Domestic abuse charity, Operation Encompass, has been granted £163,000 by the Home Office for the support that they provide to children who attend school following an incident of domestic abuse.

They now intend to roll out their service to all police forces across the country to ensure that every child who experiences domestic abuse gets the support they need. This blog looks into the work that the charity is doing, the devastating impact that domestic abuse and violence has on families and when you might need the assistance of a family lawyer if you or your children are falling victim.

What Operation Encompass do?

Operation Encompass is a charity set up by head teacher Elisabeth Carney-Haworth and husband David (a former police officer) that ensures that the police contact the relevant school when one of their pupils has experienced or witnessed domestic abuse. Elizabeth and David initiated the scheme when, in their experiences in their respective professions, they found that numerous police forces did not respond in a timely fashion to informing the child’s school about them experiencing domestic abuse. As Elisabeth puts it:

“Imagine arriving at school after hearing or witnessing domestic abuse – you have not slept, had no breakfast, don’t have all your school uniform and your home is in disarray. Now you are expected to sit in your classroom and learn.”

The extra funding from the government is hoped to bring the whole country up to speed and ensure that the child’s school is informed of any incidents of domestic abuse before the next school day. The report to the school is given in strict confidence to their Key Adult to enable support to be given dependent on the needs and wishes of the child. Co-founder David, a former police sergeant at Devon and Cornwall Police, added:

“This funding will help make sure Operation Encompass will be in every force, in every school, for every child. Our children deserve no less.”

Following the announcement of the funding, Victoria Atkins (Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability) added:

“It is heartbreaking to think that a child’s education is suffering through no fault of their own. By police and schools having this system in place we can ensure these youngsters have the immediate support they need.”

What affect does domestic violence and abuse have on my child?

Domestic violence and abuse come in many forms; ranging from physical and sexual violence to emotional, psychological and financial control. It may be a one off incident of violence or a long lasting episode of one partner belittling, threatening or isolating the other in order to control them. Whatever form it comes in, the affects can be devastating both to the victim and any children involved.

Attitudes on how domestic violence and abuse truly affect children have changed over recent years. A common misconception of the perpetrator and victim is that the child will not feel the distress if they are not a direct victim or witness of the violence or abuse. This can sometimes lead the victim to suffer abuse in silence; too scared of the consequences if they try and seek help or escape and stay put in the belief that they are protecting their child.

But those involved in the safeguarding of children know that this is not true. A child does not have to be a direct victim or witness of abuse or violence to be shaped by incidents that occur in the sanctuary of their own home. Whether it is hearing an incident of violence through the walls when trying to sleep at night or by simply recognising the distress on a parent’s face who has suffered emotional abuse, a child will always catch on that something is not right – no matter how much their parents try and hide it from them.

Further, the mere fact that a victim of abuse or violence struggles to give their child the support and attention that they would otherwise is also damaging to their well being.

What should I do if I am suffering from domestic violence and abuse?

For the victim of abuse or violence, there is often a lot of stigma and shame about reaching out for help, for both men and women. The main point to take from this blog is that you should not suffer in silence and there are lots of agencies out there to help you. Of course, if you feel that you and/or your children are in immediate danger then you should call 999.

However, you do not need to be at imminent risk of harm to get help and, even if you have been enduring abuse and violence for months or years, the first step you should take is to talk to someone. You can speak to your GP or other medical professional in the strictest confidence so that they can point you in the direction of a body that can support you. If you do not want to visit a medical professional, NHS websites provide numerous contact numbers for agencies such as

Women’s Aid and Men’s Advice Line who can help you and your family through such difficult times.
You can click here to be sent to their website now. This site also provides the necessary advice if you think that your situation has reached the point where you have no choice but to escape your abuser by seeking refuge.

When do I need a family solicitor if I am suffering from domestic violence or abuse?

A Non-molestation Order

A family lawyer can assist you in numerous ways if you are a victim of abuse or violence. If you feel that you are in danger of abuse or harm, but the police are not assisting or you feel that you need additional protection, a family solicitor can apply to the court for a ‘Non-Molestation Order’. If the court grants this order, it will put restrictions in place, such as preventing your abuser from contacting you, coming near your property or directing other people to do the same. If they then breach this court order they will be arrested.

An Occupation Order

If you are still living in the same property as your abuser then you may be entitled to apply for an Occupation Order, following which the court can order that a perpetrator of violence or abuse should be excluded from the property. These cases are not always straight forward as the court will have to apply a ‘balance of harm’ test, whereby a judge weighs up what harm would be caused to the victim if the order is not made against the harm which would be caused to the perpetrator and any children involved if the order was made and they were excluded from the property.

Contact/ Child Arrangement Order and Domestic Violence

Many victims of abuse worry that it is not safe for their child to spend time with the abusive parent, especially when they apply for a Non-Molestation Order or take action to escape their abuser. In this situation, the parent can apply for a Child Arrangement Order to determine where the child should live and who they should spend time with. Doing so will also trigger the involvement of CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) to prepare a safeguarding letter to the court in which a whole range of factors will be considered by them to ensure that the child will be safe in the care of a violent or abusive parent. If there are immediate concerns the other parent may seek to remove your child from your care or anyone else who you entrust with their care (such as family members or their school) then a Prohibited Steps Order can prevent them from doing so.

Depending on your circumstances, an emergency application can be made so that the court grants one or more of these orders on the same day that you contact a solicitor, you may also be entitled to Legal Aid when domestic violence and abuse has taken place.

 

Jordans Solicitors have a wealth experience in representing vulnerable clients seeking help and protection from the court when they or their children are at risk of harm. If you wish to enquire about the options available to you or whether you are entitled to Legal Aid then call 01924 387110 today to speak to a member of our specialist Family Law team.


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