Crisis talks held over pioneering Plymouth domestic violence scheme
CONCERNS have been raised about the way a police-led scheme to safeguard children from domestic violence is being run.
Operation Encompass, launched as a pilot in February 2011, ensured that schools were made aware if a pupil has been the victim of, or witness to, violence at home the night before.
The initiative – the brainchild of Devonport neighbourhood officer Sgt David Carney-Haworth – was considered such a success by police and schools that it quickly gained support by Plymouth City Council, local MPs and the Plymouth Children and Young Person's Trust which all ensured it was rolled out to every city school last February.
In May last year Gwent police's Chief Constable Carmel Napier – who is also the Association of Chief Police Officers lead on domestic abuse – said she was in "full support of this excellent project" and revealed she was working with the Home Office to make the scheme go nationwide.
However, The Herald has learned that during the last school term there were a number of cases where information was not passed onto schools, leaving them unaware their pupils had been witness to incidents of domestic violence in the home the previous night. The Herald has also learned that the Operation Encompass morning calls to the city's schools had been passed to a number of PCSOs who were apparently untrained in the scheme. This occurred after Sgt Carney-Haworth was placed on long-term sick leave in September last year.
A spokesman for the Plymouth Association of Primary Head Teachers (PAPH) confirmed they had met with police late last year after a number of schools raised concerns that the scheme was floundering.
One source at an affected school told The Herald they were informed during a call from a police officer that the Operation Encompass calls were "not a priority" for the police, claiming the scheme was still "only a pilot".
Another source said they had received calls about a domestic violence incident which related to children that attended a different school.
The PAPH spokesman said: "We outlined our concerns about what schools had experienced, which included calls not being received after police encountered children at the scene of domestic incidents.
"We received a clear and strong commitment from the police to have Operation Encompass running as previously by Christmas."
Chief Insp Ian Drummond-Smith said the Operation Encompass calls would now be carried out by neighbourhood officers from each section. He said it was a more "resilient system" rather than "relying on a few people". He said it was now a "robust system which should happen each morning."
He added: "There were six incidents looked into and information relayed back to head teachers. We have briefed neighbourhood teams on what needs to happen each morning. In all the cases the schools were informed but not as quickly as we would have liked.
"We've written to all the participating schools in Plymouth and Torpoint.
"So far, this academic year we've made well over 200 calls to schools about Operation Encompass incidents."
He said Devon and Cornwall Police were "in the process of rolling Operation Encompass out across the whole force" and it had already been launched in Exeter.
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