"The first three years of life shape a child's future forever"

Confronting the Issues

We all know that prevention is better than cure, yet too often public policy is based on intervening after the damage has already occurred.

Substance Abuse

It’s often said that substance abuse, whether it’s alcohol or drugs, is escapism from lives of horror.

The experts call it ‘self-medication’.

Happy people do not often indulge in such destructive and very costly behaviour.

If we prevent people from becoming traumatised and unhappy then they are much less likely to take excessive drink and/or drugs.

Reducing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) such as child abuse, neglect and witnessing domestic violence could reduce heroin/crack use by 59%.

Social Problems

‘What is done to children they will do to society’- (Psychiatrist Dr. Karl Menninger).

We need to create caring, peaceful citizens by supporting families before things go wrong.

We cannot wash our hands of children by saying ‘it’s not my problem’. Children are everyone’s responsibility and the results of maltreatment are seen in our schools, workplaces and communities.

Achieving 70/30 will lead to a large-scale increase in pro-social, productive young people and a decrease in welfare dependency and lifelong disadvantage.

Health Inequalities

Research shows that inequalities begin from birth and  become entrenched.

Research also shows that childhood experiences have lifelong impacts on physical and emotional health.

We could stop many thousands of people developing mental disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and many other health issues, if they just got the right start in life.

Maltreatment in infancy is responsible for much middle age illness (ACE Studies- V. Felitti).

Economic Cost

The annual cost of child maltreatment in the UK is estimated to be £15billion.

Wouldn’t you like your taxes to be spent more wisely? That amount of money could build dozens of schools, hospitals, roads and so much more.

Allowing our councils to spend almost half of our taxes (40% – Christie Commission) on “picking up the pieces” is not sustainable. What happens when they continue to spend more and more on damage caused by child maltreatment? Which services will we lose? Street lights, refuse collection, road repairs…?

Investment in primary prevention is just that – an investment – just like investment in our physical infrastructure. It yields a long-term return at least as good as, if not better than, roads and railways.

Justice System

68% of the prison population have suffered abuse or neglect in childhood (WAVE report, 2005).

Better to not have them traumatised in the first place by having them grow up in a home full of love and care.

If we create empathic human beings we will not have countless murder cases where it is said ‘the accused showed no emotion’.


Violence is preventable. Violent personalities are not born – they are largely developed in infancy.

There are societies where child abuse, domestic abuse and interpersonal violence are rare (Levinson). We need to find and support all families at their times of crisis.

We can create peaceful citizens by picking up issues before they have serious, long term effects. Intergenerational cycles of violence can be broken.

Reducing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) such as child abuse, neglect and witnessing domestic violence could reduce violence by 51%.

Intergenerational Harm



The 3 key factors that lead to problems in families being repeated are domestic violence, mental health issues and substance abuse.


25% of children who witness domestic violence develop serious social and behavioural problems.


Children of mothers with mental health issues are twice as likely to experience a psychiatric disorder in childhood.


Around 30% of children under 16 years (the equivalent of 3.3–3.5 million in the UK) were estimated to be living with at least one binge drinking adult; 8% (around 978,000) with an illicit drug using adult; 72,000 with an injecting drug user, and 4% (half a million) with an adult defined as a problem drinker with a co-morbid mental health problem.


A primary preventive strategy will stop these issues from transferring from one generation to the next.



Our biggest challenge is to get decision makers seeing primary prevention as something urgent and needing to be in place now, not something ‘nice to have one day’.


“We will never stop ‘picking up the pieces’ and in fact, levels of child maltreatment will never go down if we continue doing the same old things that we’ve always done.”

George Hosking

CEO, Wave Trust

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