Social workers will join teachers and doctors in receiving extra training to identify and help girls who might be at risk of becoming victims of female genital mutilation.
The measures are part of a wider action plan to tackle the cultural practice (see box), which has been illegal in the UK since 1985 and has seen 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales be mutilated.
Prime minister David Cameron and local government leaders have pledged for tougher laws that would see parents prosecuted for failing to prevent their daughters from being cut. Anyone practicing, promoting or encouraging FGM would also face prosecution.
Cllr Ann Lucas, chair of the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “FGM is a horrific form of abuse and councils see first-hand the devastating impact it has on its victims’ mental and physical wellbeing.”
“Female genital mutilation will only be eradicated in the long-term by changing practice and custom in communities where it happens and this requires working with and empowering members of these communities to change their views towards FGM.”
Peter Watt, NSPCC director of national services, said: “The fact thousands of women and girls in the UK are living with the consequences of FGM is terrifying, but not a shock.
“Women and girls across the UK are having to deal with the serious physical and mental effects of FGM alone. By providing better post trauma care and support we can help them and their communities to recognise that FGM is child abuse and it must stop.”