ACEs, Distance and Sources of Resilience

Gibson, Ross (2021) ACEs, Distance and Sources of Resilience. University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

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This research measured the prevalence of a range of life experiences encountered by children resident within secure care on one particular day in 2019. Repeating the process employed during the 2018 secure care census, data including Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), socio-economic status, and demographics was once again captured and analysed. This report therefore complements the previously published ‘ACEs, Places and Status: Results from the 2018 Scottish Secure Care Census’ (Gibson, 2020), and should be read alongside this. It also features some unpublished data gathered during the 2018 study. Once again, 63% of children within secure care had been placed there by a Scottish local authority with some 37% coming from outwith Scotland. In a departure from 2018, a small number of children had been placed by a Welsh local authority, with the remainder placed by an English body. Whilst overall most children within secure accommodation were boys, a fairly substantial variance was found amongst placing nations. Children placed by a Scottish local authority were mostly boys, those from outwith were mostly girls. A small number of transgender children were also resident in secure care on the day of the census. On balance, the 2019 cohort was found to be older than their 2018 contemporaries. In particular, of the 2019 cohort, 16 and 17 year olds accounted for 39% of children in 2019 compared to 30% in 2018, and fewer young children were resident in secure on the day of the 2019 census. Heightened rates of poverty were once again found during this study, with at least 50% of children believed to be living in relative poverty, with this report considering the impact that this may have upon children over the short, medium and long term. It was ‘unknown’ whether a sizeable number of children resided in relative poverty. This report considers why this may be, and what implications these findings may have for the life opportunities and outcomes of this cohort of children. As in 2018, this study found that children from the most deprived areas of the United Kingdom are disproportionately represented within secure care. The 2018 census found that children in secure care had experienced inflated levels of exposure to ACEs. This is echoed in this study, and indeed in most cases the rates of exposure are higher than were found one year previously. This is true for both girls and boys. In total, 74% of children had encountered four or more ACEs. Data is provided within this report which demonstrates the increase of prevalence of these issues, broadly affecting all sub-sections of the overall population. A new area discussed in this iteration of the census is the distance that each child is placed from their home, finding that almost seven in 10 of those placed by a Scottish local authority were under 50 miles from their family home. For those children under the care of an English local authority there was a vast difference, with the same proportion of children over 300 miles from home. Following feedback on the 2018 census, the 2019 census examined which factors in a child’s life were protective or could be considered a strength, thus supporting resilience. The most commonly cited issues were family and education. These are the foundations of effective care plans; the pillars and foundation that children and those supporting them can build upon in order to overcome existing challenges. Bearing in mind the distance from their family many children find themselves in, this report considers the implications of this separation and whether technological solutions could play a part in sustaining relationships. Given the role that relationship based practice can play in supporting those who have encountered heightened levels of ACEs and myriad trauma, the report considers what role the conclusions within The Promise may play in shaping secure care in years to come, as well as the newly launched Secure Care Pathway and Standards Scotland.