Building a trauma-informed workforce in Nottingham

Claire Austin

Claire Austin, Director of Brill-Me Ltd, shares her experiences of further developing a trauma-informed workforce as part of the systems change framework within Small Steps Big Changes (SSBC), Nottingham.

I joined SSBC in May 2022 with a brief to support and achieve the workforce outcomes, building on the work that had been initiated prior to the COVID 19 lock- down. I had previously worked for a local authority as a workforce manager in children’s services and had led on their trauma journey. I therefore felt able to use my skills and contacts to develop and create tried and tested approaches to support the following SSBC outcomes:

  • To understand the impact of trauma on children, families, and babies.
  • To know who can support families currently experiencing and impacted by historical trauma.
  • To support families using strength-based and behaviour-change approaches.
  • To equip families with support and knowledge, helping to reduce the risk of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) taking place.
  • To help practitioners understand that becoming trauma aware and informed may impact them personally and enable them to recognise when to seek support.
  • To support organisations to recognise their role and enable them to be well equipped to support staff wellbeing.

Developing positive working relationships

I knew it was important to build rapport with key partners, to gain respect and credibility. I ensured I understood structures and working relationships and engaged effectively with meetings. Through this, I was able to build an excellent working partnership. For me, a trusted relationship has always been key to an excellent working together process. As you can imagine this took time and persistence.

The key moment was when I was invited to attend the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Violence Reduction Partnership Strategy Group. Here, I was able to understand who was involved and what their objectives were, to share ideas and to build an agreed programme of activity.

My plan was to build on the initial work that was carried out between November 2020 and May 2023. This involved the delivery of a SSBC ‘hot topic’ lunchtime learning session with Warren Larkin, Managing Director of Warren Larkin Associates. It also included embedding resources and training in the 0-19 Children’s Public Health workforce, as well as an ‘introduction to motivational interviewing’ training.

The conferences

Working with the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Violence Reduction Unit Trauma Informed Strategy 2022/25, SSBC delivered the first of three conferences, which were aimed at Nottingham and Nottinghamshire’s children’s workforce.

The first conference ‘Creating a Trauma Informed Workforce’ in March 2023 hosted 250 health, social care, and voluntary sector colleagues from across Nottingham and Nottinghamshire. In addition, individual targeted ‘Introduction to Trauma’ sessions were planned locally to support the SSBC Family Mentor Service. The conference itself aimed to consolidate both national and local knowledge, and was led by Suzanne Zeedyk, a Developmental Psychologist and Research Scientist at the University of Dundee.

Creating a Trauma Informed Workforce conference

As part of the citywide approach, we were able to involve many services and to launch two videos entitled ‘neglect’ which had been co-produced by the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Safeguarding teams and SSBC. These videos, one for the workforce and one for a public audience, were developed as part of the Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire County Council’s Neglect Strategy. View the videos here.

Reflecting on feedback from attendees at this first conference, we were able to embed some virtual training sessions. ‘An introduction to Trauma – when we are scared’ ran for both the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Safeguarding Boards between May and December 2023.

The second conference ‘Conversations that make a difference’ was held in June 2023. It brought together colleagues, researchers, and partner agencies who support trauma-informed care. The conference was led by Lisa Cherry, Director of Trauma Informed Consultancy Services Ltd and Nick Austin, a Trauma Clinician and Internal Family Systems therapist at Austin Trauma Services. Speakers explored relationship-focused and trauma-informed practice on the frontline. Nick provided a historic review of the pioneers of trauma theory, and a delivered a presentation on intergenerational trauma and its impact upon neurological development.

Our third conference, ‘Transforming Services: Using Trauma Informed Principles to Change Practice’ aimed to consolidate learning by building on knowledge with tangible tools, stronger networks, and partnership commitments to continue the work as part of SSBC’s legacy.

Trauma Informed Principles

Speakers explored intergenerational trauma, recovery, and resilience, and we were keen to ensure colleagues left the event with information and tools required to maintain a trauma informed approach in practice.

The conference was based on both the national trauma-informed document and the Nottingham Trauma Informed Approach Thinking Tool. It helped attendees to recognise trauma, access local resources, and follow pathways to trauma specific care.

Lisa Cherry and Suzanne Zeedyk once again led the conference with a focus on principles one to six (pictured above.) The afternoon was hosted by Nottingham professionals, who work supporting families and adults. They shared their knowledge, research and experience of trauma-informed practice and approaches to service delivery, focusing on principles seven to nine.

Cereal box dominoes

Both the planning and the execution of the third conference demonstrated that partnership work and a true belief in understanding each other’s challenges enables the workforce to achieve the best possible outcomes for children, families, and adults.

This was well represented by the cereal box activity. This was a domino chain which helped to demonstrate the impact of what can be achieved when a large number of people work together towards a common goal, and recognise differences and challenges.

At all the conferences we invited local organisations from across Nottingham to be part of a networking space, enabling them to showcase their work and explain how to access their services.

The work that SSBC has undertaken along with recommendations for future trauma-Informed practice activity has now been presented to the Integrated Care Board (ICB) workforce group.

Trauma Journey

Please see below for further information and conference slides:

About A Better Start

A Better Start is a ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Five A Better Start partnerships based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend are supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life. Working with local parents, the A Better Start partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language and communication.

The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life. It is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier

The National Children’s Bureau is coordinating an ambitious programme of shared learning for A Better Start, disseminating the partnerships’ experiences in creating innovative services far and wide, so that others working in early childhood development or place-based systems change can benefit.

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Visit the A Better Start website to find out more.