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EIF report

Understanding the potential of trauma-informed training in Violence Reduction Units

This report looks more closely at how trauma-informed training is being used within Violence Reduction Units (VRUs), as a way to increase understanding of trauma, improve practice, reduce impacts on practitioners and improve outcomes for young people in the criminal justice system. It is based on work by EIF with the Dartington Service Design Lab to understand the current approaches and plans of several VRUs across England and Wales.



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Increasing practitioner awareness of trauma and developing services and frontline practice to become ‘trauma-informed’ has become increasingly popular in recent years. These approaches are being taken forward in a range of settings, including as part of work to tackle and prevent youth violence. 

In light of growing investment in these approaches, further evaluation of trauma-informed practice and training is needed to establish its specific benefits. This study aims to understand the specific activities being delivered as part of trauma-informed training by a number of VRUs, and to provide recommendations for future evaluation and delivery of this training. 

In particular, we set out to address the following questions:

  • What are VRUs currently delivering through the Home Office trauma-informed training grants?
  • What outcomes are VRUs trying to deliver through trauma-informed training, what is their theory of change, and how will the training achieve this? 
  • To what extent are VRUs’ theories of change for trauma-informed training plausible and grounded in evidence?
  • What evaluation of trauma-informed training are VRUs conducting, and what can this tell us?
  • To what extent have VRUs considered equality and diversity issues within the design and delivery of trauma-informed training? 

Messages and recommendations

Based on the approaches and plans in the VRUs we spoke to, there is an important set of considerations for the future expansion of or investment in trauma-informed training and care these services.

  • Some of the outcomes that it is hoped trauma-informed training and care will deliver are more feasible than others when considered in the light of the wider evidence base. 
  • The contribution of trauma-informed training is best understood as part of a wider trauma-informed system of support.
  • The evaluations of trauma-informed training being conducted by VRUs are likely to provide useful information but will not allow for comparisons of the effectiveness of different approaches.
  • There is a lack of evidence about the application of trauma-informed training within the criminal justice system generally, and further research is needed to confirm the impact of trauma-informed training on the knowledge and attitudes of staff towards trauma.
  • Trauma-informed training has the potential to improve the experiences within the criminal justice system of those disproportionally impacted by trauma.

Based on these findings and conclusions, we recommend:

  • There is a need for impact evaluation of trauma-informed training and related activities to confirm if the short- and medium-term outcomes aimed for by VRUs are being achieved.
  • Future research could also usefully build knowledge about which models of trauma-informed training most effectively improve outcomes. 
  • In order to support local decision-making, it may be helpful to provide guidance for VRUs and other organisations seeking to implement a trauma-informed approach within the criminal justice system. 

About the editor

Donna Molloy

Donna is director of policy & practice at EIF.