Significant funding has been secured for an innovative project in South Wales aimed at breaking what many term the “generational cycle of crime”.
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) which include verbal, physical and sexual abuse, as well as domestic violence, are increasingly being recognised as a cause of offending among adults.
It’s extremely depressing to see research which shows that children who suffer adverse childhood experiences, which include the imprisonment of a parent, are 15 times more likely to perpetrate violence, 16 times more likely to have used crack cocaine or heroin, and 20 times more likely to be incarcerated themselves.
Of course, it must be pointed out that not all children who have ACEs go on to repeat the behaviour of their parents. Many of those who have had difficult childhoods go on to live hugely successful lives.
But our research increasingly shows that children who were brought up with ACEs are more likely to adopt health-harming and anti-social behaviours in adult life.
The new South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner and Public Health Wales project, which has been secured thanks to funding from the Home Office’s Police Innovation Fund, will see more than £500,000 come to South Wales over the next two years.
The money will allow police, and others including the NSPCC, to intervene early and support families who are dealing with ACEs. Police hope that preventing adverse childhood experiences will protect children from harm and lower the risk of them offending in adult life.
Police at the front line will be trained to be alert to adverse childhood experiences to identify when children are at risk. And we at the NSPCC will be joining up with Public Health Wales, and local agencies in housing and education to ensure that when these problems are identified at source, families are given the help and support they need.
Children experiencing ACEs are far more numerous than you might think. In 2015 the Welsh Adverse Childhood Experience survey, which was carried out by Public Health Wales, showed that around one in seven adults experienced four or more ACEs when growing up.
This only goes to show why detecting adverse experiences and stopping them from causing further harm, through early intervention and working with partner agencies, is so important. It’s also why the police view ACE prevention as crime prevention.
The important and ground-breaking work that is about to be carried out in South Wales can help protect children in Wales from ACEs and improve our understanding of the issues that cause them. This in turn will help protect children from abuse and neglect by tackling problems at the root of the issue.
If it can do this successfully then we will take a significant step towards ending the all-too-common cycle of children having the same harmful experiences as their parents.
Des Mannion is head of service at NSPCC Wales. To read more about how evidence on adverse childhood experiences is shaping services click here or read the latest edition of CYP Now magazine