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New trauma council launched to support young people following pandemic

The UK Trauma Council has been established to drive positive change in the care and support provided to children and young people who have been exposed to different forms of traumatic event.

Hosted by the Anna Freud Centre, the UKTC brings together 22 leading experts in research, policy and practice from all four nations of the UK to help young people who have experienced single traumatic incidents as well as abuse and neglect.

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.”

The UKTC has published a report ‘Beyond the pandemic: Strategic priorities for responding to childhood trauma’, which highlights three ways in which the pandemic is impacting on the experience of childhood trauma:

- It increases the risk that more children will be exposed to trauma, including through sudden bereavement or exposure to domestic abuse

- It increases the likelihood that those with prior experiences of trauma (for example, because of abuse) will experience significant difficulties

- It compromises the ability of adults and professionals to identify a child experiencing difficulties and mitigate the impact of trauma, including mental health problems.

David Trickey, Co-Director of the UKTC, adds: “None of us has escaped the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, but some have been more affected than others. For many children and young people, particularly those who have lived through previous trauma, the pandemic represents a series of potentially traumatic events. We should be in no doubt that this could have far-reaching consequences for their lives unless appropriate evidence-based help is available. We are seeing an increased need for services, and there is a need for a new energy in supporting children if we are to successfully mitigate against the impact of the pandemic.”

The UKTC makes four recommendations in response to the pandemic.

1. Responses to trauma should be prioritised in national and local strategies

2. There should be investment in specialist trauma provision for children and young people

3. All professionals who work with children and young people should be equipped with the skills and capacity to support those who have experienced trauma

4. Models of help should be shifted towards prevention, through research, clinical innovation and training.

Each recommendation is followed by suggestions for steps to be taken to achieve it, often focusing on the need for increased collaboration and the harnessing of existing expertise.

Aside from the current pandemic, research suggests that one in three young people is exposed to traumatic events by age 18 in England and Wales, and approximately one-third of all mental health problems are associated with exposure to childhood trauma and adversity. Experiencing or witnessing traumatic events in childhood can have particularly devastating consequences, associated with adaptations in brain structure and function, and impact on a child’s cognitive, emotional and social development.

The UKTC has also developed a range of resources which translate the latest neuroscience findings in the field of trauma so they are easily accessible to frontline professionals.

Professor Eamon McCrory explains: “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.”

Beyond the pandemic: Strategic priorities for responding to childhood trauma

Childhood Trauma and the brain

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