A new report commissioned by Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) and prepared by Pegasus Economics, released in early February 2015, showed that as a nation, Australia could save a minimum of $9.1 billion annually by addressing the impacts of unresolved childhood trauma and abuse in adults[1]. ASCA has already made a significant contribution to helping address the public health challenge childhood trauma and abuse in Australia through broad-based dissemination of ASCA’s Practice Guidelines for Treatment of Complex Trauma and Trauma Informed Care and Service Delivery. Their national and international uptake has already made a significant impact on public health outcomes.

With Prime Minister Tony Abbott actively seeking alternatives to the Federal Government’s proposals for the Health Budget, ASCA presented these cost savings to the government as part of its pre-budget submission, in the report – The cost of unresolved childhood trauma and abuse in adults in Australia.

The report presented evidence-based solutions for the structural budget deficit for the 2015-16 Budget, scheduled for release mid-May 2015. It highlighted the main steps to reduce these costs, including investment in specialist and trauma-informed services, training of primary care and allied health practitioners and accreditation.

The report considered the weighted costs of four of the many trauma-related issues Australian adult survivors of childhood trauma face – alcohol abuse, anxiety/depression, obesity and suicide/attempted suicide. By conservative measures, the cost to the budget of not addressing these impacts totaled a minimum of $9.1 billion annually for childhood trauma overall; or for child abuse alone, the minimum cost came to $6.8 billion annually.

The report presented the conservative[2] estimated per affected person cost, for each of the four key areas as:
•Alcohol abuse: $4,983 per person, annually
•Mental illness: $7,686 per person, annually
•Obesity: $6,042 per person, annually
•Suicide/attempted suicide: $5,281 per person, annually

The Commonwealth Government’s latest inter-generational report showed the major future stress on government expenditures to be in health outlays[3]. ASCA wishes to work with government in response to the call for policy proposals to reduce health expenditure and improve health outcomes. Our report with Pegasus Economics identifies an area in which substantive real cost savings can be made. The long-term solutions will deliver genuine health outcomes through active, early and comprehensive intervention.

In the report ASCA outlined the main steps to help address childhood trauma and abuse in adults, which included:
•Active investment in specialist services including specialist helplines and online services, which provide support, counseling and resources to promote recovery.
•More, better trained and accredited treating practitioners who identify and address the underlying childhood trauma and abuse, rather than solely focusing on the immediate health issues, such as depression and alcoholism.
•Investing in the training of primary care practitioners. In strengthening primary health responses survivors can receive the right support, either directly or through targeted referrals, including specialist referral, ideally from an accredited practitioner. This would provide a convenient fail-safe pathway to treatment i.e. No wrong door
•System, service and institutional improvements. Raising awareness around the possibility of unresolved childhood trauma and abuse. Financing broad-based implementation of trauma-informed practice responses across health and human services to help minimise the impact of trauma and the risk of re-traumatisation.

[1]Childhood trauma includes abuse in all its forms, neglect, growing up with domestic violence and the traumatic impact on children in experiencing a parental divorce or other relationship breakdown, death of a parent, an alcoholic or drug addicted parent, or a parent affected by mental illness or other significant mental health problem.
[2]ASCA’s 1300 Professional Support Line Data Report, released in October 2014, established that of those reporting the impacts of their abuse, 72% had experienced multiple impacts. Therefore, the assumption of survivors imposing just one cost is highly conservative.
[3]Swan, W. (2012). 2010 Intergenerational Report: Australia to 2050: future challenges. Canberra: Commonwealth Government