Trauma-informed practice

21 Nov 2022
In a series of short blog posts, independent consultant, Russell Webster, looks further into some of the work he evaluated. This week’s post explores Ingeus’ work around Trauma-informed practice.

Over the last decade, there has been growing interest in the UK concerning the impact of psychological trauma on people in contact with the criminal justice system. The links between childhood adversity, trauma and involvement in crime and the justice system are increasingly well evidenced. A large-scale 2015 Public Health Wales study found that, compared to the general population, people with four or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) were: 
•    15 times more likely to be a perpetrator of violence
•    16 times more likely to have used crack cocaine or heroin
•    20 times more likely to have been incarcerated in their lives

People who have experienced trauma may experience symptoms of anxiety and anger and have reactions to ‘triggers’ that remind them of their initial traumas and losses which then influence their behaviour and responses. There is increasing evidence that the experience of incarceration is often re-traumatising to many people. This increased awareness has led to a move towards criminal justice systems and organisations, including prisons and probation services, becoming more aware of the effects of trauma and moving to become trauma-informed, trauma responsive, and trauma specific in their work. Indeed, the concept of trauma-informed practice is reflected in national justice policy including the Female Offender Strategy for England and Wales and all the twelve Regional Reoffending Plans published by the Probation Service in August last year.

The Ingeus approach

During my evaluation, I discovered that Ingeus was one of the first probation services to pay proper attention to trauma-informed practice (TIP). The organisation involved both staff and people on probation in its development of a TIP strategy which set out several key objectives including:
•    Developing trauma-informed practice
•    Integrating TIP within Ingeus’s operating model
•    Developing a blueprint for trauma-informed environment in two pilot sites
•    Develop Mental Health First Aid and resilience training for staff
•    Develop a range of partnerships to embed TIP across the broader criminal justice system.

This strategy led to three main areas of work.

Firstly, Ingeus commissioned TIP training for all practitioners across the two CRC areas delivered by Lisa Cherry, an author and leading international trainer and consultant specialising in communicating an understanding of trauma, recovery and resilience. A total of 475 Ingeus staff working in Justice services received this training.

Secondly, Ingeus developed a range of approaches to support both staff and people on probation affected by trauma. The organisation created a TIP champion practitioner group to drive forward trauma-informed practice on a local level and developed a trauma-informed practice rehabilitation activity requirement which was piloted with people with lived experience. Another theme that emerged from the training was that many staff members had also experienced ACEs which led to concerns about “secondary traumatisation” (how staff’s own traumas can be triggered by working with people with trauma) and the need for increased wellbeing support. In response, I learnt that Ingeus strengthened the support available to staff via both its Human Resources and Learning & Development teams and prioritised a fast response to staff suffering from work-related stress. 

Finally, the organisation developed a blueprint for trauma-informed environments and undertook a comprehensive review of all its communications with service users. All posters and signed in probation offices were reviewed and all official communications were re-written to reflect a more welcoming approach. In addition, all reception staff attended the trauma-informed training and were encouraged to be actively welcoming. 

Going forwards

Ingeus has taken this commitment to trauma-informed practice forward to all its new work. Staff involved in delivering Commissioned Rehabilitative Services have already received the same high quality TIP training described above. 

The organisation has also invested in clinical supervision for all team members and provides a comprehensive employee assistance programme for those individuals coping with physical, mental, and emotional health issues.

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