ABSOLUTELY NO COST 2-day training by Arizona Trauma Institute Sponsored by Richard Cross in Trauma and the Sensory System

This is a two-day training course that will be presented from a Trauma & Occupational Therapy
Lens. This course will emphasize trauma’s effect on the physiology of the body with an
emphasis on the sensory system. Intervention approaches to using the body’s sensory system
as a channel to effective treatment will be provided and will follow the active ingredients
(Salutogenic) guidelines.

This course aims to understand better how we can utilize the body as a way to more efficiently
and effectively heal Trauma.

When: April 1st and 2nd, 2021 8:30 to 4:30 MST (the UK is 7 hours ahead, so 3.30 pm –
1130pm – please note once registered, you can come back and watch the replay on
demand).

The replay on demand will be available through the 18th of April 2021

 

EVENT: PREVENTING THE PERMANENT EXCLUSION OF VULNERABLE CHILDREN

CONFERENCE   (online)  

16th April 2012 10am-3pm

PREVENTING THE PERMANENT EXCLUSION OF VULNERABLE CHILDREN

The majority of children permanently excluded from schools are those who already have a history of adverse childhood experiences and have been traumatized. It is perverse that the children in most need of stability, understanding and support are those who are far more likely to be rejected by the very people who are paid to look after them in loco parentis and prepare them for adulthood. Currently many more children have been deeply traumatised as a result of their experiences during lockdown. They are returning to some schools that may not understand how to support the healing process needed to enable them to re-engage with learning. This conference explores this issue and suggests strategies to help all professionals who work with vulnerable children to help keep them in schools rather than excluding them.

A VIRTUAL ONE DAY CONFERENCE FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE FOLLOWING DELEGATES: –

Head Teachers and Senior Leaders

Head Teachers and staff of Virtual Schools

Teachers

Lead Members for Children’s Services

Directors of Children’s Services

Educational and Clinical Psychologists and other Child Therapists

Managers and Senior LA Officers engaged in work for Looked After Children (LAC)

University researchers

All adults interested in the education, safeguarding and welfare of vulnerable children.

Programme

10.00 – 10.10

 Sylvia Duncan (Chair of IRCT)

Welcome and introductions

10.I0 – 10.40  

Patrick Finegan ( Head of Looked After and Vulnerable Children Royal National Springboard Foundation)

 “Why Permanently Exclude Children from Schools?”

Patrick will put forward a case for permanent exclusions to be no longer tolerated as they are unnecessarily cruel and have proven to be damaging to the life chances of vulnerable children. He will propose alternative strategies that are often ignored.

10.40 – 10.50 Q&A

10.50 – 11.10 Fallout Group Discussion.

11.10 – 11.40  

Andrew Wright  (Virtual School Head & Chairman of ARC)

“Looked After Children”

Andrew will discuss the practical problems facing schools and Virtual Schools as vulnerable children return to school. He will deal with the issue of avoiding exclusions by advocating for more understanding of attachment and trauma as set out by ARC (Attachment Research Community).

11.40 – 11.50 Q&A

11.50 – 12.10  Fallout Group Discussion

12.10-12.20 Comfort Break

12.20- 12.50

Janet Rose (Principal Norland College)

“Supporting vulnerable children through Emotion Coaching”

Janet will outline how Emotion Coaching might support vulnerable and traumatised children, particularly in relation to the impact of COVID on their lives.

12.50-13.00 Q&A

13.00-13.20 Fallout Group Discussion

13.20-13.40 Lunch

13.40-14.10

Kate Cairns (Training Director Kate Cairns Associates)

“Responding to Trauma-driven Behaviour: social exclusion or community resilience?”

Trauma-driven behaviour, in all its many manifestations, is socially challenging. It often leads to social exclusion. Yet such exclusion is damaging not just to the traumatised person but also to the community doing the excluding. Human communities are only genuinely resilient when they can operate from a base of compassionate reason, absorbing and transforming the disruption of trauma so that individuals can recover and the whole community can thrive.

14.10-14.20  Q&A

14.20-14.30 Fallout Group Discussion

14.30-15.00 Closing Plenary

Tickets

Members £30

Non-Members £60 (which includes the option of a one year membership of IRCT (normally £50)

Andrew is the Head Teacher of Dudley Virtual School for Children In Care supporting over 600 young people in their educational settings. He is also the Chair Of the Attachment Research Community and currently chairs the WMVS CiC Charity Foundation.

Andrew has over 40 years of teaching experience, including over 10 years as Head Teacher/Principal, in a range of secondary school across the West Midlands. A clear strategic thinker, Andrew has an expertise in school improvement within challenging settings, transforming the ethos of schools, the behaviour, attendance, and attainment of young people. He has been recognised by Ofsted as a leader who sets ‘a clear direction and vision focusing on raising aspirations and achievements.

Andrew has a keen understanding of developing an inclusive curriculum both within and across schools. He has influenced innovation in curriculum design through a range of strategic roles including chair of a collaborative network of schools, regional and national strategy groups and has directly integrated partners from the world of work into the learning experiences.

As the Head Teacher of the Virtual School, Andrew is committed to developing a sustainable system of support to enable all children to develop into independent and successful adults. He recognises the importance of strong partnerships across services, businesses and agencies and has developed a menu of support and opportunities in a ‘Learning Tool Kit’ for children in care. 

Patrick Finegan is a qualified teacher with extensive experience in all phases of education. He was a highly successful Primary Head Teacher, taking two schools out of Ofsted categories, and was a School Adviser in the West Midlands as well as being a Lead Ofsted Inspector. Patrick is an experienced Virtual Head for Looked After Children (8 Local Authorities) and has been an adviser to three government ministers. He was an expert witness for the House of Commons Select Committee for Looked After Children.

Patrick was the Executive Head Teacher of Sandwell Transition Education Partnership Service (STEPS) which is a unique school for international newly arrived children. He was the treasurer of NAVSH and is a trustee of the Institute for the Recovery of Childhood Trauma (IRCT). Recently he was the Virtual Head of Wokingham and is currently the Head of Looked After and Vulnerable Children for the Royal National Children’s Springboard Foundation.

Kate Cairns is an author, speaker and trainer with an international reputation for her work around attachment, trauma and resilience, particularly in relation to vulnerable children and young people. She has been a social worker for forty years, and a trainer for twenty years

With her husband Brian and their three birth children, Kate provided a permanent family for twelve other children between 1975 and 1997. Thereafter, she worked as a trainer/consultant and writer for the British Association for Adoption and Fostering. In 2002 she published Attachment, Trauma and Resilience, which explored how these three key concepts could provide a structure for understanding ourselves and those with whom we work. The book became a bestseller for BAAF and has influenced practice around the world.

Over the past decade, Kate has concentrated on translating the insights of current neuroscientific research on brain development and function into accessible knowledge and practice skills for carers and practitioners working with children and young people, and for those who support them. She has developed online learning and vocational qualifications, and provided widely-acclaimed training and consultancy to both universal and specialist services across social work, child care, health and education.

Since conducting research for her first book, Surviving Paedophilia (now reissued as Circles of Harm), Kate has been convinced that working with vulnerable people has to be a collaborative exercise. She therefore feels it is a great privilege to be part of a group of associates who embody the shared understanding and vision, and the unity of purpose and action, that are the vital ingredients for supporting recovery and transformation after trauma.

Dr Janet Rose is a currently Principal of Norland College and a former Associate Professor and Reader in Education at Bath Spa University.  She has a wealth of experience in supporting children and young people, including those who have experienced trauma.  She led the national research project Attachment Aware Schools and Trauma Informed Practice, which comprised a comprehensive programme of support for children and young people affected by early attachment difficulties, trauma and neglect.  She is also co-founder of Emotion Coaching UK which trains and researches the use of Emotion Coaching as a practical strategy to support the development of children’s and young people’s self-regulation, behaviour, wellbeing and resilience, including children and young people who have experience trauma.  She has worked closely with numerous Virtual Schools and organisations who support Looked After Children and is currently a member of the Ministerial Care Leaver Summit.  She is the author of numerous academic and professional publications related to attachment and trauma, the most recent of which is a book on Emotion Coaching. She is also an Associate for Kate Cairns Associates. 

 

Make Permanent Exclusions Illegal

Permanently excluding a child is an act in which a school decides,
plans, and then carries out the traumatic punishment of rejecting that
child. There is no moral argument to justify saying to a child that they
are no longer wanted by the institution whose function is to act in loco
parentis for a substantial period of that child’s life.

Why is this important?
In state-run schools, and in private schools, where at least part of the funding
came from government, corporal punishment was outlawed by the British
Parliament in 1986, following a 1982 ruling by the European Court of Human
Rights that such punishment could not be administered without parental
consent, and that a child’s “right to education” could not be infringed by
suspending children who, with parental approval, refused to submit to corporal
punishment.

It became apparent that hitting children in school was morally wrong and now
it is illegal. Permanently excluding a child is an act in which a school decides,
plans, and then executes the traumatic punishment of rejection. The
similarity with the decision making, planning and then execution of a
physical attack on a child is painfully obvious. There is no moral argument to
justify saying to a child they are no longer wanted by the institution that is set
up to act in loco parentis for a substantial period of that child’s life.

The first objection to making permanent exclusion illegal will inevitably be that
schools cannot cope with the behaviour of some children and they need to be
able to safeguard other children and staff. In order to make permanent
exclusions illegal this objection has to be answered to the complete
satisfaction of both teachers and parents. If the law were to change then it
would have to be accompanied by an increase in school budgets to ensure
they are able to adequately fund the options that are available instead of
permanently excluding the child. This proposal fully recognises that this is a
pre-requisite and requires all those who might support this movement to sign
up to ensuring schools are able to deliver their new statutory duty and ensure
all their children receive a full-time education until their legal school leaving
age.

The moral argument for not permanently excluding a child is clear. If for a
minute you ignore the reason for the permanent exclusion, then the action of
removing a child from its school is a traumatic event which inevitably has
consequences for the child. Put simply it is a rejection of the child by an
organisation which is charged with acting as a good parent while it educates
them. The act of a permanent exclusion (rejection) is not one a good parent
would countenance and yet we allow schools to do this based on the excuse
that there was no other option. We aim to prove this is a false premise which
allows schools to abdicate all responsibility for a child who they were
supposed to nurture and educate.

To demonstrate the number and variety of options a school can already use
instead of a permanent exclusion the following list (which is not exhaustive)
has been assembled:

1. Part time timetables
2. Temporary exclusion while other options are sought.
3. Managed move to another school
4. Counselling
5. Mentoring
6. Therapy
7. Move to a pupil referral unit
8. Move to a special school
9. Alternative education providers
10. Early move to college

  • 78% of pupils who are permanently excluded either have SEN, are classified
    as in need or are eligible for free school meals.
  • 11% of permanently excluded children have all three characteristics Boys with social, emotional, and mental health difficulties (SEMH) but no statement are around 3.8 times more likely to be permanently excluded than a
    non-SEN child.
  • SEMH girls are around 3 times more likely. Children in receipt of Free School Meals are around 45% more likely to be excluded than other pupils
  • Black Caribbean are around 1.7 times more likely, and Mixed White and Black
    Caribbean children were around 1.6 times more likely, to be permanently excluded compared to White British children.
  • Children on a Children in Need plan are around 4 times more likely to be
    permanently excluded compared to those with no social care classification
    Children who have a Child Protection Plan are around 3.5 times more likely to
    be permanently excluded.
  • Children who are looked after are around 2.3 times as likely to be permanently
    excluded than children who have never been supported by social care.
    It is clear that if you are a vulnerable child, you are far more likely to be
    excluded than those who are not vulnerable.

It is perverse that the children in most need of stability, understanding and
support are those who are far more likely to be rejected by the very people
who are paid to prepare them for adulthood.
This campaign seeks to make permanent exclusions illegal whilst promoting
fair funding to support schools so they can organise education that does not
include the trauma inflicted on children who become permanently excluded. It
also wishes to promote the use of whole school training in order to enable
schools to recognise and support children for whom previous trauma and/or
attachment difficulties are at the heart of their behaviour problems. It is
important for all school staff to be aware that many young people have
suffered trauma in their early years and know how to help them overcome the
impact this often has on their ability to learn and socialise. We believe all
schools should be willing to train their staff so the number of incidents leading
to exclusions can be dramatically reduced. Strategies such as Emotion
Coaching and Conflict Resolution can be extremely helpful in this area and
many schools have drastically reduced their exclusion rates after such
training. It is the very antithesis of the “zero tolerance” discipline policies
where permanent exclusion is regarded as a legitimate form of blackmail in an
attempt to frighten a child into conforming.

The IRCT is starting this national campaign in order to encourage all schools,
politicians, and parents to come up with a different system than the current
one which officially tells children they are no longer wanted by their school.
Many of the children permanently excluded have already suffered Adverse
Childhood Experiences. To officially inflect another trauma on these children is
both cruel and unnecessary.

All children permanently excluded are still legally entitled to a full-time
education which the local authority has to provide. Why then does there have
to be a formal rejection of the child in order to try and find suitable education
for these children? Surely the organisation that knows them best should be
central to ensuring any new plan addresses the needs of the child.

IRCT BEST PRACTICE FORUM ONLINE EVENT

YOU’RE INVITED TO THE IRCT BEST PRACTICE FORUM ONLINE EVENT!

Friday, 12th of March 2021 / 10:00 – 12:30 (GMT)

BEST PRACTICE FORUM WEBINAR: ATTACHMENT & TRAUMA INFORMED CARE

ORIT BADOUK EPSTEIN

‘The role fear plays in the severely traumatised client’

Orit will be discussing the core principles of Attachment Theory. In particular she will focus on Disorganised attachment and the way in which fear manifests itself in clients who have suffered childhood neglect and abuse.

Orit Badouk Epstein is a UKCP registered Attachment based Psychoanalytic psychotherapist, a trainee supervisor and a trainee therapist. She trained at the Bowlby Centre, London where she is the Editor of the journal “Attachment-New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis”. She specialises in attachment theory and trauma and regularly lectures.

RICHARD CROSS

‘Creating Resiliency for Professionals when Working with Traumatised Children: harnessing understanding of attachment and trauma within organisational group and individual contexts’

Richard Cross is a UKCP registered psychotherapist and child psychotherapist. He has worked with children and young people since 1991 when he became interested in trauma, dissociation and attachment. This led him to collaboration with Dr Sandra Bloom to implement and pilot an trauma-informed approach called ‘The Sanctuary Model’ in the UK in 2004. He is Head of Assessment & Therapy at Five Rivers Child Care where he leads research and development on collaboration with AFC/UCL and supports a team of psychologists and psychotherapists developing innovative approaches such as ATIC (Attachment & Trauma Informed Care).

Children’s Mental Health Week: Express yourself

1ST to 7TH FEBRUARY 2021

We welcome the opportunity to spread awareness about Children’s Mental Health Week and the resources that are available to help parents and professionals support the well-being of children.

IRCT is a charity which has at its heart the idea of trying to improve the understanding the general public and government has about the mental health needs of vulnerable and traumatized children and a desire to improve the availability and access to appropriate services to provide help.

Place2Be, which is sponsoring Children’s Mental Health Week, also has a mission to improve the mental health of children and young people. They do this by providing mental health services in schools as well as training for teachers and other educational staff and parents. They also try to raise awareness about the mental health needs of children and young people and promoting Children’s Mental Health Week provides an opportunity to put a spotlight on the importance of being able to talk about emotional issues as well as to raise vital funds to support their work.

Place2Be promoted the first Children’s Mental Health Week in 2015 and its impact has grown every year. This year the theme is “Express Yourself” with an emphasis on helping children and young people to find ways to share their feelings, thoughts or ideas through creative activities such as art, music, dance, poetry, photography, film, drama etc.

Details about planned activities and resources for children, teachers and parents to use can be found on the Place2Be website and are available free. There is also an online conference on Friday 5th February entitled ‘Creativity as a Healing Tool: Connecting Mind Body & Imagination’

Credit: FilmMagic/Rodin Eckenroth
Amanda Gorman

Find out more about activities, events, resources and training opportunities and take inspiration from the poem by the  American Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, which she read at the inauguration of President Joe Biden

www.Place2Be.org.uk

www.mentallyhealthyschools.org.uk

www.twinkle.co.uk

https://edition.cnn.com/2021/01/20/politics/amanda-gorman-inaugural-poem-transcript/index.html

 

Talking about one’s mental health and expressing one’s feelings can be difficult no matter what your age. Children will not always know what they are feeling and they often struggle to put things into words. It is important for the adults around them to be able to look for non-verbal cues about what a child might be feeling by paying attention to changes in their behaviour or demeanour or the way they speak about things. Direct questions such as “How are you feeling?” tend to be responded to with a shrug or an “Alright!” Spending time with a child playing and engaging in creative activities is likely to be more revealing and the adult can begin to recognize themes in what the child is doing as they express themselves at a more unconscious level. It is important to leave the child to create what they want in the way that they want rather than trying to push them to create something ‘better’ or ‘more realistic’. The idea is not to strive for excellence but rather for free expression and fun! What is important is to encourage and notice with all one’s senses what is going on. Often the way something develops is more important than the final product. It is best to avoid too much probing or speculation about the meaning of creations but to be open to any suggestions.  To avoid the risk of projecting their own feelings onto the child it is best to avoid the temptation to make interpretations! The expression of a feeling even if not named can be therapeutic in its own right. If a child is aware of how they are feeling but does not know how to cope it can be helpful to give them the opportunity to express the emotion in a safe way through a creative activity when suggestions can be welcome as to how they might achieve it.

It is important to take into account that a child’s emotional response to a situation depends to a large extent on their capacity to understand. The cognitive capacity of pre-schoolers to make sense of things is more limited and as a result, the primary emotional response to stress is likely to be anxiety shown through hyper-arousal, regression, fear, aggression etc. As they move into a more egocentric phase of development around 4 or 5 years old they tend towards becoming the centre of their own world and begin to explore their own strengths and feel more powerful in terms of being able to make things happen instead of looking to adults to do things. This potential sense of omnipotence is curbed by adults reminding them that there are consequences to actions and with this comes responsibility and guilt. Children at this age tend to feel responsible for everything that happens and if, for example, their parents are cross or unhappy they will be sure that it has something to do with them. Guilt is silent and rarely expressed but it is deeply felt and only really recognized through the child’s behaviour and demeanour. Guilt gets added to anxiety. Once the child has the capacity to evaluate rights and justice they have the capacity to express unfairness in a meaningful way and one which can lead to real anger about the injustice of what is happening to them. This usually happens around the age of 9 or 10 years old. It is not until much later that young people develop the capacity to be able to compare the actual with the hypothetical and make a comparison along the lines of “if this had not happened to me my life would have been different”. The awareness that they have been subjected to a significant loss as a result of the trauma they have suffered can lead to depression in addition to the ongoing anxiety, the feeling that they may be to blame and the anger about the injustice of everything. That is a lot for any young person to have to bear and they should not have to face it alone.

Never has there been a more important time to give children a chance to express how they are feeling. Life as we knew it seems like a distant dream after nearly a year of living through a pandemic with long periods of lockdown conditions imposed on us. We are all constantly bombarded with frightening messages about the dire situation we are in. Families are confined to their own homes with parents trying to work from home and retain their jobs while homeschooling their children. There is financial hardship and insecurity for many. For the children and young people, the inability to be able to go to school consistently has led to worry and anxiety about the impact on their education and for the older ones fear of lost opportunities and career prospects. An inability to see their friends and socialize leads to further anxiety, loneliness, boredom and frustration. The loss of supportive adults at school means that there is less help available and nobody to independently monitor their well-being.

Research confirms that there has been an increase in child mental health problems during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Summer of 2020 after the first period of lockdown was ending Young Minds (1) did a survey of children and young people and 80% of respondents reported that their mental health was “worse” than before the pandemic and of this 41% said that it was “much worse”. This was a 32% increase compared to March 2020. It is also the case that 11% said that their mental health was better than before and this seemed to be associated with having had a break from the pressures of their normal life including such things as bullying and academic pressure. One worrying feature of the survey was that 31% reported being unable to find any ongoing mental health support even though they had looked for it and needed it. Another 40% said that they needed help but had not actively looked for it. Another survey was conducted in the Autumn of 2020 when there was a short-lived uplift after schools were open and friendships were re-established but this was followed by a dip and a further 10% increase in those reporting mental health problems. Once again there were complaints about the lack of support services being available. Young Minds are calling for the government to provide funding to enable educational establishments to provide mental health support and additional funding for the NHS to provide help through the Child and Adolescent mental health Services. They are also promoting a well-being campaign targeted at helping children and young people to learn how to support themselves and ask for help when they need it.

A research study in the Lancet in January 2021 (2) compares the incidence of reported mental health problems before and during the pandemic and found a 5% increase in the 5 to 16 year age group with the highest incidence (27%) reported for teenage girls. It was found that children who had a parent in psychological distress were more likely to suffer mental health problems and those living in a household falling behind with the payment of bills and rent/mortgage were twice as likely to be suffering mental health problems. This is not surprising and perhaps the biggest factor in how children and young people weather stresses in their lives is how readily their parents/carers can provide an emotionally containing life experience for them and shield them from stress. When parents are experiencing increased stress themselves this is even more difficult than usual. Supporting parents is essential in order to achieve and maintain the well-being of children and young people

  1. Young Minds COVID-19 Survey youngminds.org.uk
  2. Child Mental Health in England Before & During COVID-19 Lockdown Newlove-Delgado T et al January 2021 thelancet.com

Sylvia Duncan

Clinical Child Psychologist

Chair IRCT

First UK estimates of children who could have conditions caused by drinking in pregnancy revealed

Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)

According to a study published by the University of Bristol in November 2018

Up to 17 per cent of children could have symptoms consistent with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) according to new research published in Preventive Medicine.

The UK has the fourth-highest level of prenatal alcohol use in the world, but no estimates existed from a population-based study on how many people may have FASD. FASD is a group of lifelong conditions caused by exposure to alcohol in pregnancy that affect learning, behaviour and can cause physical abnormalities.

Researchers from the University of Bristol and Cardiff University worked with clinicians to assess a wide range of information on mothers drinking in pregnancy and studied the development of 13,495 children from Bristol’s Children of the 90s study.

They applied a screening tool and found that up to 79 per cent of children in the sample were exposed to alcohol in pregnancy and that up to 17 per cent screened positive for symptoms of FASD

Dr Cheryl McQuire, a researcher in epidemiology and alcohol-related outcomes at the University of Bristol, led the research and said:

“Our results showed that a significant number of children screened positive for features consistent with FASD. The results are based on a screening tool, which is not the same as a formal diagnosis. Nevertheless, the high rates of prenatal alcohol use and FASD-relevant symptoms that we found in our study suggest that FASD is likely to be a significant public health concern in the UK.

“These results are important because without UK estimates of FASD prevalence, awareness will remain low and children, teenagers and adults will continue to find it difficult to seek diagnosis and to access the support they may need.

Dr Raja Mukherjee runs a diagnostic clinic for FASD at Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and contributed towards the research. He said:

“It shows that it is a disorder that is seemingly hidden in plain sight that we need to pay attention to. Unless we start looking for it we will continue to miss it. If we fail to diagnose it then those affected individuals will continue to be affected by a lack of support and have a subsequent impact on them and wider service.  These results can be the first step in helping us in the UK to realise it is no longer a condition we can ignore.”

However, there is some dispute about the conclusions drawn from the study, for example, Prof Kevin McConway, Emeritus Professor of Applied Statistics, The Open University, said:

“To summarise my views: yes, this study does provide some useful information, but I don’t think we can rely on it to estimate how common FASD is in the UK. There are good reasons why the researchers’ estimates of up to 17% of children having FASD symptoms are very likely to be an overestimate of the percentage of children who actually have FASD in the UK, and quite possibly it overestimates a lot. Does that mean that FASD is not really a problem in the UK? That’s absolutely not the case – the relatively high rates of drinking alcohol during pregnancy mean that FASD could well be more of a problem here than elsewhere. I agree with the researchers that research using more reliable methods of finding out the extent of FASD should be done. Is the Chief Medical Officer’s advice to avoid alcohol in pregnancy changed by any of this? Absolutely not.”

IRCT would welcome further research into this problematic area. A child with FAS may have the same presentational difficulties as children who have experienced postnatal developmental trauma (abuse and/or neglect) and two points arise:

  1. There is a need for all agencies working with children to understand both complex trauma and behaviours emanating from FAS.
  2. There is an urgent need to campaign for compensation to be paid to victims of FAS.

In December 2014 the BBC reported:

A child born with foetal alcohol syndrome is not legally entitled to compensation after her mother drank excessively while pregnant, the Court of Appeal has ruled. 

The seven-year-old girl was born with severe brain damage and is now in care.

Lawyers argued her mother had poisoned her foetus but appeal judges ruled she had not committed a criminal offence.

The case was brought by a council in the North West of England, which cannot be named for legal reasons.

It had been argued the woman ignored warnings and drank a “grossly excessive” amount of alcohol while pregnant.

She consumed eight cans of strong lager and half a bottle of vodka a day, the court heard.

Three appeal judges at the Court of Appeal had to rule on whether or not the girl was entitled to a payout from the government-funded Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme as a victim of crime.

But Lord Justice Treacy said an “essential ingredient” for a crime to be committed “is the infliction of grievous bodily harm on a person – grievous bodily harm on a foetus will not suffice”.

This raises significant ethical, moral and legal questions which need addressing as a matter of urgency. While victims of developmental trauma can claim compensation when they have suffered physical and/or sexual abuse and but those suffering the effects of FAS aren’t able to. If the law were changed and criminal compensation could be successfully gained, would the mother necessarily be regarded as a criminal and should, instead support be offered to the mother as well as more support to the child?


Image courtesy of freepik.com

Dry January

Dry January

For those of you who don’t know much about who we are, The Institute for Recovery from Childhood Trauma (IRCT) is a charity whose ambition is to increase the awareness and the understanding of the impact of childhood trauma both during childhood and into adulthood. We are trying to do this to ensure that appropriately informed resources are made available to help those who have suffered and to give all of them the best chance possible of recovery.

So why do we feel the need to speak out during ‘Dry January’? CHILDREN ARE SUFFERING AND ARE AT RISK

Typically, ‘Dry January’ is seen as an opportunity for people to stop drinking for a month to help them recover from the excesses of the Christmas and New Year celebrations. This year those celebrations have been muted by the COVID 19 pandemic but less partying does not appear to have been accompanied by less drinking. Many people reacted to the closure of restaurants and pubs by stocking up to drink at home in isolation and alcohol as well as foodstuffs disappeared from our supermarket shelves. In the week to the 21st March (the beginning of the first lockdown), alcohol sales were up by 67% compared to an increase of 43% for food. (BMJ May 2020) It seems alcohol is being used as a means of coping with the uncertainty and anxiety caused by the pandemic and the accompanying stress.

Things are so difficult we deserve a drink, don’t we?

We are directed to stay home to stay safe but home is not always a safe place to be. As people have had to stay indoors at home, domestic violence cases have surged and 55% of domestic violence incidents have been found to involve alcohol (BMJ May 2020). Alcohol does not cause domestic abuse but it increases the risk of someone perpetrating domestic abuse, or of someone becoming a victim of domestic abuse as well as increasing the severity.  There is a complex relationship between stress, alcohol consumption and domestic violence. Stressed, people tend to feel emotionally and physically overwhelmed and many turn to alcohol as a type of self-medication, which research supports. Weerakoon (2020) found that 60% of binge drinkers reported drinking more during COVID-19 lockdowns with the odds of drinking heavily increasing by 19% each added week. This compared with 28% of regular drinkers who also reported an increase.

COVID-19 has caused major economic devastation, disconnected many from community resources and support systems, created widespread uncertainty and panic. Such conditions may stimulate violence in families where it didn’t exist before or worsen situations in homes where mistreatment and violence have been a problem. High stress plus alcohol consumption plus disruption to normal routines make for a perfect storm. Many victims have been unable to get opportunities to make reports to the police but there has been an increase of 12% in third-party referrals from neighbours who have overheard disputes (ONS). There has been a huge increase in calls to helplines of between 60 and 70% but an increase of 700% to one of the online helplines, which was easier to access discretely. (Women’s Aid Survey) Childline received an increase of 36% in calls reporting physical abuse and 31% reporting emotional abuse. In the UK, 14 women and 2 children were murdered in the first three weeks of lockdown, the highest figure in 11 years (WHO).

It is clear that currently children are being exposed to increased levels of domestic abuse leaving them traumatised and with no one to turn to for help as they have been out of school for long periods and the usual community support services and monitoring of their wellbeing have been disrupted. Many are the victims of increased abuse themselves and are specifically vulnerable to abuse during COVID-19. Research shows that increased stress levels among parents are often a major predictor of physical abuse and neglect of children. Stressed parents are more likely to respond to their children’s dependency demands and anxious behaviours in aggressive or abusive ways. There is a clear association between alcohol/drug abuse and child deaths caused by family members. (Reder and Duncan 1999)

We all need to find ways of not turning to alcohol to get us through these hard times not only in January but beyond. For some, this will be relatively easy but for others almost impossible without significant support and help. This is a national crisis and steps need to be taken to address this need or many more children will be left traumatised and at risk.

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