CES is supporting the work of 36 projects funded by The Big Lottery Reaching Out, Supporting Families Programme in Northern Ireland. The programme funds projects which work with vulnerable families with a range of needs, such as newcomer families and those with intellectual or physical disabilities.
Part of CES’s role on the Programme involves designing an annual Learning and Networking Programme. Early on in the year, we talk to groups about the kinds of needs emerging as they are implementing their projects, and what learning activities might support them.
The whole area of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is one which groups have identified as being particularly relevant to their work. Research shows that Adverse Childhood Experiences, such as neglect, abuse or poverty have a powerful effect on children as they grow up, and increases demands on public services. In Northern Ireland, policy makers are highlighting the need for greater awareness about ACEs and their impact, and the implications for services.
Adversity is a recurring theme for projects on the Programme as they engage with vulnerable families. CES designed and developed a Masterclass which had two main aims – to help groups understand more about Adverse Childhood Experiences and their impact on families, and to think about how they can support families to cope with adversity. The event took place at the Girdwood Hub in May, and nearly 100 people from groups participating in the Programme attended.
Kieran Downey, Director of Women & Children's Services and Executive Director of Social Work in the Western Trust, opened the Masterclass and talked about the prevalence of adversity in Northern Ireland. Kieran’s takeaways for those attending were the importance of consistency in practice, building resilience and giving hope to families.
June Onyekwelu gave a workshop for practitioners, from helping them to understand the impact of adversity on early brain development, right through to developing trauma informed practice.
A panel of practitioners from projects funded under the Reaching Out Supporting Families Programme shared their experiences of supporting families to deal with adversities such as living with a HIV diagnosis, experiencing violence and dealing with an intellectual disability.
Rather than asking children “Why are you behaving so badly?”, ask “What has happened to you?” And “How can I help you?” - June Onyekwelu speaking about changing our thinking & responses. #ACEawareNI #SupportingFamiliesNI— Jade Irwin (@jade_irwin) May 30, 2018
Reaching Out, Supporting Families Annual Masterclass 2018 what a difference after a days Masterclass with discussions from June Onyekwelu and Kieran Downey in the words professionals associate with ACEs #ACEawareNI @NOW_families pic.twitter.com/zttE1FtJho— Bronagh O'Callaghan (@Bronaghnowfs) May 30, 2018
What happens next?
CES will continue to work with projects to build their capacity to work with families experiencing adversity. Projects are already identifying areas for further learning in this area.
To read more about Adverse Childhood Experiences and what practitioners can do, click here.