Health professionals worried about girls suffering female genital mutilation can now contact a new specialist NSPCC helpline for information and advice.
Female genital mutilation is a form of child abuse common to some African, Asian and Middle Eastern communities in the UK which can leave young victims in agony and with physical and psychological problems that can continue into adulthood.
'FGM is abuse'
The creation of the new helpline has been commended by the Royal College of Midwives’ with Professional Policy Advisor Janet Fyle saying it will provide an important service for many girls.
"We welcome the introduction of a service that provides confidential and independent advice to vulnerable young girls at risk of FGM," Fyle said.
"FGM is child abuse and we want midwives and other health workers, who are on the frontline of safeguarding and protecting girls and young women, to seek information and advice if they are concerned about a young girl or child.”
True number of victims is much higher
The NSPCC has found that over 1,700 victims were referred to specialist clinics in the last two years. However, the charity believes the true number of victims is even higher as only a tiny fraction come forward for medical help. Those who do are usually adults with maternity problems.
Lisa Harker, NSPCC Head of Strategy, said: "Health professionals have a crucial role to play in helping protect children from female genital mutilation. It is vital they have all the information and support they need to take action if they believe a child is at risk or has been a victim.
"The UK’s child victims of female genital mutilation are hidden behind a wall of silence. Like other forms of abuse if female genital mutilation is not exposed it will continue to thrive and more children will suffer."
"Government, professionals, campaigners and the police have shown real commitment to protecting victims of female genital mutilation. We hope that this will prove to be the tipping point that will stop this barbaric abuse of children."
The free 24-hour helpline is available on 0800 028 3550 or firstname.lastname@example.org and is for anyone concerned that a child’s welfare is at risk because of female genital mutilation.