UCLan leads major research project looking at the impact of childhood trauma on later life

7 August 2020

UCLan working with academics, practitioners and community groups across the North West on the ‘hidden epidemic’

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) is working with academics and experts across the North West on a major project to examine the ‘hidden epidemic’ of childhood trauma.

The collaborative project is hoping to look at the effects of traumatic experiences on children, such as mental, physical or sexual abuse, and how both the short or long impacts of the experiences can be minimised.

The issue is widely regarded as a hidden epidemic worldwide and the new project hopes to develop pro-active responses to help schools, communities, psychologists and medical practitioners deal with the issue as early as possible.

Working with Lancaster University’s Health Innovation Campus and Manchester Metropolitan University, as well as health practitioners, community groups and the Lancashire Violence Reduction Network, UCLan’s team from the Criminal Justice Partnership is hoping that the project may ultimately enhance the quality of life of victims of adverse childhood experiences (adult and child) and ultimately prevent future young people from being exposed.

The project has been launched with a pilot scheme in South West Burnley where the University is working with Cherryfold Primary School, local practitioners and community groups to look at ways to help children either at risk of or experiencing trauma by adopting a community wide approach..

Recently the University hosted a special webinar to develop a shared language around ‘adverse childhood experiences’ to enable the community as a whole to be able to discuss these and assist local organisations tackling the issue.

"Trauma in childhood, particularly if it involves abuse or neglect, can have far reaching effects on a person both as they continue to grow and later into adulthood"

Professor Nicola Graham-Kevan, from UCLan’s School of Criminal Justice Partnership

Professor Nicola Graham-Kevan from UCLan’s School of Criminal Justice Partnership said: “Trauma in childhood, particularly if it involves abuse or neglect, can have far reaching effects on a person both as they continue to grow and later into adulthood. With this project we want to look at those effects, how they influence behaviour and what responses we can develop to tackle them effectively.

‘This partnership is based on a strong collaborative approach and it is this approach that, as an academic, is so exciting. Working not just with Universities across the North West, but importantly with community members and health professionals, we hope it will allow will us to develop a shared language around adversity and trauma and how best to understand the implications this has for how we work responsively with communities.’

Following the recent webinar UCLan is finalising a document for consultation with partners which will be used as the basis for informational resources for communities.

Detective Chief Superintendent Sue Clarke, Head of Lancashire Violence Reduction Network said : “The Lancashire Violence Reduction unit is proud to be assisting in some small way with the community resilience and trauma informed work thriving within SW Burnley .

“This community led project is demonstrating the importance of close knit work, with Cherry Fold Primary school at its very heart. This work is also driving the social movement around the significance of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) and childhood trauma. I have seen first-hand how some of this adversity can be mitigated by the emphasis on positive relationships and role models.”

Cherryford School Primary School Head Teacher Esther Selway said: “At Cherry Fold we have been looking at different ways to manage the increasing complexities within the community due to various factors in recent years. Working alongside academics who can give us some of the why’s has helped us understand more and reflect on why we need to be proactive and take a trauma informed approach.

“The main things I have gained from this for Cherry Fold School is that we need to continue to model the behaviour using a shared language. As staff we have such a desire to make a difference to children, families and the community. Bringing together different people in this way has been an enriching experience and can only improve outcomes for our families.”

The initiative has also involved input from Dharma Kovvuri, the Dean of UCLan’s Burnley campus plus independent consultant Sue Irwin, who been working with Lancashire Violence Reduction Unit on Trauma Informed Practice across Lancashire.