A beacon for hope and recovery

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has shone a light on the millions of Australians living with the long-term impacts of childhood trauma and abuse. With a bill currently before parliament to remove the time limit on instituting civil claims, Victoria has made a significant move in supporting victims of child abuse. The tide is turning but there is still much more to be done.

As a result of the Royal Commission’s work to date we have seen some positive investment in services that enable survivors to find pathways to recovery, however we need more services to fill the substantial gaps. To keep up with the growing number of survivors reaching out to ASCA and other organisations, now more than ever, more government support is needed.

At the start of this year ASCA presented a detailed report in response to the Prime Minister’s call for policy suggestions to inform the Health Budget. The report titled, The cost of unresolved childhood trauma and abuse in adults in Australia, outlines the significant potential cost savings that could be made across governments by actively and comprehensively responding to the impacts of childhood trauma in adults. In other words, greater government support would not simply advance ASCA’s mission to improve the lives of more Australian adults affected by childhood trauma but would be a mutually beneficial investment.

The report considered the weighted costs of four of the numerous trauma-related repercussions Australian adult survivors of childhood trauma face – including alcohol abuse, anxiety/depression, obesity, suicide and attempted suicide. By conservative* measures, the cost to the budget of not addressing the impacts of childhood trauma overall was estimated to be a minimum of $9.1 billion annually; or for child abuse (in all its forms) alone, the minimum cost was $6.8 billion annually.

To break this down, the report found that each of these four major effects on childhood abuse and trauma survivors had large per person costs. Conservatively estimated, the report showed:
•Alcohol abuse costs $4,983 per person, annually
•Mental illness costs $7,686 per person, annually
•Obesity costs $6,042 per person, annually
•Suicide and attempted suicide costs $5,281 per person, annually

To the wider community these figures may appear astounding, however as experts in the field of trauma-informed practice, they merely validate what we have long observed.
(*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.)

Evidence-based, long-term solutions are needed for the government’s budget challenges. This includes the provision of accessible affordable specialist services including helplines, online support and resources, a primary care workforce, alert and responsive to trauma, accredited skilled health practitioners and trauma-informed organisations and institutions.

We want to collaborate with government, both Federal and State, to help address the structural budget deficit, to reduce health and welfare expenditure and improve tax revenue and health outcomes – exactly what the Abbott government is looking for.

Active, timely and comprehensive intervention in adults revolutionises outcomes for individuals, families and whole communities impacted by childhood trauma and abuse.

I was proud to present ASCA’s ground-breaking report, at the Lighthouse Institute’s Journey to Recovery: The International Conference of Attachment and Trauma Informed Practice, held at The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on the 5-6 March, where I and the wider service community came together to share our experiences and reflect on practice and research into trauma-informed recovery-orientated approaches.

Addressing-unresolved-childhood-trauma-abuse-in-adults-would-save-Australian-governments-billions-each-year

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