentations and discussions at the conference highlighted the progress that has been made in tackling FGM in London. It also demonstrated that there is clearly more that needs to be done to prevent cutting taking place. The commitment in your draft Police and Crime Plan to “maximise the learning from pilot projects to tackle harmful practices such as FGM … to guide future work with local authorities on better identification, support and referrals for potential or current victims” and encourage more victims of FGM to come forward and report is welcomed. However, it is not clear how you and your Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime will address FGM in London.

The draft plan misses an opportunity. It does not go far enough and does not demonstrate how it will deliver your promise that FGM is a practice that you will not tolerate. We ask that your final plan includes a much stronger commitment from you to support women and girls affected by, or at risk of, FGM and provides more detail as to how you and MOPAC will work with organisations and communities in London to eradicate this practice. In particular, we ask the following:

Leadership

You must take a visible lead and speak out against FGM. Your Police and Crime Plan must show your commitment – driving a more effective multi-agency response to FGM, with a shared vision across organisations and aspirations for action. Participants at our conference highlighted the need for greater coordination at a regional level, and a body that can challenge and hold agencies to account, providing consistency and ensuring that best practice is shared more effectively and efficiently. We suggest that you, through your Police and Crime Plan, are best placed to do this. We also propose that you champion a communications strategy, including a pan-London campaign, to raise awareness of the real risks and dangers of FGM, reaching a wide audience and signposting women and girls to the support they require.

Collaborative and partnership working

You have said that tackling FGM, in partnership with the police, criminal justice partners and specialist organisations, would be an important part of your mayoralty. A collaborative approach between MOPAC and local agencies needs to be instilled, and these collective voices need to be strong. Everyone must come together to safeguard those at risk of FGM, and meet the health and psychological needs of survivors. There are people in London working tirelessly to eradicate FGM. This work should be recognised, celebrated and supported in your Police and Crime Plan for London.

Community groups are key to safeguarding women and girls from FGM. They must be part of London’s response to tackling and preventing FGM, and you, as Mayor, should actively engage with communities affected by FGM to raise awareness, strengthen community-based prevention work and engage them in providing training for professionals.

Education and training

Participants at our conference stressed the importance of practitioners having the confidence and resources to confront FGM. We heard that many professionals are not certain about what FGM is and how they should respond – they also said that more needs to be done to educate and raise awareness to help frontline practitioners better protect those who might be at risk of FGM. Your final plan should explain how you will address these concerns and support the provision of both multi-agency and bespoke training to address the specific issues and challenges faced by London’s practitioners, including teachers, health and social care professionals and the police.

Information sharing

Sharing information is critical to safeguarding and protecting girls against FGM. Attendees at our conference told us that the sharing of information and the quality of information recorded needs to improve. We were told that clarification about what information can be shared, and how to share it, is needed. It was proposed that standard procedures for recording information about FGM should be developed to increase understanding of both the prevalence and practical response to FGM in London.

As we know, many professionals have a legal duty to identify, report and respond to suspected or identified cases of FGM. Building on this, all those with a responsibility to safeguard children should ensure procedures are in place to share information across agencies and make FGM an integral part of their protecting children duties. We ask that you lead the way in bringing agencies together to standardise the recording of FGM related information and that you support the collation of good practice and qualitative and quantitative data from across London’s agencies to provide a robust evidence base and an informed response to FGM.

Resources and long-term funding

Your final Police and Crime Plan must not only demonstrate the important work being undertaken by the Met, and other partners, to tackle and prevent FGM in London, it must also show the support you will give to the police, health and education services, voluntary organisations and communities to help move London towards a ‘zero cutting city’. At our conference we heard that approaches to FGM differ across London, from area to area and often sit within different teams and remits. As a result, FGM often struggles to have a voice in terms of resource allocation, and the good work being done is not recognised or up-scaled.

Long-term sustainable investment for FGM should be a funding priority for you. This must include funding for education, training, awareness, prevention and enforcement activity, and support for all girls and women affected by FGM. You should also explore the options for joined up pan-London commissioning – enabling equity of funding and provision across London, with resources in the places where they are most needed.

I am currently reviewing the material from the conference and will make bespoke recommendations for action that you and your partners can take to strengthen London’s response to FGM.

Please let me know if you would like to discuss this in more detail. FGM must not slip off the agenda. We need to be ambitious and see London taking the lead in ending FGM.

I look forward to seeing your commitment to FGM strengthened and reflected in your final Police and Crime Plan for London.

Yours sincerely

Jennette Arnold OBE AM

Deputy Chair of London Assembly