(From left to right): Claire Hillson (Scotland Manager, WAVE Trust), Sara Martínez (70/30 Campaign Coordinator), Gail Ross MSP & George Hosking (CEO, WAVE Trust)
Yesterday evening SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, Gail Ross, opened a debate she recently raised a motion for on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). She kicked the debate off with a speech that highlighted the research and evidence underpinning her motion and called for action across all sectors of society, adding: “We are never going to close the attainment gap until we address this, because children can’t learn properly when they are suffering trauma.”
We were delighted to hear from Deputy Presiding Officer, Linda Fabiani MSP for East Kilbride, that the debate was heavily over-subscribed, indicating a genuine enthusiasm and passion in parliament for tackling the issue. After all, a trauma-informed parliament can make real change!
Aside from Ms Ross’ opening speech during which she said ACEs had been cited as the “single greatest unaddressed public health threat that we face”, other MSPs to speak included Rona Mackay MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, Emma Harper MSP for South Scotland and Gillian Martin MSP for Aberdeenshire East.
During her contribution, Emma Harper MSP spoke of how coming across an abused toddler as a young nurse haunted her for the next three decades. Ms Harper said the 18-month-old girl had been admitted to hospital with a respiratory illness before cigarette burns were discovered all over her body.
Liberal Democrat MSP and 70/30 endorser, Alex Cole-Hamilton, who previously worked for a range of children’s charities, told of a nine-year-old boy he had come across in a care home who had been through 37 “failed foster and residential placements”. He added, “The trauma he had suffered in early life had created such a profound attachment disorder in him, that he went to every new foster placement expecting it to fail.”
Also during the debate, Mairi Gougeon (SNP for Angus North and Mearns) took her opportunity to focus on the powerful role that schools have in enabling children to develop resilience and build coping mechanisms that ensure their adverse childhood experience don’t hold them back or have a lasting impact on the rest of their lives.
We were absolutely delighted to hear her mention the 70/30 Campaign during her speech also, saying:
“I add my support to the 70/30 campaign. Preventing ACEs means attacking the issue from all sides. This is not just a health issue and it is not just an education issue. It is about health, education, social work, justice, welfare and many other elements all working together to challenge the myriad issues that children face.”
After having enjoyed a very successful meeting with Gail Ross MSP just this week to discuss ACEs and having had the pleasure of attending yesterday’s debate, it really does seem to be a wonderful time of change for Scotland. As Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP for Edinburgh Western put it, “It feels as though we are on the edge of a long-overdue period of revelation and revolution in the field of trauma recovery.”
We are now empowered by our knowledge of Adverse Childhood Experiences and we know we can do so much better for our children. But where do we start? Well, in the words of Ms Gail Ross, “Let’s get them talking about feelings. Let’s teach them to be kind and loving individuals who matter.”