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Implementing Trauma Informed Practice through the EmBRACE Model - Evaluation Report, Lancaster University, UK

EmBRACE (Emotionally and Brain Resilient to ACEs), founded by Sue Irwin, is a whole organisation (system) package of training and consultant support for embedding trauma informed practice over time.

Lancaster University, UK was commissioned by Blackburn with Darwen Council, UK  to evaluate EmBRACE and produce a report into the trauma-informed work that has taken place on a multi-sector basis in the region in recent years.

The aims of the evaluation:

  • To provide direction and to support the implementation of the rollout of Trauma Informed Practice on an operational and strategic basis
  • To have an understanding of the drivers for embedding practice which supports capacity building and sustainable change over the long term

Within the evaluation report for EmBRACE the findings have been presented within three sections:

  • Schools (includes a case study which provides data around reduction in exclusion rates, improvement in attendance and behaviour, cost benefits to the school and local authority)
  • 3rd Sector Organisations
  • Systems Resilience - Barriers, Challenges, Facilitators

Some key findings within the Systems Resilience section of the report

Systems Resilience was seen to be part of EmBRACE's wider implementation process as participants had managed to implement a highly embedded approach over time. The essential part of this was the 'Relational Infra-Structure' over the long-term.

Systems Resilience was seen as one way to tackle the barriers related to capacity and staffing in individual settings.

In terms of EmBRACE, the key markers of a systems-led approach was the use of Reslience Workshops which were used across each of the settings to embed an understanding of Trauma Informed Practice in students, parents/carers, service users and staff members. These workshops were a core part of training in Trauma Informed Practice.

A systems-led approach to capacity building was harnessed further through a 'Universal Conversation'.

The challenge of cultural change taking time was seen as being connected to wide-spread buy-in and ownership over an approach that, to a large extent, could not be forced. Through a sense of ownership over the process as a whole, alongside the general effectiveness of the approach, settings were seen to buy-in to EmBRACE in a manner that allowed Trauma Informed Practice to take hold, expand and then flourish over the long-term.

Quote from one participant:

"It does absolutely feel sustainable. And in-fact, things feel easier if anything, because of the approach that EmBRACE has taken, and the fact that, you know it works".


Covid-19 proved to be the test bed in different settings for Trauma Informed Practice forwarded by EmBRACE. Participants reported Trauma Informed Practice through EmBRACE had helped them to manage the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic in a number of different ways (pg 27).

The full report can be found through the following link:

Partnership Working | sue-irwin (

Sue Irwin

Education, ACEs and Trauma Consultant, UK.

Undertaking professional doctorate (part time) in trauma informed practice, University of Central Lancashire, UK

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