September 2011 saw Safeguarding Children e-Academy host a cultural awareness in safeguarding event in Manchester.

The all-day seminar brought together over 80 members of the safeguarding community in the North West, representing agencies as diverse as the police, councils and the NHS. Delegates participated in seminars covering forced marriage, Female Genital Mutilation, the role of belief in safeguarding and witchcraft and spirit possession.

The day began with a seminar by Lucy Torrington of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Forced Marriage Unit. Lucy started by outlining the many varied cultural, economic and societal factors involved in forced marriage, and its effects and consequences for the victim.

She then gave guidance on how practitioners should approach and deal with suspected cases of forced marriage, including the crucial ‘one chance rule’. Finally, Lucy outlined how the forced marriage unit can support both practitioners and victims both in the UK and abroad.

Perdeep Kaur Gill an independent safeguarding advisor led the next session which focused on Safeguarding and Beliefs in Spirit Possession/Witchcraft. The session began by with a summary of the diverse nature of the belief in spirit possession and witchcraft in one form or another across the major world religions.

Perdeep then highlighted the possible risks and very real harm the belief in spirit possession and witchcraft pose. The session closed with an interactive session focusing on the skills necessary to explore and analyse cases involving belief in possession and witchcraft.

After lunch, Perdeep talked about Cultural Beliefs and the Interplay of Other Factors on Safeguarding Children. This included considering parenting styles and differing perceptions of what constitutes child abuse, the br>challenges in effectively undertaking ecological assessment in cases involving diverse belief systems.

She also outlined tactics for support and interventions that include faith and culture as strengthening factors and how to build capacity and capability to successfully work effectively with families from diverse communities.

Dr Comfort Momoh, an FGM and public health specialist from Guys and St Thomas hospital in London finished off the day with a moving and at times difficult to watch presentation outlining why and where FGM is practiced, what FGM actually consist of, services to support victims of FGM in the UK and the legal and safeguarding issues surrounding FGM.