School support for pupils affected by domestic abuse goes national

By Joe Lepper

| 21 September 2018

A scheme that links police with schools to offer early help to children exposed to domestic abuse is to be rolled out across England and Wales.

According to the Home Office around one in five children in the UK have witnessed or been exposed to domestic abuse. Picture: Rimmdream/AdobeStock

The Operation Encompass scheme ensures that police contact a school before the start of the next school day when one of their pupils has been exposed to domestic abuse.

The school's safeguarding team are then able to put in place swift support for the pupils. The scheme is already in operation in 33 police forces and the Home Office has awarded £163,000 to the charity Operation Encompass, which runs the scheme, to ensure it is introduced across all 43 police force areas in England and Wales.

The funding will also be used by the charity to carry out an audit of the effectiveness of support in place for children.

"Imagine arriving at school after hearing or witnessing domestic abuse - you have not slept, had no breakfast, don't have all your school uniform and your home is in disarray. Now you are expected to sit in your classroom and learn," said Elisabeth Carney-Haworth, a head teacher who set up the scheme with her husband David, who is a former police officer.

She added: "This is happening in our schools every day and the current procedures in many police forces do not allow for the reporting to schools of domestic abuse incidents in a timely fashion.

"This funding from the Home Office will assist in ensuring that Operation Encompass is embraced fully by all police forces and that the partnership between the police and schools will enable them to work towards providing trauma-informed support."

The expansion of Operation Encompass has been welcomed by Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT).

He said: "NAHT fully supports the important and innovative work of Operation Encompass, a new approach to information sharing between police and schools to support families experiencing domestic abuse.

"It has proved to be very successful in the schools it has been trialled in, and this funding will help the scheme to be rolled out more widely."

According to the Home Office around one in five children in the UK have witnessed or been exposed to domestic abuse. This group of children are four times more likely to go on to experience or perpetrate domestic abuse later in life.

Analysis published by the Office of the Children's Commissioner for England in August found that there are at least 420,000 children living in households with a "toxic trio" of domestic abuse, parental substance misuse and mental illness present.

A report by Women's Aid in June found that women and children fleeing domestic abuse are being forced to sleep rough or "sofa surf" due to a lack of support from councils.

The government is due to publish a draft Domestic Abuse Bill later in the current parliamentary session. Measures being considered include introducing a statutory definition of domestic abuse, domestic abuse protection orders and the creation of the role of domestic abuse commissioner.

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