Articles on Shifting Sands
How effective is Scotland’s funded FGM related work?
The Scottish government spends £2,200,000 on FGM related work but lacks data on whether women are being protected from it
Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Health, Shona Robison, knows when people waiting for NHS cancer treatments or for hearing tests have had their guarantee on treatment times broken by any Health Board.
The Cabinet Secretary for Education, John Swinney, knows when targets for wider access to universities for students from Scotland’s most deprived backgrounds is not being met, with the most recent target set at 20% of Scotland’s university students to be from 20% of the most deprived areas by 2020.
What Shona Robison can’t tell you is whether NHS Scotland as an employer is eliminating racism as an employer, because she chooses not to have the data gathered which would help inform her on that question. Likewise John Swinney is unable to tell you whether Scotland’s universities as employers are eliminating sectarianism and discrimination against Catholic people, because he chooses not to have the data gathered which would help inform him on that question.
Put simply, government ministers cannot know whether progress is being made with policies and strategies in their areas of responsibility unless they put in place data and evidence gathering systems which help inform them if progress is being made or if they are simply describing ever-decreasing circles in the sand of poorly constructed policies and strategies.
In 2005, the then government in Scotland put in place an Act aimed at the prohibition of female genital mutilation [FGM]. In February 2016, the current government published a national action plan to prevent and eradicate FGM. Three of the primary outcomes set in the national action plan were :
- prioritise protection from, and prevention of, FGM
- provide services and appropriate support for those who have experienced FGM
- hold perpetrators to account
Using a Freedom of Information request, I asked government some questions on what progress had been made with the aims of the Act and the current national action plan. I asked for data and evidence on :
- the number of women in Scotland protected from FGM as a result of work under this strategy and since the Act of 2005
- the number of incidents in Scotland where FGM was prevented as a result of work under this strategy and since the Act of 2005
- the number of incidents where women in Scotland who have experienced FGM have been provided with support as a result of work under this strategy and since the Act of 2005
- the number of FGM perpetrators in Scotland who have been arrested as a result of work under this strategy and since the Act of 2005
- the cumulative jail terms served by all FGM perpetrators as a result of work under this strategy and since the Act of 2005
- the total funding provided by government to organisations providing protection from FGM, prevention of FGM, services and support to those who have experienced FGM, and additional funds provided to such as Police Scotland in the work required to hold perpetrators to account – and since the Act of 2005
- Scottish government does not know how many women in Scotland have been protected from FGM.
- Scottish government does not know how many times FGM was prevented.
- Scottish government does not know how many women experiencing FGM have had support under the strategy.
- When asked about how many FGM perpetrators had been arrested, the response was, again, that government did not hold this information. It did however point out that Police Scotland would hold it. Scottish government has again chosen not to inform itself of this crucial data set.
- On cumulative jail terms for all FGM perpetrators since 2005, Scottish government was informed enough to admit that the answer was zero – explaining that there have been no convictions in Scotland for FGM related offences.
- On funding the work under the strategy, government advised that Police Scotland has received no additional funding for preventing and eradicating FGM. On funding work under the strategy, government provided details of grants awarded since 2012/13. These, in round figures, indicate spending of over £2,200,000 on work in providing protection from FGM, prevention of FGM and support to those who have experienced FGM.
Based on the response from Scottish government, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, Angela Constance, has chosen not to have the data or evidence gathered which would allow her to be informed as to whether Scottish government’s National Action Plan on FGM is effective. To be fair, if one must, she simply follows the example of other Cabinet Secretaries who choose to remain uninformed as to whether progress on equality in their areas is being made, based on data and evidence gathering systems they put in place to ensure they are informed – or in this case, uninformed.
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