Annual Report: 2017-2018

Southmead Project: Annual Report 2017-18


In July 2017 the NHS published Drug Misuse and Dependence: UK Guidelines

In July 2017 the NHS published Drug Misuse and Dependence: UK Guidelines on Clinical Management. In its pages were principles for trauma-informed care, which included the need to recognise the high rates of trauma exposure in substance misusers, and recognise trauma symptoms and behaviours as the individual’s best attempts to manage their experiences.

With this long-awaited declaration from the NHS, I might be forgiven for thinking that after 24 years, the race has been run. Finally, awareness and acknowledgement of the impact of child abuse and its correlation with self-harming coming from the NHS.

Southmead Project can take much credit. For the past 24 years, it has worked tirelessly encouraging such levels of acknowledgement and been pioneers in helping to bring about change. We can all hold our heads high as we continue to consolidate what has been achieved so far and look ahead to what might lay in the future.

There is still a long way to go. What is now needed is immediate action to safeguard our children. We must tackle the problem at source to break that cycle of harm that condemns so many innocent victims to a life beset by post-traumatic stress disorder.

A cross-party parliamentary agreement for consistent budgets is needed, specific to children’s support services, as well as consistent, appropriate levels of funding for fit-for-purpose, trauma-informed interventions for survivors of child abuse: after all, this is the root of the problem. We might then begin to get to grips with a problem that is currently costing the state billions.

The impact on children of neglect, emotional abuse or witnessing domestic violence remains vastly and ridiculously underrated. In whatever form it may be, abuse is abuse and we would do well to acknowledge this.

In our experience, the wheels of change can turn very slowly, and it may be a very long time before any government-based funding is distributed to community-based interventions like ours.

It is therefore imperative we continue in our efforts to raise funding for our therapeutic based work and continue to raise awareness through campaigns and exhibitions like Wall of Silence and Amazing Resilience.

A lack of funding and minimal investment in the wellbeing of our children means the cycle of harm that prevails will continue to blight society. It will continue to result in broken homes and fragmented families, the shredding of community fabric and mammoth holes in NHS, criminal justice, social services and prison service budgets.

It makes financial sense to invest in fully fit-for-purpose prevention and tandem support services, but before this is likely to happen, the case for investment must be reinforced from a financial perspective. To this end we are working closely with Bournemouth University, local Dorset-based agencies and support from the Survivors Trust UK, to run a conference January 2019: The Economics of Child Abuse and Neglect. The aim is to demonstrate current strategy is woefully short of achieving the necessary outcomes where abuse is concerned and how much it is costing the state in financial terms: we cannot equate costs in human terms.

As trustees have pointed out in this report, challenge from an operational perspective has been almost ever-present. Pressures caused by the threat of insufficient funding, waiting lists that have regularly exceeded 100, vicarious trauma, combined with a huge rise in far more complex trauma-related problems being experienced by clients, will of course take its toll. We are certainly not immune or inured to problems outside the workplace and subsequently all will combine to compound the overall situation. Without question it is insufficient and the prolonged inconsistency of appropriate levels of funding that is the over-riding factor.

Looking ahead, we can meet every demand highlighted in the NHS guidelines mentioned at the beginning of my report. In addition, we have been meeting the NHS suggestion to “Provide a treatment environment that promotes physical and emotions safety” for nearly two and a half decades. We now need and surely deserve NHS financial support to make the inroads necessary if we are to help turn around an unacceptable situation. We have the staff who have the high levels of skills needed to operate in trauma-related environments. They have the passion, compassion, empathy and wherewithal to ensure whatever the complexities the client may bring, they have the ‘tools’ to help them overcome their problems, maintain and sustain their deserved recovery.

Finally, we cannot do what we do without the support we have been fortunate to receive over the years and my thanks go to our working partners, donors, sponsors, charities and trusts, individuals and organisations. We cannot do what we do without the staff who commit to working with this charity and with the client groups we support. Neither can we do what we do without the help of the community of Southmead and the people who cross our threshold seeking that support: respect.

Dr Mike Peirce MBE
CEO, Southmead Project