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We've made progress on tackling difficult cultural issues

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I was recently chatting to a colleague whose wife, back in 1989, was suddenly confronted with a situation; and she had little idea what to do. As a young social worker she had to deal with a case of what is now referred to as female genital mutilation but then as the less stark ‘female circumcision’. There was little support for her and she really felt that she was flying solo over a challenging issue.

Hearing about this has made me think. In those days perhaps we were less confident than we now are about challenging practices when this could be interpreted as undermining some cultures. What’s clear is that, back then, a few lone social workers were operating in a system where they felt quite isolated, wondering what support would be there if a stand was taken on issues like this.

So, it was refreshing to recently host a blog on our site from Inspector Allen Davis from Project Azure at the Metropolitan Police Service. His point is that although it’s now mandatory to report concerns of FGM, there’s more that must be done. Agencies must work as partners to safeguard those girls who are vulnerable to FGM. Plus, professionals and communities also need to have the confidence in the police response so that they are happy to share community information and intelligence.

Of course, with anything like FGM and also child sexual exploitation, there’s still much to do. But these days there’s certainly a greater sense of common purpose and approach, driven by a shared goal of achieving better experiences and outcomes for children. This vision, backed up by tight, well-informed and complementary systems and procedures, can give confidence when addressing really difficult issues within communities.

And, as organisational leaders we must rise above our day-to-day pressures and keep focused on the big picture. As one service user, in a pretty challenging workshop, recently said: “I don’t care how big your budgets are or how many staff you bosses manage; I expect to you to make good things happen and to stop bad things from happening.” An excellent reminder of why we’re here.

Tony Hunter, chief executive, Social Care Institute for Excellence

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