Safeguarding children exposed to domestic violence and abuse (DV&A) is one of the priorities for the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) and our partner agencies. The impact on witnessing DV&A is significant, and children living in households where this is a factor are exposed to increased risks. Nationally 49.9%.of child protection assessments had domestic violence recorded as a factor in 2016-17, and locally this increased to 56.9%.
You may have already heard of Operation Encompass, which is a project, supported by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, that aims to safeguard and support children and young people who are involved in or affected by incidents involving domestic abuse. Witnessing domestic abuse is really distressing for a young person, who can often see the abuse, hear it from another room, see a parent's injuries or distress afterwards or be physically hurt trying to stop the abuse. Following such an incident, children will often arrive at school upset and unprepared. Operation Encompass aims to ensure that appropriate school staff are made aware early enough to support children in the best way possible.
Launched in 2011, in Plymouth, this project currently runs in 27 police force areas in the UK, and this has recently been rolled out by Sussex Police across West Sussex. At their March Board meeting the LSCB were presented feedback from the pilot of Operation Encompass in Crawley last year, and following this they set up a multi-agency Working Group to look at local implementation. The Board committed to this proposal at their last meeting on 11 June 2018.
Operation Encompass does not replace or supersede existing protocols, or singularly address child welfare. The process should always be followed in conjunction with current safeguarding procedures and practitioners guidelines, and is designed to reinforce safeguarding and ensure children’s well-being is of paramount importance. You can read more about the aims and benefits of Operation Encompass at www.operationencompass.org, and read testimonials in their information booklet.
How will it work?
When Operation Encompass comes into effect locally, all officers who attend a DV&A incident where there are children present will email a Key Adult at the child’s school with basic information. This will allow us to better support the child the next day, and help us put their behaviour into context.
The information shared by the police will tell your Key Adult:
- Whether the child was present – Y/N
- If they ordinarily resides at the location – Y/N
- If they ordinarily resides with an involved party – Y/N
- Time and date of incident
- Time and date of police attendance
- Sussex police reference
- Child’s name and date of birth
- Relationship of Involved parties to child
- Did the child witness the incident – Y/N
- Child spoken to by police – Y/N
Each participating school should nominate a Key Adult (or Adults), who must be level three Child Protection trained, to receive the notification of the incident. A briefing session will be provided by Sussex Police for all Key Adults, to help equip them for this responsibility.
Following the notification appropriate staff will be more aware of the trauma that the child has recently experienced, and will be able to look out for their welfare and offer any additional support they may need at this time.