Focus On: Trauma Informed Care

Last year the government published their 10-year drug strategy – ‘From Harm to Hope’ which set out key deliverables to cut crime and reverse the rising number of drug-related deaths.

The three main priorities that the strategy seeks to address over the next 10 years are:

  1. Breaking drug supply chains
  2. Deliver a world-class treatment and recovery system
  3. Achieve a shift in demand for recreational drugs

The strategy made specific reference to the need for treatment services to be ‘trauma-informed’, and emphasised that this approach would be fundamental in helping service providers prevent the onset of drug use among children and young people.

What is Trauma-Informed Care?

Trauma-informed care can be defined as an approach to a system change intervention. A change in approach that will transform the organisational culture and practice to address the high prevalence and impact of trauma on patients.  The potential for re-traumatisation exists in all systems and in all levels of care: individuals, staff and at the organisational level.

Trauma informed care seeks to:

  • Realise the widespread impact of trauma and understand paths for recovery
  • Recognise the signs and symptoms of trauma in patients, families and staff
  • Integrate knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures and practices
  • Actively avoid re-traumatisation
How is Trauma formed?

Traumatic stress often happens when individuals are unable to recover or feel safe after the body’s autonomic system is activated. There are many origins of trauma, most notably Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

Negative experiences in childhood are highly prevalent, including abuse and neglect, witnessing domestic abuse and familial mental illness. In England, a household survey found that nearly half of adults had experienced at least one ACE, including childhood sexual, physical and verbal abuse, exposure to domestic violence within a home.

Adverse childhood experience can be defined as ‘highly stressful, and potentially traumatic, events or situations that occur during childhood and/or adolescence. (Young Minds, 2018). The impact ACEs have on people’s health can be devastating. We have seen the impact of this through our work within substance misuse services and mental health services. UK studies found that individuals who experienced 4 or more ACEs have a higher risk of developing health-harming behaviours in later life, e.g. smoking, binge drinking and/or substance misuse.  They are also more likely to be both a perpetrator and victim of violence; spend many nights in prisons and engage in criminal activities including involvement in criminal exploitation such as County Lines.

In the UK, county lines activity is seen as an urgent issue that needs to be addressed through collaborative working with criminal justice, substance misuse and youth-orientated service providers. County lines can be described as when gangs from cities expand drug networks to other areas of the country, typically using dedicated mobile phone lines to supply drugs and using children to move them. There is a bigger picture involved than just adults running the scene. Behind the headlines, Organised Criminal Groups (OCGs) are exploiting children on a mass scale. Research by the Children’s Society found young people who are criminally exploited frequently experience emotional and psychological trauma, often due to violence they’ve seen and been forced to commit. As they get older, many of these young people will adopt negative behaviours and also become involved within the criminal justice system. Once they turn 18, this can often mean prison.

How will Trauma informed care help? 

Trauma informed care changes the focal point from “what’s wrong with you?” to “what’s happened to you?”. The approach an organisation takes is pivotal to providing the best service possible to patients and clients. This includes having a broader picture of a patient’s life situation, both past and present.  Adopting a trauma informed approach will contribute to positive changes including improving patient engagement, treatment adherence and staff wellness. It also helps reduce excess costs for both healthcare and social service sectors.

The benefits of this approach will not only be for patients but also providers and staff. Many patients with trauma have difficulty maintaining healthy, open relationships with a health care provider. For patients, trauma-informed care offers the opportunity to engage more fully in their health care, develop a trusting relationship with their provider, and improve long-term health outcomes.

The core principles of adopting a trauma informed approach within a healthcare setting include:

What are the challenges of Trauma informed Care?
Having a healthcare organisation and service that adopts this approach is beneficial, however, it is not without its challenges:


  • Many practitioners are having to manage significant caseloads for clients that present with a range of complexities
  • Developing a workforce to become more trauma-informed requires additional resources
  • Supporting staff with experience of trauma requires sensitivity to ensure their health needs are met
How can ILLY Help?


The ILLY Teams have been working closely with their partners across NHS, community and prison services to make a positive change within the sectors in which we operate. The fundamental aspect to create these changes is having the innovative, therapeutic tools to aid services and practitioners deliver effective trauma informed care.

Having integrated digital tools such as Care Plans, comprehensive risk assessments and person centred outcome tools help individuals and services to deliver a trauma informed approach.

By working with fellow practitioners, ILLY have developed tools which capture and present data in an easy and intuitive manner. As the science develops, we will continue to evolve these tools, ensuring that the client remains at the heart of our initiatives.

If you have any questions about this article or trauma informed care, or would like to know more, then please get in touch with our Account Management Team at  or on 020 4566 5727