C4EO theme: Safeguarding

Promising practice details

Operation Encompass, Plymouth

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Vulnerable (Looked After) Children
  • Safeguarding
  • Families, Parents and Carers
  • General resources
  • Early Help

Priorities this local practice example relates to:

  • Protecting children living in families where they are at high risk of abuse, harm or neglect

Basic details

Organisation submitting example

Devon and Cornwall Police

Local authority/local area:



The context and rationale

Background details to your example

Operation Encompass was created so that by 9.00 a.m. on the next school day, a nominated person (Key Adult) will be informed that the child or young person has been involved in a domestic incident. This knowledge, given to schools through Operation Encompass, allows the provision of immediate early intervention through ‘silent’ or ‘overt’ support, depending upon the needs and wishes of the child.

Prior to the implementation of Operation Encompass there was no procedure for the next day reporting to schools that a child or young person had been involved in a domestic incident the night before. Studies and research conducted over the years had showed that domestic abuse and child abuse are intrinsically linked.

The Children’s Act 2004 requires the Police and other agencies with responsibility for the
protection of children to work together to ensure that children and young people are able to:
• be healthy
• stay safe
• enjoy and achieve
• make a positive contribution and
• enjoy economic well-being
These are referred to as the Every Child Matters outcomes.

Plymouth is an average sized city, with a population of approximately 258,000 residents. The population is fairy transient with a high percentage of university students, as well as a large military contingent made up mainly from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. There are 91 schools, including private schools, and a total pupil population (4-18) of approximately 37,600.

The pilot phase Operation Encompass started on the 20 February 2011, covered 15 of the 91 schools and lasted for 322 days. During that time, Devon and Cornwall Police recorded 222 domestic incidents in the pilot area, in both the crime and non-crime category. In those 222 incidents, 352 children of school age were present in the house when police attended, which in turn equates to nearly 1% of the total city’s school population, with 1.5 children being present at any recorded incident.

352 children received some form of support or intervention the day following an incident that they would not have had prior to the creation of Operation Encompass.

In the 40 days since the start of the Spring Term, the remaining schools in Plymouth have been signed up to Operation Encompass. During that time, a further 110 incidents have been recorded and 172 children have been given some form of support following domestic incidents. Again, this supports the figure of around 1.5 children involved in each recorded Domestic Abuse incident.
Figures produced between January 2010 and January 2012 (1) show that Plymouth, as a whole, recorded 5,740 incidents of domestic abuse and, if projected against the averages so far amassed (1.5 children per incident recorded), could mean around 8,610 children are supported annually by Operation Encompass. This equates to nearly 23% of the pupil population of Plymouth. Importantly, when this average is projected nationally against British Crime Survey figures (2), of total Domestic Abuse incidents recorded annually in England and Wales, the number of children that potentially can be supported by Operation Encompass is approximately 19 million.

(1) Source: Devon and Cornwall Police System
(2) Source: British Crime Survey 2000/01. In any one year, there are 13 million separate incidents of physical violence or threats of violence against women from partners or former partners. (Home Office, 2004; Dodd et al., 2004; Dobash and Dobash, 1980; Walby and Allen, 2004).


The practice

Further details about the practice

Operation Encompass was created so that by 9.00 a.m. on the next school day, a nominated person (Key Adult) will be informed that the child or young person has been involved in a domestic incident. This knowledge, given to schools through Operation Encompass, allows the provision of immediate early intervention through ‘silent’ or ‘overt’ support depending upon the needs and wishes of the child.

‘Key Adults’ have been identified within schools and specific training has been provided in terms of the ‘role’ of this Key Adult. Initial training was developed for the Key Adults in conjunction with Child Psychologist Abigail Sterne, the author of ‘Domestic Violence and Children: a handbook for schools and early year’s settings’. This training package was further developed by two participating Key Adults (Headteachers), together with Plymouth Education Psychologists and the local Police.
Part of the training given to the Key Adults was in relation to the identification of the signs and symptoms of a child or young person suffering from Domestic Abuse. This was to assist in supporting cases when incidents had not been reported to the police, but there was possible distress or behavioural issues. The training covered how best to support these children, including the use of safety planning. The Police National Decision Making Model (NDM) has been delivered to all Key Adults to enable a consistent approach in dealing with the Operation Encompass information. Procedures and paperwork are in place, with files provided for the safe and secure management of the record sheets.

A specific Role and Responsibilities profile has been designed for Key Adults.

The mechanics of Operation Encompass
Each morning, the police computer system is interrogated by using local beat codes. An area
specific search is made using a specific domestic violence/abuse code which highlights all
domestic incidents during the search period (crime and non-crime).
The front screen of each incident is viewed to see if there are children aged between 4 and16 years involved. If children are listed the details are taken. The Key Adult for the school is contacted and the details shared. A certificate is then put on the crime page stating what information has been passed and the name of the Key Adult it has been passed to. This is completed prior to 9 a.m. as this is the cut-off time for Operation Encompass.

Support given to children
The two main types of support given to children by Key Adults have been labelled as
‘Silent Support’ and ‘Overt Support’.

Example One: Overt support - Key Adult, Secondary school
The Key Adult received the Operation Encompass Call at 7.45 a.m. The content of the
Encompass call was that, in the early hours of the morning, there had been an incident
between a mother and father. The mother had been arrested for alleged assault on the father. The mother was released from custody prior to three children leaving for school. The early call gave the Key Adult time to establish that one of the children was a year 11 student and due to be sitting an exam that morning. On arrival at the school, the student was approached by the Key Adult and asked how she was feeling about the exam and told that we had been made aware of an incident at home. The student was given the option of taking some time out, having something to eat and sitting her exam in a quiet space in isolation. The student made the choice after having something to eat to sit the exam, despite having had very little sleep the night before. The student achieved her grade. However, in the event that the student had not been successful and with the information provided by Operation Encompass, the school could have applied for exceptional circumstances to the exam board.

Example Two: Silent Support - Infant School:
The Key Adult received the Operation Encompass call at 7.00 a.m. The information was that
there had been an argument between the mother and her partner the previous evening. The Key Adult spoke to the child’s class teacher who was then prepared for the young reception child to behave differently from his usual very happy self. The child arrived at the classroom with his mother and his teddy bear. His class teacher would normally have either asked him to put the teddy in a safe place in the classroom or asked him if he wanted mum to take teddy home so that he would be safe. She did neither - understanding that his teddy had been brought for a reason.

He hugged his teddy all day and even took him with him when he went for his speech therapy in the school. His class teacher quietly supported him all day, working next to him and just letting him know that she was there.

But the most important thing she did was not asking him to let mum take his teddy home,
or to put his teddy out of the way in the classroom and not even making any comment about
him hugging his teddy all day.

It was nothing…but to that little boy it was everything.


Evidence and evaluation - making a difference to children, young people and families

Evidencing your practice has made a difference to children, young people and families

Pilot of the project
Operation Encompass began on 20 February 2011.
15 schools were involved in the pilot and these included two secondary schools, 12 primary schools and one nursery and Infant school.
The schools were all in the Devonport area of Plymouth, except the nursery and Infant school which, although not in the same County geographically, is nearby and is attended by children from the pilot area.
The pilot ran for 322 days.
There were 222 domestic abuse incidents recorded with 352 children/young people (aged between 4yrs and 16yrs) being present. Younger and older siblings present were not recorded within these figures.

352 children received some form of support when arriving at school the next school day.

Current Position
Operation Encompass Key Adult training began on 9 January 2012 for all Plymouth schools and was completed on 9 February 2012. The training has now been delivered to Key Adults in all of the 93 Plymouth schools. All schools have informed parents and carers about Operation Encompass so that there is a clear understanding about the information exchange. Most schools have included Operation Encompass in their prospectus and it is on most schools’ websites. Operation Encompass has its own website: which is updated daily.

As at 12 June 2012, 891 children had received support from Key Adults.
By 3 July 2012, 1000 children had been supported.

Some examples of feedback
“I am a designated Key Adult. Over the Christmas period 2011, I received an Operation Encompass call involving one of our KS5 students. The student was approached and offered support. The student made little of the incident, but appeared grateful that support was offered. However, a few weeks later the student came to me and wanted to share how the violent relationship of her parents has affected her and how she wishes to seek support to live independently in the future. We have developed a safety plan and discussed the issues at length. We have now set up a weekly session with a learning mentor to discuss her next steps and to support her through this difficult time. Without the information shared through Operation Encompass, the student would not have approached me for support and has developed a relationship where she states that she can now share and trust the ‘Key Adult’ as there is now a greater understanding of her needs and her barriers to learning.”

“We now have improved information sharing with the Police. Where information came from unnamed sources or wasn’t shared because of concerns about confidentiality, this has provided a more transparent process.”

“This will make a tremendous amount of difference to our school. When a parent called to say her child wasn’t coming in due to having head lice we were already aware of the domestic abuse through Operation Encompass. We collected the child, brought her into school and supported both mother and child. This is fantastic. Thank you.”


Sustaining and replicating your practice

Helping others to replicate your practice

As a direct result of Operation Encompass, The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has committed to promoting effective working partnerships between the police and schools where children are at risk of domestic violence, using the model provided by Operation Encompass. This commitment is one of the actions within the Government’s refreshed Violence Against Women and Girls Action Plan published in March 2012.

Financial implications
Operation Encompass has received commitments from the following:

Initial funding was provided by Plymouth Crime and Disorder Reduction Panel.
£10,000 was available and this was used to develop and deliver the Key Adult training:
• Training venue
• Professional fees (author)
• Hotel/flights etc.
• Domestic Abuse books for each school
• Files
• Printing costs
• Posters
• Mobile phones for primary schools in the project.

Plymouth Children’s and Young Persons Trust Board provided funding from their Safeguarding
budget to facilitate the involvement of the local Educational Psychology Service in the
delivery of the training to all Plymouth schools

There are no ongoing costs for Operation Encompass.

Operation Encompass has been well publicised in the local press and TV and at a national conference (Basildon Woman’s Aid, June 2012). Several local authorities are looking at how to adopt the practice.

Professor Eileen Munro mentioned Operation Encompass in her latest report; ‘Moving towards a child centered system’ (page 23 para 3.32).

Police have also been innovative in developing a service to help children and young people who are the victims of domestic violence. Operation Encompass has trained ‘Key Adults’ in schools to support children and young people who witness domestic violence. When police are aware of an incident of violence affecting a child, they inform the relevant Key Adult who offers support, depending on the wishes and needs of the child (Carney-Haworth, 2012).

Operation Encompass has also been mentioned in the Home Office document ‘Call to end Violence against Women and Girls’, page 17, action 16.

The full report by Sgt David Carney-Haworth, Operation Encompass: Supporting Children Through Key Adults (2012) is available through the C4EO team by emailing the C4EO team at the NFER.

Golden threads
The golden thread that applies to this example is:

Unite to Succeed

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