GCVS Blog – ACEs Network Meeting

Suzie Scott and Laura Dover
Everyone’s Children Project

Our Glasgow Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Network Meeting on 18th September was well attended by around 60 staff from across the statutory and public sectors. The meeting was themed around Third Sector experiences relating to trauma-informed practice. Speakers were:

  • Lucy Mulvagh, Director of Policy and Communications, Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE)
  • Julie Richardson, Service Manager at Children 1st
  • Shona Stirling , Director at Whiteinch Transformation (Healing for the Heart)
  • George Hosking, CEO Wave Trust


Lucy Mulvagh asked attendees to watch and discuss a short video, produced by NHS Health Scotland, explaining what Adverse Childhood Experiences are and the impact they have in later life. NHS Scotland also host the Scottish ACEs Hub to progress national action on ACEs. The ACEs Hub is involved in action on:

  • raising awareness and understanding about ACEs
  • contributing to developing the evidence base on ACEs
  • policy and practice approaches to prevent ACEs and mitigate their negative impacts.

More info here.

Lucy also noted the discussion about ACEs that is taking place at the Scottish Government level.  Tackling ACEs is a key part of the Scottish Government programme 17-18, with a commitment to ‘embed a focus on preventing ACEs and supporting the resilience of children and adults in overcoming early life adversity across all areas of public service, including education, health, justice and social work’.

Julie Richardson spoke about the approach that Children 1st have taken to tackling ACEs, summed up by the phrase “prevent, protect, recover”. Julie said that the approach is based on building relationships with children and parents and supporting the family unit as a whole.  It is a restorative approach which involves giving children and families plenty of time and empathy with both emotional and practical support in order to build long-term coping skills and resilience. Children 1st utilise a number of tools in their work with children, including a sensory kitbag and ‘restorative stars’ which help children to explore their feelings and think about what support would be helpful. They also provide support in a variety of ways, such as through individual work, schools, group work and a parent support phone line, so that their services can be tailored to the needs of individual families.

Shona Stirling gave a presentation on how a resilient community can contribute to recovery from trauma. She described the impact that trauma has on a person’s brain: they can perceive constant threats to their safety even where none exists; their memory and cognitive abilities can be negatively affected and an increase in stress hormones can cause them to be in a constant state of hyperarousal. This can lead to the individual disconnecting from their emotions and surroundings in order to avoid experiencing the emotional pain of the trauma. However, positive relationships can help traumatised people to heal by creating a sense of safety and empathy and ‘teaching’ the brain to connect with others in a way that is affirming and rewarding for them. These positive connections also encourages emotional regulation and the ability to self-soothe.

Resilient communities are ones which ‘model’ these relationships, ensuring that people who have had Adverse Childhood Experiences are able to heal and do not perpetuate the ACEs cycle. Shona emphasised that practitioners should be able to recognise when they need to refer a service user to someone who can provide more specialised support and that they should be receptive to new ways of working without abandoning ‘old ways’ that are still effective.

Finally, George Hosking from the Wave Trust talked about the Trust’s work to partnership with local areas to implement best practice and develop local and sustainable ACE prevention solutions that best meet the needs of local communities. The Trust is currently working with local organisations in Drumchapel, but also wants to encourage and support trauma-informed schools throughout Scotland. More information here.

We would like to thank Lucy, Julie, Shona and George for their presentations and Martine Leitch, Headteacher at Croftfoot Primary for her able chairing of the meeting. To find out more about the Glasgow ACEs network or local ACE’s networks, you can email everyoneschildren@gcvs.org.uk.

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