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Home Office and YEF announce £5.8m investment to help practitioners respond to childhood trauma

The Home Office and Youth Endowment Fund (YEF) have announced they are investing £5.8 million in a new programme of activities to find out whether trauma-informed practice is effective at keeping children safe from violence. As part of the initiative, teachers, social workers, youth justice and early-help practitioners will be trained and supported to recognise and respond appropriately to children displaying signs of trauma.

Research has shown that children who repeatedly experience trauma – often known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – are more likely to become involved in crime and violence. These experiences can include things like mental and physical abuse, domestic violence or substance misuse in the household.

The joint initiative will test whether training staff to be trauma-aware can effectively reduce the harmful effects of adverse childhood experiences. Specifically, preventing behaviours that are associated with crime and violence, such as offending and behaviours which lead to exclusion from school.

Four large-scale programmes in England and Wales, with a combined reach of 200,000 children, have been selected to receive funding. Staff working with children and young people will be trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of childhood trauma. They will also gain an understanding of how trauma can influence young people’s behaviours and learn how to adapt their support accordingly. Organisational policies, procedures and practices will also be adapted to ensure that all staff can respond effectively to build trusted relationships and avoid re-traumatisation for children, as well as for the staff themselves.

Programme delivery will be funded by a £4 million investment from the Home Office. The remaining funding will come from the YEF for the programme’s evaluation. The organisations selected to receive funding are:

  • Bridgend County Borough Council

Practitioners working across youth justice, edge of care, youth development and early help services will receive training and support to apply a ‘Trauma Recovery Model’ framework with the young people they are working with.

  • Knowledge Change Action Ltd and Warren Larkin Associates

Using a whole-school approach, secondary school staff and leadership teams will be trained and supported to have a better understanding of trauma and attachment needs, including their own. The aim is to ensure that students with adverse childhood experiences feel safe at school and have positive relationships with at least one identified staff member.

  • National Children’s Bureau (NCB) and Leap Confronting Conflict

Social work teams, working with young people in foster care and their foster carers, will be trained to understand and use trauma-informed practices. The programme aims to improve the stability of foster care placements and help build trusted adult relationships.

  • Trauma-Informed Schools UK

Through a multi-layered model of training and consultancy, secondary school staff will be supported to create a trauma-informed, mentally healthy school community that fosters psychological safety. In addition, key staff will be trained to provide targeted interventions for individuals and groups to support trauma recovery.  

There is currently very little robust evidence of the effectiveness of trauma-informed training and support. To build knowledge of what works, the YEF has commissioned independent evaluations to assess the impact of each of the four programmes on the outcomes of both participating staff and young people.

Policing Minister Chris Philp said: “Tackling serious violence is a key priority for this government, and we must do everything we can to protect young people from harm and criminality.

“This research will be vital to gaining a better understanding of the root causes of youth violence, and will be key to helping us and the YEF support children in managing their trauma and avoiding a life of violent criminality.”

Jon Yates, Executive Director at the Youth Endowment Fund, said: “Training teachers, social workers, youth justice and early-help practitioners to identify signs of trauma could help more children to access the right support early and prevent problems later in life. The problem is that we lack proper evidence on whether this sort of training actually makes a real difference or not.

“While the use of trauma-informed training has grown rapidly in recent years, the same can’t be said for the number of evaluations or robust studies into the practice. This funding will make great strides in changing that.”