Scheme to help children affected by domestic violence rolled out

Posted: 22nd May 2023

A safeguarding scheme designed to support young people affected by domestic violence and abuse in the home has been rolled out to all schools across the North.

Since Operation Encompass, a partnership between the PSNI, the Education Authority and education providers began, there have been 3,160 referrals made by police to the designated teachers.

It means if police attend a domestic abuse call and children are present, officers can pass on relevant information to the child’s school before 9am the following morning, so support can be put in place.

The partnership is now being rolled out to the final tranche of 202 schools, across the Belfast Trust area, meaning it is now fully operational across all 1,162 schools and Education Other Than at School (EOTAS) centres in the North.

The scheme was launched as a pilot in 2021 in Downpatrick and has been extended to other districts across the North since.

One man who witnessed domestic abuse at the hands of his father when he was a child, welcomed the rollout of the partnership.

The man, who is now 28, said: “It started when I was really young in primary school, I would hear all the arguing between my dad and my mum.

“I isolated myself in my room a lot of the time.

“When my mum left my dad, he got custody of me at the weekends. He would drink a lot and turned the abuse on me.

“Monday at school, after my weekends with him, was like my reset day.

“I remember being quiet, snapping at people who tried to talk to me and feeling drained with no one to talk to.

“Having this scheme available for children who are in the same position as I was, can only do great things.

“It provides them with a safe place, where they have the option of someone to talk to, on their terms.

“It takes away the onus on the child to speak out about something they don’t fully understand themselves.”

Since Operation Encompass began across the Northern, Western, Southern and South Eastern Trust areas, police have attended 2,121 domestic incidents with 3,774 children exposed to domestic abuse from the start of the 2021 school year.

This has resulted in 3,160 referrals being made by police to the designated teacher at the relevant school.

The final rollout across Northern Ireland includes schools of all types – nursery, primary, post primary, special, EOTAS, Irish medium and independent Christian.

Detective Superintendent Lindsay Fisher from the PSNI Public Protection Branch said: “We respond to around 90 domestic abuse calls for service each and every day, and unfortunately children are often present.

“Operation Encompass really recognises children as unseen victims of domestic abuse.

“We know the impact of the trauma that children experience from seeing, overhearing or coming back into a house where there has been a domestic abuse incident.

“The scheme allows us to share information with schools in quick time so that we can best protect and support children through times that are incredibly difficult for them.

“School is often seen as a ‘safe place’ for a child in these circumstances and the support and understanding that teachers can provide should never be underestimated.”

Michael Kelly, head of service for the Child Protection Support Service, at the Education Authority, said: “The development of Operation Encompass is a demonstration of our commitment, to ensuring that all of our schools are equipped to support the most vulnerable children.

“Sadly, we know that domestic abuse is a common feature in the lives of many children.

“Feedback from schools to date has indicated that Operation Encompass has been transformational in terms of teacher’s ability to provide timely and informed support to child victims of domestic violence.

“I welcome to final stage of this regional rollout and look forward to continued work with our partners in this area.”

Women’s Aid Federation NI chief executive, Sarah Mason said: “We know from our extensive experience of supporting children that often the smallest victims of domestic abuse are the biggest; they see it, hear it, feel it and fear it.

“In the aftermath of a domestic abuse incident, children can be extremely upset, frightened, tired and confused and teachers need to know and understand the reasons for this.

“Children often tell us that school is their safe place so it is vital that teachers are aware of and understand the situation at home and the child’s support needs, which must be paramount.

“Op Encompass is a simple yet hugely important initiative that puts the child at the centre, and ensures teachers are informed, enabling them to fulfil their role as a social guardian.”


Source: Derry Now

Categories: News