Forced Marriage Scottish statutory guidance

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Chapter 4: Actions for Chief Executives, Directors and senior managers to whom this guidance is addressed

66. All Chief Executives, Directors and senior managers providing services to victims of forced marriage and honour-based violence need to be aware of the "one chance" rule. That is, their staff may only have one chance to speak to a potential victim and thus, their staff may only have one chance to save a life. This means that all professionals working within statutory agencies need to be aware of their responsibilities and obligations when they come across forced marriage cases. If the victim is allowed to walk out of the door without support, that one chance might be lost.

67. Forced marriage may also be a form of domestic, child and adult abuse and should be treated as such. Ignoring the needs of victims is not an option. Cases should be tackled regardless of cultural sensitivities, using existing structures, policies and procedures designed to protect children, adults at risk and victims of domestic abuse.

68. Existing strategic bodies should ensure that their member agencies work effectively using agreed policies and procedures to tackle this issue. This includes local strategic partnerships, such as Community Safety Partnerships and Multi Agency Violence Against Women Partnerships, local Child Protection and Adult Support and Protection Committees and Multi-agency Risk Assessment Conferences ( MARACs [8]) were these are in place.

69. Public authorities should also be aware of their statutory obligations under the Equality Act 2010 to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination which is unlawful under the Act, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations.

Senior management commitment

70. Chief Executives, Directors and senior managers should ensure their organisation has:

  • A lead person responsible for the issue of forced marriage. This is likely to be the person with overall responsibility for protecting children, adults at risk or victims of domestic abuse [9] and other forms of gender-based violence
  • Policies and procedures in place to protect those potentially at risk of forced marriage, both in terms of internal Human Resources and staff policies and the external service delivery/provision. The policies and procedures should be in line with existing statutory and non-statutory guidance on protecting children [10], adults [11] at risk and victims of domestic abuse [12] and other forms of gender-based violence [13]
  • These policies and procedures should form part of an overall child/adult protection strategy
  • Policies and procedures that are updated regularly to reflect any structural, departmental and legal changes
  • A named person who has responsibility for overseeing the organisational response to forced marriage ensuring that cases of forced marriage are handled, monitored and recorded properly

Roles and responsibilities

71. Chief Executives, Directors and senior managers should ensure that:

  • Staff have an awareness and understanding of the nature and impact of forced marriage
  • Their staff understand their role in protecting people under threat of, or already trapped in, a forced marriage and how this fits into their organisation's strategy and is relevant to their work
  • Their staff are familiar both with their organisational and statutory and responsibilities when protecting individuals threatened with or already in a forced marriage and with the relevant internal and external policies and protocols
  • Their staff know who has overall responsibility within their organisation, who has day-to-day responsibility , to whom they should refer cases within their organisation and when to refer cases to other agencies, or consult with them, and the named external contacts/teams
  • Frontline staff dealing with cases of forced marriage have access to, and are strongly recommended to consult, the practice guidelines that have been issued by the Scottish Government

Clear lines of accountability

72. Chief Executives, Directors, lead officers for adult children's services and senior managers should ensure that:

  • There is a designated person within the organisation who is accountable for promoting awareness of forced marriage and a designated individual responsible for developing and updating all policies and procedures associated with forced marriage. This is likely to be the person with overall responsibility for promoting awareness of, and updating policies and procedures concerning the protection of children/adults at risk or victims of domestic abuse
  • The designated person is a specialist in domestic abuse, adult protection or child protection with existing experience, expertise and knowledge
  • There is a senior specialist who has undertaken additional training who can be approached to discuss and direct difficult cases
  • There are clear lines of accountability from the frontline staff to senior management

Victim-centred approach

73. Chief Executives, Directors, lead officers for adult children's services and senior managers should ensure that:

  • Victims are listened to and they are able to communicate their needs and wishes
  • Victims are given accurate information about their rights and choices
  • Victims' wishes are considered about the level of intervention they require. Staff must make it absolutely clear to the victim when and why the organisation is going to intervene and what that intervention will be
  • Staff are aware that relatives, friends, community leaders and neighbours should not be used as interpreters or advocates, as they could be amongst the perpetrators of the forced marriage - despite any reassurances from this known person. If it is appropriate to use an advocate then an independent advocate should be sourced
  • The victim must always be told what information is being shared, with whom it is being shared, who will have access to it and why it is being shared.
  • Obtain the victim's consent to share information (within the limits of e.g. child protection policy). Always tell the victim if you are planning to share information; who you will share it with; why; and who else might be party to it. You should also ask/tell her if any other organisations are aware of her circumstances even if you are not planning to share information with them

Effective inter-agency working and information sharing

74. Chief Executives, Directors, lead officers for adult and children's services and senior managers should ensure that:

  • There are policies and procedures for organisations to work effectively together to protect people facing forced marriage. These procedures are set out in existing child and adult protection guidance
  • The procedures include arrangements for sharing information and making referrals including, where appropriate, with the police, social work, health and the UK Government's Forced Marriage Unit
  • Staff understand the importance of sharing information with other agencies at the earliest opportunity
  • Staff understand the difference between breaking confidence (involving the family, community members, etc without the individual's consent) and sharing information with other professionals to protect the individual from significant harm
  • Local Child Protection, Adult Support and Protection Committees and Violence Against Women Multi Agency Partnerships are likely to take a lead role in developing policies and procedures for inter-agency working and information sharing to protect adults and children from harm
  • Staff understand that a service user is entitled to withdraw their consent to information being shared at any point. The service user must be told that they can exercise this right and that, should they do so, they will be informed of any impact on the service they will receive from the organisation(s) in question. Staff would then take the necessary action to inform other agencies and note the change on record. No further information should be disclosed unless there are legal reasons for doing so, such as child or adult protection issues or where an organisation has a statutory duty to protect, like the police

75. Anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles of the Data Protection Act, which make sure that personal information is:

  • Fairly and lawfully processed
  • Processed for limited purposes
  • Adequate, relevant and not excessive
  • Accurate and up to date
  • Not kept for longer than is necessary
  • Processed in line with the individual's rights
  • Secure
  • Not transferred to other countries without adequate protection

76. For more information agencies should consult the Information Commissioner's Office (" ICO") Statutory Code of Practice on information sharing, designed to help businesses and public sector bodies share people's personal information appropriately. The Code covers both routine and one-off instances of data sharing, includes good practice advice and advises when and how personal information can be shared, as well as how to keep it secure. The Code of Practice is statutory; and it is admissible in court proceedings.

Confidentiality

77. A dilemma may occur because an individual facing forced marriage may be concerned that if confidentiality is breached and their family finds out that they have sought help they will be in serious danger. On the other hand, those facing forced marriage are often already facing serious danger because of domestic abuse, "honour-based" violence, rape, abduction etc. Therefore, in order to protect the individual, consideration should always be given to sharing information with other agencies such as the police.

78. Consequently, confidentiality, privacy [14] and information sharing are extremely important for anyone threatened with, or already in, a forced marriage. Professionals need to be clear about when confidentiality can be offered and when information given in confidence should be shared.

79. Chief Executives, Directors and senior managers should ensure that:

  • Staff understand that the individual's confidence and privacy should be respected at all times and that they should not approach family, friends or members of the community without the express permission of the individual as this may place the individual at risk of harm and they should never be used as interpreters for the victim
  • All records belonging to individuals facing forced marriage should be kept secure to prevent unauthorised access by those within the broader community who may potentially pass on confidential information to a victim's family
  • Records should only be available to those directly dealing with the case
  • Staff should also be aware that they, other colleagues within the organisation or others within the victim's support network may be approached and/or pressurised by a member of the victim's family, a family friend or a member of the community to give out information
  • Staff should always ensure the victim knows who has been told about the circumstances of their case and also be made aware of what the consequences might be to them of a breach of confidentiality and the professional who breaches it

Staff training and awareness raising

80. Chief Executives, Directors and senior managers should ensure that:

  • Suitable training and awareness raising is incorporated into existing training within agencies to ensure frontline staff are aware of the issues and know how to respond quickly and appropriately to individuals threatened with, or already in, a forced marriage
  • Training input should always be facilitated by a professional who has experience of dealing with forced marriage cases
  • Staff receive updates on the issues surrounding forced marriage and honour-based violence within their existing training on domestic abuse and child/adult protection
  • Existing work on social cohesion, equality and community outreach programmes should be used to raise general awareness of forced marriage and the help and support available within the local community

Monitoring and evaluation

81. In line with existing guidance for protecting children and adults at risk, all agencies should monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their response to forced marriage.

82. This should include data collection of the number of cases supported, the source of referrals, details about the individual involved such as their age, ethnicity and gender, together with information about the outcome of the case. This data should be used to inform and improve the response to cases of forced marriage within organisations more effectively as well as giving a clearer indication of the prevalence of forced marriage. Organisations should use and, if required, adapt their existing data collection systems to capture information on cases of forced marriage.

Record keeping

83. Chief Executives, Directors and senior managers should ensure that:

  • Staff keep clear, concise records of all actions taken who took them and the reasons why particular actions were, or were not taken. There should be a recorded agreement of which agency is to undertake each proposed action together with the outcome of each action
  • If no further action is to be taken, this should be clearly documented together with the reasons

Risk assessment

84. Chief Executives, Directors and senior managers should ensure that:

  • Staff within the organisation understand the risks facing victims of forced marriage, their siblings and other family members - including the possibility of "honour-based" violence, threats to kill, murder, kidnap, rape, imprisonment and being abducted overseas
  • Their organisational risk assessments are evaluated to ensure that they are appropriate for handling cases of forced marriage - and recognise the potential risk of harm to victims and practioners [15]. That they take into account the inherent differences in practice and procedures required from other types of child or adult protection risk assessment
  • Staff alleviate these risks by undertaking ongoing risk assessments on a case-by-case basis, feeding into multi-agency risk assessment structures to manage any risks identified appropriately
  • Their organisational risk assessments are evaluated to ensure that they are appropriate for handling cases of forced marriage - and recognise the potential risk of harm to victims and practioners
  • For children, the Getting it right assessment framework should be used to assess the risks (See paragraphs 94-98)

The danger of family counselling, mediation, arbitration and reconciliation

85. Due to the nature of forced marriage and honour-based violence, some of the underlying principles and themes within existing guidance may inadvertently place young people and adults at greater risk of harm. This includes the belief that the best place for them is with their family and the practice of attempting to resolve cases through family counselling, mediation, arbitration and reconciliation.

86. Chief Executives, Directors and senior managers should ensure that:

  • Staff have adequate training to understand the danger of family counselling, mediation, arbitration and reconciliation in forced marriage cases or where the possibility of forced marriage is a concern
  • Staff understand that in cases of forced marriage, it is important that agencies do not initiate, encourage or facilitate family counselling, mediation, arbitration or reconciliation. Mediation can also place the individual at risk of further emotional and physical abuse
  • Staff are aware that, on occasions when an individual insists on meeting with their parents, such a meeting should only take place in a safe location, supervised by a trained/specialist professional with an authorised accredited interpreter present (not from the same local community), as parents sometimes threaten the individual in their other language
  • Staff are aware that allowing a victim to have unsupervised contact with their family is extremely risky. Families may use the opportunity to subject the victim to extreme physical or mental duress or take them overseas regardless of any protective measures that are in place
  • Staff must also be aware that perpetrators can use emails, phone conversations, texts as a form of mediation with the individual. These modes of communication can be just as threatening. Staff should consider the impact of these forms of communication on the individual and think about how they might support and keep the individual safe if such contact takes place

Protecting children and adults with disabilities

87. There have been reports of children and adults with mental health needs, learning and physical disabilities and additional support needs being forced to marry [16]. In the case of children, the law is straightforward: children do not have capacity to consent to marriage, irrespective of any disability.

88. Some adults do not have the capacity to consent to the marriage and may be unable to consent to consummate the marriage - sexual intercourse without consent is rape. There are various offences under the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 that can be committed against a person with a mental disorder.

89. The Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 can also be used to protect adults who lack capacity to consent to marriage. The Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 places a duty on local authorities to inquire about the well-being of an adult who may be at risk of harm. This would include an adult with physical or mental disability who has been forced to marry, and allows the local authority to take a range of measures to provide appropriate support and protection. In particular, applications can be made to the sheriff for guardianship orders or intervention orders.

90. There are also sexual offences that can be committed against a person suffering from a mental health disorder under the Mental Health Care and Treatment (Scotland) Act 2003.

91. Children and young people with additional support needs or disabilities and some adults could be at risk of forced marriage and its consequences because they may be reliant on their families for care, they may have communication difficulties and they may have fewer opportunities to tell anyone outside the family about what is happening to them.

92. Many of the measures for protecting children and young people with disabilities and adults who may be at risk from forced marriage are the same as those for children and adults without disabilities. However, they may have particular needs, and face challenges which may be substantially different from those encountered by other people facing forced marriage. In the context of police interviews, the use of an Appropriate Adult should be considered to assist with communication [17].

93. Chief Executives, Directors and senior managers should ensure that disabled children, children with additional support needs and adults who may be at risk of harm receive whatever additional assistance and support they require. Good practice in relation to this assistance and support includes:

  • Listening to disabled children/adults who may be at risk of harm and making sure they know how to raise concerns
  • Meeting the care and support and protection needs of the disabled child or adult
  • Ensuring disabled children/adults who may be at risk have access to adults outside the family to whom they can turn for help
  • Providing speech and language therapists, providing alternative and augmentative communication aids and providing British Sign Language translators or other appropriate support needs to facilitate communication
  • Providing training and raising awareness about forced marriage amongst staff that care for disabled children or adults who may be at risk of harm
  • Providing an Independent Advocate in cases where the victim lacks mental capacity mental illness - so their needs and wishes are understood and communicated [18]