Operation Encompass – helping children exposed to domestic abuse to stay in education

Operation Encompass, a scheme which helps to protect children exposed to domestic abuse at home, is being expanded in Thurrock and introduced in Southend.

Police officers attending reports of domestic abuse routinely record details of children living in the home or elsewhere. Operation Encompass is a partnership scheme which enables a dedicated safeguarding lead in each school or academy involved to be informed by police in confidence if one of their pupils has been exposed to domestic abuse.

The designated safeguarding lead will then assess what support that pupil needs to help them remain in school and continue learning in a safe and secure environment.

The aim is to reduce the impact of domestic abuse on the children involved and to ensure that they get support and continue their education, to give them the best possible start in life.

Chief Inspector David Miles says police officers attend domestic incidents every day; sometimes children are present and sometimes they are elsewhere.

“However, if children are involved, and whether they see the actual incident or not, they will be affected and, at school, that could result in a fall in grades, truancy or even disciplinary and mental health issues.

“They need additional help and Operation Encompass allows our officers to act as their voice by informing schools in Thurrock and Southend when there’s been a domestic incident at a pupil’s home.”

A successful pilot has been running in Thurrock since January.

Operation Encompass is a nationally-recognised programme and, here, it’s being run in partnership with the Thurrock Local Safeguarding Children Partnership and Southend Safeguarding Partnership for children.

During the Thurrock pilot, 28 pupils were referred to schools under Op Encompass. In one instance where children were not attending school, the mother was supported by the school in helping them to return. In another, the school was able to put in support for a child whose parents had been involved in a domestic incident.

Chief Inspector Miles adds: “Operation Encompass is a fantastic scheme that focuses on the protection of children, who are the most vulnerable members of our society.

“The pilot has been a success and we are looking forward to continuing our work with Thurrock Local Safeguarding Children Partnership and, now, also linking in with Southend Safeguarding Partnership for children.

“Together we will work to keep young people safe and make every effort to break the cycle of domestic abuse.”

Jane Gardner, Deputy Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex and chair of the Southend, Essex and Thurrock Domestic Abuse Board (SETDAB), says expanding Operation Encompass after its success in Thurrock is a positive step towards creating a world where no-one has to live in fear of domestic abuse.

She says: “Breaking the cycle of domestic abuse is one of the priorities in Roger Hirst’s Police and Crime Plan. Working together with partners across the county, our objective is to help those who suffer in silence and reduce the impact on children and families.

“Domestic abuse has an impact on everyone in the family. This way of supporting families by linking police and schools together is making a huge difference to young people affected, giving them the support they need from trusted adults at a crucial time.”

In Southend, more than 60 schools have signed up for the scheme. Cllr Anne Jones, cabinet member for children and learning at Southend Council, says: “It is vital that children can grow up living in a safe, secure and loving environment and that is why, in recent years, we have increased early prevention and intervention services to support vulnerable children and families in our borough.

“I am therefore very pleased that Southend-on-Sea will now be part of Operation Encompass following the successful pilot in Thurrock and, through our safeguarding partnership, we can continue to work together with our partners and local schools to tackle and break the cycle of domestic abuse and its impact on local children.”

Cllr James Halden, Thurrock Council cabinet member for Social Care, said: “We know that, for some children and families, home may not be a safe place and many live in silent fear. The effects of domestic abuse can be far-reaching and long-lasting.

“Where children and young people are exposed to or witness domestic abuse, we must provide support that enables them to remain in school and continue learning in a safe and secure environment.”