It follows as The Herald has learned how the force appears to have misinformed the Home Office of its efforts to combat domestic violence.
Elisabeth Carney-Haworth, headteacher of Torpoint nursery and infant school, co-created Operation Encompass with her husband, former police sergeant David Carney-Haworth.
Recognising that schools were being told weeks, or even months, after a domestic abuse incident had taken place in a child’s home, they worked on finding a legally safe way to speed up the process. As a result David gained Devon and Cornwall Police’s approval to create new working practices which would see police share information about such incidents with key adults at schools before the child had even arrived the next day.
The scheme – titled Operation Encompass – was piloted in February 2011 in seven Plymouth schools.
Within a few months the pilot scheme increased to 14 schools and it quickly garnered the glowing praise of senior police officers, the council’s head of Social Services and local MPs. It was rolled out to include all schools in Plymouth in January 2012.
In October last year Tony Hogg, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Devon and Cornwall, described Encompass as a “brilliant concept”, adding that his job was to now “work with the steering group to sell the Encompass scheme across the peninsula and take it wider.”
However, The Herald has learned that since then the commissioner appears to have had no specific meetings about rolling the scheme out across Devon and Cornwall.
The PCC’s office said Mr Hogg had been involved in a number of discussions with Devon and Cornwall police about their review of safeguarding vulnerable people, but they were refused to answer whether Mr Hogg had undertaken any specific meetings to “sell the Encompass scheme across the peninsula”.
In March this year the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary reported on Devon and Cornwall Police’s approach to tackling domestic abuse. In the document the force boasted of its creation of Operation Encompass.
The HMIC report noted how the force claimed it had “piloted” the much-praised scheme “in a number of areas across the force”.
However, a Freedom of Information request by The Herald revealed that these pilots were only launched at seven schools in the “Exeter and East/Mid Devon” area.
The force admitted these pilots were launched as far back as “September 2012”. When asked what were the findings of these pilots, Devon and Cornwall Police admitted “this pilot is still running pending a review therefore there are currently no findings”.
The Herald contacted the seven schools from the “Exeter and East/Mid Devon” pilot. Many of the key adults had left the school while others said the scheme had “ended” months ago.
One former head teacher of a special school involved in the pilot said they had one call the entire time and no further follow-up.
The revelations come as little surprise to Lis Carney-Haworth who has been called upon by a number of other councils across the UK to help them put the Operation Encompass scheme in place in their areas.
She said: “One of the themes highlighted in the Bishard enquiry commissioned after the tragic death of Victoria Climbie was the lack of information sharing between the police, social care, health professionals and others. There have been many Serious Case Reviews since Bishard but sadly information sharing is still highlighted as a failure.
“Operation Encompass breaks down this barrier and is early intervention at its best – quite simply it could not be any better or simpler to achieve.
“Headteachers, educational welfare officers and police officers from other parts of the UK, such as Knowlsley, contacted myself and David as Operation Encompass became more widely known.
“We were more than happy to pass on all the information we had – the correct legislative approach, statutory protocols on the sharing of information, the academic research on the training which was carried out with key adults and the statistics which highlighted how well it worked.
“This is not the kind of scheme which should be selfishly guarded – I know as a head teacher, and David knew as a police officer, that this scheme could make children’s lives better and should be freely offered to anyone who wanted to use it.”
As a result, Knowsley council in Merseyside is one of many who have begun to roll out the safeguarding scheme. Just last week, Cheshire Constabulary announced it was setting up Operation Encompass at schools in Widnes, Ellesmere Port, Warrington Central and Macclesfield. The Wirral Safeguarding Board also recently announced it was planning to roll out Operation Encompass across Merseyside in October.
In November 2013, Katy Bourne, the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, told an All Party Parliamentary Group for Children she aimed to roll out Operation Encompass across her entire force area.
The Herald has learned that in September 2012, the then new council leader, Tudor Evans, requested David carry out his Operation Encompass presentation for the new cabinets’ members, in preparation of the council’s Early Intervention Strategy.
Former council leader, Vivien Pengelly and her cabinet had see the same presentation while still in power.
At the time, there were political concerns about whether the presentation could go ahead due to the forthcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections, which cabinet member Nicky Williams was standing for.
It was eventually agreed with senior police officers that this would not be an issue and David prepared for the presentation, with the aim of encouraging the cabinet to ensure Operation Encompass was rolled out to every school in the city.
However, at the 11th hour, he was warned off attending.
An email, acquired by The Herald, was sent from Chief Supt Andy Bickley’s assistant to David on the morning of September 7 – just three days before the presentation.
The email notes: “I [the assistant] have just had a meeting with Mr Bickley, he is aware of the commitment to the Plymouth City Council Cabinet Meeting on 11th September regarding Operation Encompass, he has nominated Inspector [name omitted by The Herald] to attend and give the presentation, so there will be no requirement for you to attend.”
It is understood the presentation given to the cabinet did not match the presentations given to other organisations.
Devon and Cornwall Police have refused to explain why this decision was taken by the former Plymouth police commander, saying it is a private matter.
David was instead left to host a visit by two council officers from another county council, regarding the Encompass scheme.
Within days of the cabinet presentation, David learned he was to be taken off the Operation Encompass project. Every aspect of the scheme, from the training and website design to the collating of academic research and promotion of the scheme was to be taken out of his control. Even his plans to hand the key role of contacting schools – originally done each morning by a police officer – to the Education Welfare Officers was binned. The role was instead taken on by untrained neighbourhood PCSOs.
Lis said she believes Devon and Cornwall police have carried out a “campaign of bullying” against her husband.
She said: “He even received a phone call at home at 9pm on a Saturday night from an Inspector telling him that he had been moved from his police station base to another Plymouth station. He was not to return to Devonport station, and it appeared his colleagues were aware of his move before even he was.
“My husband was a proud and dedicated police sergeant and has served the police since 1983, working for two forces in that time. He headed a child protection unit at Greater Manchester Police before coming to Devon and Cornwall Police. However, he now feels his time in Plymouth was the worst of his entire career.”
Lis then watched as the scheme she and her husband designed, begin to fall apart.
Calls regarding domestic abuse incidents where pupils were present went unmade. Early reporting began to slow. Lis soon found she was not the only head teacher with concerns about the poor or missing reports.
She wrote letters to senior officers urging them to ensure the scheme did not falter. When those letters went unanswered she wrote open letters to The Herald, having noted articles which highlighted how other head-teachers had grown concerned at the increasing problems with Operation Encompass.
She bitterly cites how senior officers finally took heed of the growing complaints and the scheme was ‘relaunched’ under the new name “Encompass” with one key addition – 12 months after David was sidelined, his original plan to bring in Educational Welfare Officers was finally put in place.
However, she has said problems still occur, despite an Encompass Steering Group taking the reins of the scheme.
Despite the pride she feels in what Plymouth initially created, she regrets that she can no longer hold up the current ‘Encompass’ scheme as best practice when other police forces and councils come calling.
She said: “It is now in six other police force areas – set up by councils and police after David and I were called and asked how it works and how it can be set up.
“The shame is I can’t champion Plymouth’s Encompass scheme, because it’s not working right. I use Knowsley as a reference now because they are running it the way it should be run. The Knowsley Operation Encompass scheme has even been put forward for a European Crime Award.
“I feel Devon and Cornwall Police have misled the Home Office, boasting about its efforts to help other school children in the force area, when it has done no such thing. They have not carried out any kind of assessment even though the pilot has been running for 22 months at the Exeter and mid Devon schools.
“David, myself and another Plymouth headteacher carried out the training at those schools at a Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub in September 2012.
“Together, we launched the Exeter pilot. Devon and Cornwall Police have told the Home Office it is still running, when it isn’t and they have done no review of it after nearly two years of launching it, claiming it’s still in a pilot phase.
“There appears to be no plans to roll the scheme out across Devon and Cornwall. It has ground to a halt in the very place it originated while other councils and police forces are setting up their own Operation Encompass schemes. “
Lis said as head teacher she is aware that calls about children who have witnessed or been involved in serious domestic abuse cases are not coming through.
She said: “In early May I was alerted to an incident where police were called. The children at the address were on the Child Protection Register. We had no call at all. I was told it was ‘human error’.
“In mid May I learned of an incident which happened in April. We got sent a 121A [a copy the original form written by attending police officers] two and a half weeks later. We should have been informed the next morning. That’s why Operation Encompass was set up.”
David Carney-Haworth told The Herald: “The concept of Operation Encompass came out of the tragedy that was Victoria Climbie. I remember one senior officer telling me ‘none of us knows what all of us know’ – meaning everyone knew a piece of the awful abuse Victoria was suffering, but because that information was not shared, no-one ever saw the whole picture.
“The next big case we will see will centre around Devon and Cornwall Police being sued for not passing on the information to safeguard a child.
“It is written into law to protect children – that was the bedrock of Operation Encompass, to follow that law. For Devon and Cornwall Police to know this scheme works, to have the top officers in the country, directors of social services, MPs and government ministers praise it, and then let it wither and die, is a dereliction of duty.
“Having seen it work, knowing how good it is, seeing other areas of the country take it up and champion it, Devon and Cornwall Police are now failing the children by not solving the problems and not rolling it out across both counties.”
Lis added that recent figures released by Devon and Cornwall Police revealed that between February 2012 and March 2013 there were 26,000 reports of domestic violence, of which nearly 18,000 were recorded as “non-crime domestics”.
She said: “These non-crime domestics are usually filed away. Operation Encompass made sure that if children were present at these incidents the trained Key Adult in the school would be told the next day so that child would receive the necessary support.
“How can Devon and Cornwall Police deny the children that support?”
A senior spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police responded: “Encompass has been and continues to be implemented in Plymouth as a multi-agency initiative safeguarding young people.
“It has provided a focus on safeguarding children from families suffering domestic abuse and it enables the police to share information quickly with partners, meaning a child’s school can be informed in confidence that the children have been affected by domestic abuse at home.
“This means staff at the school are more aware of some of the issues children may be facing and can deal appropriately with them, making any necessary contact with other agencies such as children’s social care, if further referral is necessary. The scheme also encourages more discussion generally between families and agencies about issues in the home.
“The initiative was ground breaking when it was first implemented and there is no doubt that children and families in the city are safer as a result. When Encompass was subject to comment by the HMIC, it was said the scheme would be rolled out to others areas of the Force, and this has happened.
“In parts of Devon the scheme was trialed, but in this instance, it was not as successful as there was already other safeguarding measures in place. Not every scheme fits all, but the critical factor must be to ensure adequate safeguarding measures for children exist in an area.
“Encompass is now managed in Plymouth by Plymouth City Council’s Education and Welfare team and continues to be closely monitored.
“It’s very possible the scheme may thrive in other areas in time, but it is just one strand of safeguarding implemented by the police and other partners. We are currently trialing other safeguarding approaches – most notably in South Devon where a safeguarding vulnerable people pilot is on going.
“Safeguarding all vulnerable areas of our community remains a critical factor for the police and other agencies and we will continue to look at how this can most effectively be achieved.”
Read more at http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/Headteacher-ex-cop-accuse-police-failing/story-22075225-detail/story.html#iYZOM6wWxkZzF3ic.99