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Majority of teachers feel inadequately prepared for dealing with traumatised children

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@CSJthinktank warns that an ‘epidemic’ of traumatised children in care is costing the UK £100bn and is set to rise to £130bn by 2030 

New neuroscience research (26 Apr) reveals children with traumatic upbringings are damaged as badly as soldiers who have survived a warzone.

Parental mental health, substance misuse and domestic violence, compounded by Covid-19 lockdowns, have led to as much as £10bn being spent each year on state-run care for young people.

Spread across a ten-year age range, this totals £100bn for each cohort of children.

If current trends continue, the childcare bill will top £130bn on the most conservative estimates by 2030.

Coram-i, which supported the CSJ’s latest research, estimates that the average financial cost to the state of supporting a child between the ages of 8 and 18 is almost £850,000.

The CSJ warns that the number of children going into care has never been greater, with 68,270 as of June 2020, an increase of 3 per cent from the previous year. Many of them share similar symptoms with soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the CSJ’s latest report Safely Reducing the Number of Children Going into Care.

Previous UCL research found in children who have experienced the trauma of abuse and neglect show similar brain activity to that observed in soldiers after they have been exposed to combat. 

A Teacher Tapp poll carried out by the CSJ found that the majority of teachers feel inadequately prepared for dealing with such vulnerabilities, and would welcome the opportunity to learn the neuroscience behind them.

Among the report’s key recommendations is the introduction of trauma awareness training in schools and social work.

By contrast to the £10bn devoted annually to help vulnerable children, the Government is spending just £10m this year to support armed forces veterans with mental health needs, and only £19m on domestic violence programmes.

The cohort spend of £100bn on childcare is roughly double the central Government annual defence budget (£53bn), double the annual education budget (£45bn) and equivalent to the annual welfare budget (£100bn).

With 98 per cent of children taken into care because of the needs of parents not the child, the CSJ urges a community-based approach that strengthens families by addressing parental mental health, substance misuse and domestic violence.

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The CSJ calls on health and maternity services to recognise the key role fathers play by framing infant care as part of “preparing for parenthood” rather than “motherhood”. To boost the attendance of ante-natal appointments among low-income fathers, all employee fathers should be entitled to statutory time to attend four ante-natal appointments. Only a third currently attend them.

The report draws on interviews with front line professionals, local government representatives, academics, and care leavers. It synthesises findings from key research studies and literature.

A Commission chaired by Danny Kruger MP led the identification of key research and data sources. Commission members contributed their expertise, including the legal, charitable and academic sectors.

Andy Cook, Chief Executive of the CSJ said:

“Too often we overlook Britain’s most vulnerable children who suffer from family breakdown and the fallout it causes.

“The solution cannot be to throw more money at an already ailing system. Addressing the root causes of child neglect early on saves lives, time and money, and doesn’t depend on a staggering £130bn pay-out long into the future.

“As part of this direct approach, the CSJ recommends services stop marginalising fathers during childbirth and collaborate with local grassroots organisations to draw on community support for the whole family.

“Caring about the country’s most vulnerable children as well as our financial sustainability goes hand-in-hand.”

Cristina Odone, head of family policy at the CSJ, said:

“When only 2 per cent of children in care are there because of their own behaviour, professionals need to recognise that family matters. Yet professionals in our children’s care system too often fail to take parents into account.

“Neuroscience shows that a continuous, positive relationship with one trusted adult can help a child overcome even the most adverse experience. Yet most vulnerable children have to deal with a succession of social workers – up to a dozen in some cases. This revolving door approach prevents real relationships from forming, and children’s outcomes from improving.

“The timing of this report is crucial, as the pandemic has increased the pressures on families. Britain’s most vulnerable children have experienced stress only encountered in war scenarios. They need support from professionals who understand their trauma – and who understand that the best way to support a child is to support their family.”

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