Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) | Adult Learning Wales

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)


In 2016, Public Health Wales reported the very revealing figure that 47% of adults in Wales have suffered at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE) in their lives. Public Health Wales’ survey Knowledge and awareness of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in the public service workforce in Wales published in January 2020, highlights that where 75% of Welsh public sector employees know the term ACE’s, only 36% feel confident in their knowledge and skills to help prevent ACEs within their current role.

ACEs are stressful childhood experiences, which may include all types of abuse, alcohol and substance misuse, neglect, and family incarceration. Such chronic stressors in childhood have been described as a “toxic stress” and there is an increased risk in health harming behaviours, criminal behaviour and poor outcomes in adult life. ACEs are also associated with poor educational achievement, mental and physical illness and disease.

The key considerations of the report focus on establishing a “truly ACE-aware nation” through the delivery of workforce training programmes throughout Wales. The report highlights that awareness is greatest amongst those working within youth services, other charitable/third sector groups, as well those within the education and housing sectors.

We have an important role in helping to shape the strategic direction in this area. Our Youth and Community Play Work provision incorporates ACE awareness, and we work with volunteers and professionals to ensure that they are well equipped to support children and young people who have suffered ACEs.

The focus of our training is on positive engagement and progressive outcomes, promoting wellbeing of children and young people. We have seen great success in our methods to support individuals both in and outside the classroom. We offer a supportive learning environment where new practitioners learn about ACEs and their effects and are able to discuss their experiences of ACEs in the lives of the children and young people with whom they work, and sometimes in their own lives.

Given the impact of ACEs in adult life, our extensive provision across Wales places our tutors in communities where ACEs emerge as a constant reminder of the difficulties faced by individuals. Often a barrier to learning, recognising the signs and symptoms of ACEs are of vital importance, and on-going awareness training is critical to the success of our learning programmes, ensuring that our tutors are well equipped to support adult learners - helping them to achieve their potential.

In partnership with Colegau Cymru in 2019, we piloted a Mental Health and Wellbeing Project that trained 56 Mental Health and Wellbeing Ambassadors across our national organisation; from our Senior Management Team to Admin, from Tutors to Council Members - we also hosted colleagues from other Colegau Cymru partners. Where we continue our own awareness of ACE’s, we are keen to encourage others in becoming ACE Aware; the support materials from those sessions are now available on HWB Wales.

Working with other stakeholders, we are aiming to help shape a national roll-out programme to influence organisations and communities to become more ACE aware. Proactively supporting Mental Health and Wellbeing programmes, we will work with Public Health Wales and the ACE Support Hub, together with other partners to help deliver the recommendations of the report.

ACEs are happening every day, and our wide reach across Wales presents great opportunity to help shape and influence approaches to deliver a truly ACE-aware nation.


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