Teachers, police officers, doctors, social workers and Border Force staff all have an important role to play in helping to identify and assist girls who are at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM).
In 2014, Virtual College worked with the Home Office to launch a free FGM e-learning package, designed to educate on how to deal with vulnerable females at risk of the procedure.
The Home Office made a successful bid to secure €300,000 of European Union funding to develop the FGM training course, as it championed a more proactive approach to safeguarding girls and women against FGM.
Speaking at the Girl Summit 2014 hosted by then-prime minister David Cameron and UNICEF earlier that year, then-home secretary Theresa May stated: “Legislation alone is not enough. We must do more to prevent these harmful practices ever happening in the first place. We must raise awareness, challenge social norms and protect those at risk.
"We are launching improved multi-agency guidelines on how to tackle cases of FGM, a new FGM e-learning package for safeguarding practitioners and a resource pack for commissioners."
The Home Office's free FGM training course provides safeguarding professionals with an overview of FGM, as well as their responsibilities in FGM cases. The e-learning module also contains information on how to prevent FGM, and provides professionals with guidance on how to support those who have been subjected to the procedure.
In the same year that the FGM e-learning course was introduced, the UK saw its first ever FGM prosecution in a landmark case. While this marked something of a turning point for FGM awareness, the most recent statistics from NHS Digital show that 5,391 new cases of FGM were recorded in the country during the 2016-17 period.
Meanwhile, FGM was identified as a factor at 9,179 medical appointments throughout the 12-month period, indicating that thousands of girls and young women in Britain are still at risk of the procedure.
FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985, but some young girls are flown abroad to undergo the procedure, which some cultures believe is necessary for preserving a female's virginity and 'cleanliness'.
In reality, FGM can prove fatal, result in serious bleeding and infections, leave victims unable to go to the toilet properly, and at risk of additional complications in childbirth.
As a result, it is vital that everyone who works in a safeguarding role knows how to spot potential risk factors for FGM and how to respond, as well as how to support females who have already been affected by FGM.
If you would like to take the free FGM training course, please visit www.fgmelearning.co.uk