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Children witnessing domestic abuse can still be supported at school during COVID-19

Peter McCall

Schools in Cumbria will still be provided with early reporting on children in their care who have witnessed domestic abuse to assist in the protection of a vulnerable child or young person during COVID-19.

Operation Encompass is an initiative designed to provide early reporting to schools of any domestic abuse incidents that occur outside of school hours and might have an impact on a child attending school the following day.

During COVID-19, any reports given to the Police on domestic abuse and children are being shared with the schools safeguarding teams. Once received the safeguarding team make contact and personal visits to any vulnerable children they are made aware of.

The Operation was first piloted at a school in Allerdale in 2017 and, following the success of the pilot, was offered to all schools in Cumbria in 2018. A key worker from each school received training and is the main point of contact for any information on domestic abuse and can act accordingly to benefit the child involved.

Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, who funds the project in Cumbria, said: “Sadly we have seen an increase in domestic abuse since the COVID-19 restrictions came in to place.

“We know that abuse can affect the whole family, including the children that witness it and this is, of course, going to affect them when having to go to school after possibly not sleeping or eating since the night before.

“Operation Encompass is a simple but effective protocol which ensures that partner agencies, schools, Children’s Services and the police all work together and have the relevant information quickly to protect vulnerable young people.

“It’s a fantastic system and I am pleased to see that it is still working well during COVID-19 as it is a reassuring visit to a child from someone they know and trust offering support.

“We obviously wish that these types of services weren’t needed however we’re grateful that we can support all victims of abuse whether they are the ones facing it or witnessing it.”

Dan StQuintin, Detective Chief Inspector for Public Protection and Partnerships, said: “Operation Encompass works.

“It is an effective way of informing schools about their children who are exposed to domestic abuse at home.

“Exposure to domestic abuse has been found to be very harmful for children and schools are really important in providing early support and help to any children that are affected.

“I am very grateful for the funding the Cumbria County Council and the PCC provide to ensure Operation Encompass continues.

“We are all working hard together to protect children from the effects of domestic abuse.

“For domestic abuse, it is business as usual for the constabulary.

“If anyone has information about domestic abuse I encourage them to report it to police on 101. All reports are treated seriously and they will be investigated.”

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