3 children a day witnessing domestic abuse in Wakefield, Operation Encompass figures say

1,024 incidents of domestic abuse where a child was present were reported in one year.
1,024 incidents of domestic abuse where a child was present were reported in one year.

Around three schoolchildren a day are witnessing domestic violence in the Wakefield district, figures have shown.

A total of 1,024 incidents, where a youngster was present during an abuse incident, were recorded across the area between April 2018 and March 2019.

The incidents were dealt with under Operation Encompass, which requires the police to tell the school attended by the affected child before the start of the following day.

As a result the scheme is ensuring that youngsters from troubled families are being given more emotional support and practical help by their teachers, who are aware of their personal circumstances and react accordingly.

Elisabeth Carney-Haworth, who set up Operation Encompass with her husband David in 2010, said that the numbers were "the tip of the iceberg".

She said: "The figures don't surprise me, but I'm still horrified by them.

"It horrifies me because if I think about life before Operation Encompass, those children would not have been getting any support.

"On average, an adult domestic abuse victim will experience 35 incidents before they make a report to the police. So as horrific as those numbers are, they don't even tell the whole story here.

"It shows that as a society, we have to do something about domestic abuse."

Mrs Carney-Haworth, a headteacher, started the initiative after discovering belatedly that a pupil of hers had witnessed abuse, even though the local police and an education welfare officer had been aware.

Nine years after it started, Operation Encompass has now been adopted by 37 police forces in England and Wales, by officers in Scotland and in the Netherlands.

Mrs Carney-Haworth said the idea had "rekindled" relationships between police and schools in an era of austerity.

She added that although schools should tailor support to meet the needs of individual youngsters, there are a number of simple, practical ways children can be helped.

She said: "Greeting them with a smile at the school gate can make all the difference.

"It's small things like, "Have they had breakfast?"

"I know of one school where a child came in following an incident and he was visibly shattered. His teacher found him somewhere quiet, got him a pillow and a blanket and just let him sleep. That really helped him.

"The key thing is just trying to make sure that child has a good day."

A total of 146 primary and secondary schools across the district are actively involved in Operation Encompass.

Wakefield Council's portfolio holder for communities, Coun Maureen Cummings, said: "Children experiencing domestic abuse are negatively impacted by this exposure; domestic abuse has been identified as an adverse childhood experience and can lead to emotional, physical and psychological harm.

"Operation Encompass aims to mitigate this harm by enabling immediate support, making a child's day better and giving them a better tomorrow.

"Operation Encompass believes that children are victims of domestic abuse in their own right and should be acknowledged as such."

Local Democracy Reporting Service