A new scheme to support children in Worcestershire who have witnessed domestic abuse has launched today (Friday, 14 December).
Operation Encompass is an initiative, which will involve West Mercia Police working more closely with schools and Worcestershire County Council to ensure the welfare of children who may have witnessed domestic abuse incidents.
The initiative sees the police and County Council informing a specially-trained member of staff at the school of a child or young person who has experienced a domestic incident.
This kind of information sharing between professional agencies allows school staff to provide emotional and practical support to pupils who are experiencing domestic abuse.
Domestic abuse can broadly be defined as 'any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour; violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who have been intimate partners or family members'.
This can include, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse - psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional.
Through Operation Encompass a member of school staff - usually the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) - is given special training to enable them to receive information and liaise with the police and County Council. The information is shared by police, via the County Council in confidence.
Detective Sergeant Liz Warner said: "We want to offer the best support possible to children in Worcestershire and this will be beneficial in helping us and other agencies work together to achieve that goal.
"This scheme has proved to be a success in forces across the country, and here all schools in the county are involved. Since we started working with the schools on 19 November, we have submitted referrals to schools about 223* children.
"Teachers being made aware of the situation means that they are prepared before that child comes to school in the morning and can support them appropriately."
Michael Conroy-Harris, collaboration co-ordinator for the Continu Trust said: "Operation Encompass will help schools to contextualise the behaviour and feelings of some of our young people who are going through really difficult times as well as empowering us to be an informed source of understanding and support. It's an essential piece in the safeguarding jigsaw."
Councillor Marcus Hart, cabinet member for Education and Skills at Worcestershire County Council, has also given his backing to the scheme. He said: "Children who have experienced domestic violence at home may come into school burdened by what has happened.
"They may not have slept or had breakfast and their life is in disarray. Rather than expecting them to sit and learn, this information is invaluable in helping staff and teachers respond.
"With this system in place, schools will be able to offer a place of calm and sanctuary, where children's well-being is at the forefront. It can be a small part of the jigsaw but has been proven in other areas to be a powerful tool, lessening the impact on their education in a supportive, constructive and helpful way."