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Teacher helpline launched to help vulnerable children

A helpline has been launched for teachers who may be worried about the welfare of a vulnerable child during the Covid-19 crisis after a domestic abuse incident.

Funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Alison Hernandez, the helpline is run by the Operation Encompass charity. While schools are closed, it will provide specialist support to teachers who are working at the hub schools that are open to the children of key workers and vulnerable children who have been identified by local authorities and headteachers.

Launched in 2011, Operation Encompass is the reporting to schools before 9am on a school day when police have attended an incident where a child or young person has been present during, or exposed to, an environment where there has been domestic abuse.

The helpline will offer teachers guidance, information and support and the opportunity to discuss their concerns as they prepare for a child coming in to a hub school following a report of domestic abuse. A child and educational psychologist and clinical psychologist are available to offer advice to teachers on an anonymous and confidential basis.

Alison Hernandez said: “Ensuring that vulnerable children remain protected during Covid-19 is a top priority for the Government and is more important than ever in this crisis. This helpline is a vital way to support teachers who may want to discuss concerns about a child’s welfare with trained psychologists and therapists who can help.

“Sadly, it is likely that incidents of domestic abuse will rise in the weeks and months ahead, so it is a concern that schools are now shut as for many children it is their safe place. Therefore, the schools are important, not only for the children of key workers but also for these vulnerable children. Teachers have a vital role to play in ensuring that vulnerable children are safeguarded and protected during this uncertain time”.

The teacher helpline will operate from 8.30am to 10am, Monday to Friday. It will be open until the end of the Summer term or until school returns to normality whichever is the latest.

Dave Carney-Haworth, former police sergeant and founder of Operation Encompass, said: “The teacher’s helpline demonstrates our commitment to supporting children who are victims of domestic abuse, especially at this time. We believe that the confidence gained by obtaining advice through the helpline will enable teachers to ensure that these children are given the support and nurture that they need at a time when they need it the most. 

“We are also encouraging headteachers to consider offering places to these children in school through the vulnerable groups that they are able to take in. We applaud Alison Hernandez, the PCC, for seeing the value of this helpline and fully funding this initiate. 

Devon and Cornwall Police have shown true commitment to Operation Encompass and therefore children experiencing domestic abuse and, whilst delivering the calls may be trickier than normal, we support them in their determination to serve the victims in our community.”