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:

A pilot in Plymouth; now operating in a number of local areas across England.


Operation Encompass was devised so that when a domestic incident had taken place, the details of that incident would be reported to the Key Adult at the school prior to the start of the next school day thus, enabling support to be given to the affected child. This intervention was piloted in Plymouth and is now operating in many local areas around the country.


1. The Context and Rationale


The pilot phase Operation Encompass took place in Plymouth which is an average sized city, with a population of approximately 258,000. The population is fairly 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. The pilot started in February 2011, covered 15 of the 91 schools and lasted for 322 days.

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.

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.

Knowledge Base

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

Research by Dr Eamon McCrory[1] shows that the impact of witnessing domestic abuse on the brains of children, replicates that of soldiers returning from Afghanistan suffering from PTSD.

The Management of Police Information (MoPI[2]) guidance requires that police collect, record, evaluate, action and share information about children and young people when they are:

  • A suspect victim or witness to a crime
  • Concerned in child abuse or neglect
  • Suffering or suffered emotional or physical harm
  • Involved or has been involved in substance abuse (drugs/alcohol)
  • Involved in anti-social behavior

Details collected about the child or young person include their name, age, date of birth, home address, school details, GP details, etc. The collecting of the information and subsequent handling of this information is known throughout Devon and Cornwall as the “121a process”. All 121a details are submitted to a police evaluator and these details are subsequently sent on to all partner agencies within 24 hours. The EWO team sift the 121a details and forward some of them to the schools. Evidence shows that schools receive 121a details anywhere between five days to six weeks and in one instance three months after the incident.

One school Head Teacher cited a case where a Year Six child was predicted to achieve Level 4 in her Standard Assessment Tests –average attainment for an eleven year old (SATs). The child only achieved Levels 2 and 3 (Level 2 equates to the attainment of an average seven year old and Level 3 equates to the attainment of an average 9 year old). The school could see no reason why the child had performed so badly. In July of that year (with tests having being undertaken in May), 121a details were received at the school. The details showed that the weekend prior the SATs there had been a domestic abuse incident in the child’s household. The school felt that this incident of domestic abuse had had a detrimental impact on the child’s emotional health and wellbeing and her therefore upon her ability to succeed in the SATs.

Operation Encompass was devised to address issues such as this.

2. 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’ are identified within schools and specific training is 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. (This is available free of charge on the Operation Encompass website.)

As part of the pilot, Plymouth front line staff were also trained to raise awareness on the impact of domestic abuse. This included Environmental Health Officers and Educational Welfare Officers.

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 labeled as ‘Silent Support’ and ‘Overt Support’. Some examples of these kinds of support have been highlighted by Bolton Safeguarding Children’s Board:

Some examples of “Silent” support:

-flexible application of school rules for example uniform, homework etc. 

-understanding and flexibility in expectations in terms of:- 
- Behaviour
- School Work 

-opportunities for one-to-one time with teacher to provide opportunities to talk for example ‘helping with a job’ 

-review lesson plans to ensure appropriate for the child on the day 

-systems for spare uniform, lunch etc. 

-child knowing who they can talk to 

-checking collection arrangements at end of school day 

Some examples of “Overt” support:

-using tools to understand child experiences; 

-talking to parents 

-using Early Help processes to access additional support 

-developing a safety planning with the child – Bolton Safeguarding Children’s Board has suggested Safety Plan template 

-‘Healthy Relationships’ class sessions 

-Sharing information with Education MARAC representative (Safeguarding in Education Team)

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.


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

There were no procedures for sharing information from domestic incidents with schools’ Key Adults, prior to the creation of Operation Encompass.

For the pilot in Plymouth, performance was measured on:

  1. How many schools would be involved
  2. How many children received support
  3. How many instances of domestic abuse

The pilot phase of Operation Encompass started in February 2011, covered 15 of the 91 schools. The pilot 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, 350 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.

350 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 after the start of the Spring Term (2012), the remaining schools in Plymouth signed up to Operation Encompass. During that time, a further 110 incidents were recorded and 172 children were 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.

Other examples of local areas where Operation Encompass is operating


In September 2012 In the Knowsley area (Merseyside Police) Operation Encompass was launched as a pilot in 63 schools. By June 2013 There had been 239 domestic incidents where 275 children received support. On 6 October 2014 Merseyside police launched Operation Encompass across its whole area and over 3,000 children and young people have been supported to date.

Between October and November 2012, over 150 key adults were trained in preparation for the launch of Operation Encompass in December. A database of all key adults was established and shared with police. Communication briefings were sent out to councilors, School Governors and all Knowsley parents regarding Operation Encompass. Domestic abuse briefings were delivered to all police officers in the borough.

In order to evaluate the implementation and initial outcomes of Operation Encompass, a mixed methodology was employed to consider:

  • The incidents received
  • Staff readiness and confidence
  • The type of support that was being offered
  • The impact of support on children and young people
  • Key learning and future development of Operation Encompass


Overwhelmingly, the majority of both the incidents and the children and young people involved were deemed as Bronze or Silver cases. This is an interesting point given that prior to the implementation of Operation Encompass, schools would not have been made aware of these cases at all. Gold cases would have been reported to schools as part of the MARAC arrangements. (Gold, Silver and Bronze cases denote the seriousness of the case, Gold being the most serious).

The system and process of Operation Encompass along with how it has met its aims were both rated highly. The highest scores were around schools’ ability to record the content of the call.

When school staff were asked how well they thought Operation Encompass supports children and young people who experience domestic abuse, it was rated as 8 out of 10.

In terms of “how well do you feel Operation Encompass safeguards children and young people in Knowsley?”, the rating presents a strong staff perception of a positive impact on children and young people.

School staff were asked what type of support they had provided to children and young people:

  • 20% provided silent support
  • 20% provided overt support
  • 53% provided both

Throughout the evaluation common themes emerged. These were raised by different people around different questions:

• Not all incidents result in an Operation Encompass call (40%)
• Wider role out to other areas is needed (40%)
• Need for raising awareness of domestic abuse (20%)
• Impact of the DVD on people (20%)

After a review of the evaluation findings, a range of recommendations were set out by the Safeguarding Board to increasingly safeguard children and young people in Knowsley these included:

• Follow up training to school staff to ensure consistent good quality responses in school settings - this has now been established with additional training offered to all schools underway.

• 100% of Knowsley schools have now disseminated the domestic abuse awareness raising training utilising the good quality resources and DVD used as part of the initial Operation Encompass training.

South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire Police launched Operation Encompass as a pilot in the Sheffield area in March 2015. They have reported that over 200 children received support. They are launching the scheme Force-wide in all 370 schools, attended by 160,000 children. With 370 schools attended by 160,000 children – based on consistent data in terms of domestic abuse incidents where a child is present, this is likely to amount to approximately 15,000 children being supported in South Yorkshire every year.

A number of other Police authorities have implemented Operation Encompass including: Devon and Cornwall Police; Merseyside Police; Cheshire Constabulary; Northumbria Police; Cleveland Constabulary; West Mercia Police; Durham Constabulary; Avon and Somerset Police

Each police authority has implemented procedures for sharing the information. The preferred method is by telephone although some forces have utilised an electronic transfer.

There is evidence from Key Adults that the information given to them through Operation Encompass supports previous information that they may have that would not meet the ‘threshold’ for a referral.

A victim said “Having been there, having come out the other side, I cannot stress how good this scheme is, how it should be in every school in the country. While some have highlighted that 'it could save lives', I will say that such grand statements are unnecessary. What it can do is make a child's day better. And when you are that child, believe me, that's all you really want.”

4. Sustaining and replicating your practice

Helping others to replicate your practice


Initial funding was provided by Plymouth Crime & Disorder Reduction Panel. £10,000 was available and used to develop and deliver the Key Adult training: training venue, professional fees (author), accommodation and traveling costs, domestic abuse books for each school, stationery, posts, mobile phones for primary schools in the project. Plymouth Children and Young Person’s Trust Board provided funding from their Safeguarding budget to facilitate the use of the Local Education Psychologists Services to be involved in delivery of the training to all Plymouth schools.

Since Operation Encompass was highlighted in the HMIC Action Plan for Domestic Abuse, regions obtained funding through different sources. The sharing of information is free and many areas utilising existing staff. The training of Key Adults can be included as part of the multi-agency tier 3 dedicated training for safeguarding lead officers.

Some areas have chosen to run Operation Encompass as a stand alone intervention.

Operation Encompass quickly becomes embedded in practice as it is seen as early intervention at its best.

When setting up Operation Encompass it would be beneficial to have knowledge of; The Children’s Act 2002 Section 11, and, The College of Policing 2015 – Duties in relation to safeguarding (guidance to police officers attending domestic incidents).

There are further documents on the Operation Encompass website that give a wider overview of how different areas have implemented Operation Encompass and their local evaluations, eg

  • Merseyside multi agency Protocol for operation Encompass, 2015
  • Supporting Children and Young People after Trauma and Loss, Knowsley Council

In the latest HMIC report ‘Increasingly everyone’s business: A progress report on the police response to domestic abuse’ Merseyside police and Cheshire police have been praised for the implementation of Operation Encompass with a quote from a ‘partner in education’ saying ”The best thing the police have given to education”


[1] 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).

[1] Senior Lecturer; Consultant Clinical Psychologist, UCL

[2] Sir Michael Bichard report 2002

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