17 September 2020

New independent body to advocate for UK response to childhood trauma launched

The UK Trauma Council (UKCT) was launched today (17 September) to drive positive change in the care and support provided to children and young people who have been exposed to trauma in their lives.

Research suggests that nearly one in three young people are exposed to traumatic events by the age of 18 in England and Wales, yet the provision of evidence-based early intervention is fragmented and highly variable. Different forms of trauma include a single traumatic incident or longer-term trauma such as abuse and neglect.

Established, hosted and supported by the Anna Freud Centre, the new multi-disciplinary group brings together 22 leading experts in research, policy and practice from all four nations of the UK, including Marian Flynn, Health Lead at CELCIS, and one of two representatives from Scotland. Speaking on the basis of their own experience and expertise rather than representing individual organisations, they aim to use their knowledge to empower professionals and local communities in supporting children and young people by providing resources, guidance and training.

The launch of the UKCT is particularly timely in light of increasing evidence of the effects of the COVID-19 public health emergency and resulting lockdown on child mental health. The UK Trauma Council is concerned that many children and young people’s needs will go unmet, with serious consequences, if there is no concentrated effort to respond to trauma from Governments across the UK.

To coincide with the launch, the UKCT has published ‘Beyond the pandemic: Strategic priorities for responding to childhood trauma’, a new parliamentary briefing which focuses on the ways the COVID-19 public health emergency is impacting the experience of childhood trauma. These include increased risk of exposure to domestic violence or bereavement, difficulties for adults trying to identify if a child is struggling because of reduced contact, and the increased likelihood that those who have already experienced trauma, such as abuse, may suffer further. The briefing makes four key recommendations:

  1. Prioritise responding to trauma in national and local strategies;
  2. Invest in specialist trauma provision for children and young people;
  3. Equip all professionals who work with children and young people with the skills and capacity to support children who have experienced trauma; and
  4. Shift models of help towards prevention, through research, clinical innovation and training.

The vision of the UKTC is a world which nurtures and protects children and young people following trauma, and builds understanding of how to reduce the impact of traumatic events.

Professor Eamon McCrory, Co-Director of the UKTC, says: “Across the UK, there exists enormous expertise about what support children need following experiences of trauma, but we do not always make best use of it. The UK Trauma Council will harness this expertise and help others learn from it. Perhaps never before has there been such a pressing need for collaboration across communities, professionals and services at national and local levels, in the interests of children and young people.

“While the brain changes triggered by trauma can make it harder for a child to navigate and cope with everyday challenges, increasing the risk of mental health problems in the future, recovery is possible. We now know their brains adapt to help them cope. Relationships play a key role in that recovery, as they directly influence how the brain grows and develops. So parents, carers and professionals have a crucial role to play in promoting resilience. These relationships are at the heart of what drives positive change.