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Urgent action needed to combat childhood trauma, report warns

Experts are calling for a population-wide strategy to reduce damaging childhood experiences.

Southampton’s Professor Keith Godfrey has contributed to a new report published by a cross-party parliamentary group.

The group informs policy decisions and public debate relating to childhood. It is chaired by MP Steve McCabe and Baroness Floella Benjamin.

The latest report recommends ‘roads to recovery’ to curb adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

‘Serious burden’

ACEs are stressful or traumatic experiences. They can have a huge impact on children and young people throughout the rest of their lives and even across generations.

Professor Godfrey is a Professor of Epidemiology and Human Development at the University of Southampton. He is also a theme lead at the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre.

He said: “ACEs have lasting impacts that impair a child’s ability to fulfil their potential. At a population level their consequences place a serious burden on the healthcare system, limit economic productivity and make a major contribution to disparities in society.

“The cost of inaction is substantial. We can, and must, do better in preventing adverse child experiences and in mitigating the life course consequences.”

Call to action

The new report calls for number of new measures, including a national ACE strategy, enhanced data collection and research, and cross-sector collaboration.

Steve McCabe MP said: “The fact that ACEs can blight the entire life courses of individual children and their families is something that is ignored and obscured by stigma and shame. The individual tragedy of ACEs transmits a legacy of misery that can devastate entire communities.

“The roadmap laid out in our Report is a call to action – a promise of resilience and recovery that a UK Government can and will deliver to its future generations. ACEs are and must be a national public health issue.”

National need

The new report was prepared by a working group of over 30 experts across the country, including several people with lived experience.

Lead author Helen Clark said: “This is the approach that unites economic and social justice because the UK works best when it can harness the abilities and talents of all of its citizens…now and in the future.”

Viki Veale, Senior Lecturer in Early Years and Primary Education at St Mary’s University and Trustee at Tactyc, said:

“Communities need a population–wide national strategy with a public health approach rather than targeted initiatives which stigmatise and deter those who are most in need of help.

“ACEs have a ripple effect, contributing to ever higher levels of mental and physical illnesses, social disintegration and cycles of violence and substance abuse. It is about crafting a legacy of care and proactive protection for every child and family touched by the shadow of adverse experiences.”

The report, titled Adverse Childhood Experiences: Roads to Recovery, is available to view here.


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