‘Everyone wants to do ACES’ – a sign of success or a challenge to be met?

By Joanne Hopkins, Director of the ACE Support Hub

One of the key goals of the ACE Support Hub and the Early Action Together Programme is of course to raise awareness of ACES and how to become ACE aware and trauma informed. There has been a range of activity taking place over the last two years to achieve this; including the development of training and resources to support organisations across public services in Wales. We are very proud of the training being delivered in schools, by teachers, educational psychologists and those with experience of working with children and young people; the short films on our website show the impact that this can have. We have developed specific resources for use in housing and homelessness settings, with youth service providers and with organisations engaged with sport. We have a skills and knowledge framework and a range of tools to enable organisations to assess where they are in terms of readiness to develop their approach to become trauma informed. And we are evaluating, testing and quality assuring what we produce to ensure that the messages are right, are received and understood, and are then disseminated without dilution or reinterpretation.  

But with increased awareness, publicity and activity comes an interesting consequence. Where something is considered this important, there are also opportunities to generate income. And there is nothing wrong with that, it is up to the customer if they chose to pay for a product or not. The sustainability of the work has to come from continued research, development and access to learning.  But not at the expense of a shared set of fundamental principles that are evidence based, evaluated and quality assured. And the research and evidence base for Wales from Public Health Wales sits at the absolute heart of what we offer.  

Through our own evaluation, we have learnt that generic, ‘one size fits all’ training is not what is effective here. Each sector, each organisation must look at their own structures, cultures and systems to understand what they need to develop and change in order for ‘ACE aware’ and ‘trauma informed’ to be phrases that really make a difference and change things for those accessing those services. Organisations need to think about systems theory, and what will work for them, and be supported in developing an approach that does that; buying in, or putting on a training day only achieves so much. We have seen the challenges of misinterpretation. We must be able to work with organisations and leaders/champions to challenge perceptions and interpretations that have generated the impression that ACE awareness means labelling, or scoring children. Or singling children out. Or making parents feel shamed. Or people saying ‘this does not apply to our….families/children’. We have to know what is being delivered, but also what is being understood from that delivery to continually develop our understanding. We must really listening to how people feel about what they have heard, and to ask questions and to make adjustments as a result to ensure that the messages are consistent and informed. Maintaining that oversight, in the emerging ‘market’ of ACE training is difficult, but vital to the sustainability and outcomes of this work. The core principle of the Hub in bringing all these approaches together has never been more important.


Sarah Kersley