Until 2018, most of the UK had never heard of trauma-informed approaches, never mind trauma-informed communities. Yet since then, interest in this approach has sky-rocketed, with many local authorities and community activists across the UK and Ireland beginning their journey towards this goal. We have been supporting them since the start.

 

What is a trauma-informed community and why is it needed?

A trauma-informed community is an area where knowledge of how adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can affect the brain – and how best to respond to this impact – is commonplace. All key local services integrate this knowledge into the way they interact with people every day. Residents across communities work together to not only help mitigate and resolve the effects of trauma for the current generation, but to also prevent it as far as they can for future generations too.

An early example of this approach began in 1990s Washington State, which ran a major initiative to set up community networks across the state. From 2001 onwards, it made addressing ACEs a key priority. Over the course of 10 years, the results they achieved were staggering, including:

  • reducing rates of 7 major social problems (child abuse and neglect, family violence, youth violence, youth substance abuse, dropping out of school, teenage pregnancy and youth suicide)

  • lowering caseload costs in child welfare, juvenile justice and public medical costs associated with births to teenage mothers, calculated to save over $601 million

  • saving an average of $120 million per year for a public investment of $3.4 million per year

 

Severe and multiple disadvantage (SMD)

A 4-year study by WAVE into what causes people to suffer severe and multiple disadvantage (SMD) – for instance, combinations of addiction, mental health issues, homelessness, unemployment and criminality – identified ACEs as a prime cause of severe disadvantage.

The resultant report (see link below) recommends that trauma-informed care and trauma-informed communities are the most effective antidote for people who have suffered ACEs. In order to put our findings to good use and to support the growing interest in ACEs across the UK, we launched the Trauma-informed Communities (TiC) project in May 2018.

Read the report:
Age 2 to 18 - systems to protect children from severe disadvantage (Walsh 2018)

 

What is the Trauma-informed Communities (TiC) project?

In May 2018, we launched the Trauma-informed Communities (TiC) project in partnership with 70/30 ambassadors, other community champions and later, worked with third sector organisations rooted in their local areas.

Our goal is to increase the number of pressure groups across the UK and to continue supporting existing groups in making their communities trauma-informed. From Orkney to Kent, Cumbria to Belfast and Warrington to Reading, we have been collaborating with an amazing network of activists to transform their towns, cities and counties.

This project is already revealing the power of local grassroots campaigners to lead transformation in their communities. Many of the local projects we support are having a profound impact on awareness and uptake of trauma-informed approaches within their areas, including by:

  • Introducing statutory personnel and services, third sector organisations and politicians to ACE research and studies

  • Compelling statutory services to explore trauma and ACEs (e.g. by setting up multi-sector steering groups) and to begin their journey towards becoming trauma-informed.

  • Spreading awareness about ACEs, and prevention of ACEs, to thousands of local residents.

  • Bringing decision-makers together and setting a new agenda to put in place trauma-informed policies.

All this has proved to us that local activists truly can make large-scale change happen in their communities.

 

If you would like support to set up a trauma-informed community group in your area, see our guidance here.

WAVE is seeking funding to support existing groups and the creation of new ones. If you would like to support this project, click here.