A scheme to protect children who may be at risk from domestic abuse will be rolled out across the county from today (Monday).
Operation Encompass will create a partnership between Lancashire Police and the county’s schools to provide ongoing support for any child who may have witnessed or been a victim of a domestic incident.
It means that when police attend an incident of this nature at an address where a child or children reside – even if those children weren’t present at the time – key information about it will be shared in the strictest confidence with a designated member of staff at their school.
This is in addition to any other action taken as part of a police investigation.
The school will then be able to provide the children or young person with appropriate, ongoing support, to complement existing safeguarding measures.
Det. Supt Joanne McHugh, who is coordinating the initiative for Lancashire Police, said: “We know that there are damaging, long-term effects for children who live in homes where domestic abuse takes place. They are often the ‘hidden’ victims and their voices don’t always get heard.
“We also know that the police are generally not called after one domestic abuse incident – in fact statistics show on average we aren’t made aware until several incidents have already taken place, many of which may have been witnessed by children. This is why it is imperative that we seize every opportunity to make sure those children are offered the necessary support.
“At Lancashire Police our primary aim is to keep our residents safe and feeling safe, and we hope this shows our commitment to doing just that. Op Encompass is a very simple but very effective scheme which will help safeguard some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.”
Op Encompass is a national charitable initiative and has already been rolled out in several other areas of the UK.
A pilot scheme will be rolled out in some areas of Lancashire from today. The operation will go force-wide from Tuesday, May 7th.
As a result it will become standard procedure when dealing with a domestic abuse incident that could involve children for an alert to be sent to their school immediately. The school will then be able to put its own measures into place as soon as the child or children next attend.
Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said: "We know that over 90% of domestic violence incidents are witnessed by children so I am really pleased to see Operation Encompass rolled out across Lancashire.
“To support schools in dealing with the alerts they will receive, I have commissioned a set of resources to help support students that have witnessed or experienced domestic abuse. This will allow schools to provide immediate support to students to help them cope with their experiences.
"Young people who require further emotional support can be referred to Nest Lancashire, the service I set up to support anyone under 18 who has experienced or witnessed any type of crime including domestic abuse. Making sure that our young people receive help and support at the earliest opportunity is so important. No child should have to deal with emotional trauma by themselves and Operation Encompass will make sure that we don't miss an opportunity to provide the help they might need.”
Siobhan Collingwood, who is head teacher of Morecambe Bay Community Primary School, and who has worked closely with Lancashire Police to bring this scheme to Lancashire, said: “I’m pleased to have been part of this initiative and to have seen it come to fruition.
“We are delighted that due to this schools will be able to ensure children and young people who have experienced the emotional trauma of domestic abuse will be cared for and supported by school the next day. Using the materials provided, school staff will be able to be part of a support package that ensures vulnerable children recover from their experiences and are able to fulfil their true potential.”
More information can be found at www.operationencompass.org/