Derry schools to join Operation Encompass to support children who witness domestic abuse
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The programme, which is already operational across the Southern and South Eastern Trust areas, sees Police sharing information with schools where there have been instances of domestic abuse in the presence of a child. This will allow officers to pass on relevant information to the school the child attends so the right support can be put in place.
Operation Encompass is a partnership between the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Safeguarding Board of Northern Ireland, the Education Authority and schools, aimed at supporting children who witness domestic violence or abuse in the home. If the Police attend a domestic abuse call where children are present, they will contact the child’s school before 9am the next morning to share this information with their safeguarding team so the correct support can be put in place.
Across the pilot areas within the Southern and South Eastern Trust areas, Police have attended 1,659 domestic incidents with 3,111 children exposed to domestic abuse from the start of the 2021 school year, until the end of January 2023.
This has resulted in 2,137 referrals being made by Police to the designated teacher at the relevant school. Incidents of domestic violence can be incredibly traumatising for children.
Operation Encompass helps get them access to emotional support in a school environment where they have trusted adults around them. The information shared by Police is treated in strict confidence.
Across the Northern and Western Trust areas, a further 500 schools are joining the programme, bringing the total number of schools on board to 960. The College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) will also be joining the programme.
The final rollout to remaining areas in Northern Ireland will take place by summer 2023. This includes schools of all types – Nursery, Primary, Post Primary, Special, EOTAS, Irish Medium and Independent Christian.
Detective Superintendent Lindsay Fisher from the PSNI’s Public Protection Branch said: “A child who is experiencing domestic abuse at home will go to school the next day potentially sleep deprived and frightened. They will naturally withdraw themselves and require additional support and understanding from someone who knows what they have had to witness the night before.
“This is why it is so incredibly important that our Education colleagues are made aware in quick time when a child has suffered or witnessed domestic abuse and thousands of young people have benefited from this scheme already.
“Operation Encompass is another way the PSNI is cementing our commitment to tackling and breaking the cycle of domestic abuse. I am delighted that we are now in a position to roll this very important initiative out to even more schools. We remain dedicated in putting the safety and well-being of the children in our communities at the forefront of all we do.”
In a recent government ‘calls for views’, children aged 8-18 from the north shared how domestic abuse affected them, they said: “It's not just adults that go through it, we suffer as well.”
"I was worried all the time, tensed up and knotted inside.”
“I think the kids who have problems at home sometimes behave badly at school. They need someone to help them through it…someone who knows the issues and understands our experiences.”