Operation Encompass – New and Unique Referral Process Supports Children Exposed to Domestic Abuse

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A unique referral process is being rolled out by Sussex Police – ‘Operation Encompass’ – which is the reporting to schools before the start of the next school day when a child or young person has been involved or exposed to a domestic abuse incident.

The safeguarding partnership between police and education is a simple, but effective way in which information from the police can be shared in strict confidence with a school’s Key Adult, to provide that child/young person with appropriate support in dealing with a potentially traumatic domestic abuse incident experienced at home.

A pilot has been running in Crawley since 6 November to test the initiative in 36 primary and secondary schools over a six week period and 143 children have been referred to date with positive feedback from schools involved. Sussex is now one of 25 forces across the country to have adopted Operation Encompass since it first launched in 2011.

Detective Chief Inspector Pip Taylor said: “Children are often hidden victims when it comes to domestic abuse in the home. On average there are 35 incidents of domestic abuse before the police are called, so the first Operation Encompass referral that is received for a child could indicate that they have experienced 35 incidents prior to this notification. The launch of Operation Encompass is a key milestone in supporting and protecting children who have witnessed or been in the home when an incident has occurred. Without such an initiative young people could become stuck in that devastating cycle that domestic abuse can create.

“There are no current procedures for the early reporting of domestic abuse incidents to local schools and academies. We aim to change this by rolling out this pioneering project across Sussex.”

Richard Burrett, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: “We welcome this initiative as it provides schools with a far better understanding of what is happening in a child’s life and allows them to adapt accordingly, enabling emotional as well as practical support to be offered.”

Elisabeth Carney-Howarth, co-founder of Operation Encompass said: “Too often children who have witnessed very traumatic experiences at home are expected to turn up to school the next day and carry on as if nothing at all has happened. That vital nugget of information that gets shared between police and schools means that as they walk through the school gates in the morning, potentially distressed and dysregulated, staff have a better understanding of what’s going on at home and can make a huge difference in supporting that child, to make their today better than their last. We are delighted that Sussex Police has adopted this process.”

Operation Encompass was first launched in 2011 by retired police sergeant David Carney-Howarth from Devon and Cornwall Police and his head teacher wife, Elisabeth. They identified a shortcoming in the early sharing of information with schools to enable the provision of timely care and support to children, the often hidden victims of domestic abuse.

More information about Op Encompass can be found on the Operation Encompass website. Advice and support on domestic abuse from Police and support agencies can be found on our advice page or Safe Space Sussex. You can report domestic abuse online or call 101. In an emergency, dial 999.


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‘The Visit’, a short film produced by Sussex Police, released as part of Operation Ribbon, aims to raise awareness of the hidden victims of abuse, particularly children who are exposed to abusive behaviour. Watch it below.

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