You are here: The knot – responding to poverty, trauma and multiple disadvantage

Today, and thanks to the kind support of Lankelly Chase, we are delighted to publish a new collection of eight essays that explore how poverty, trauma and structural disadvantage create and perpetuate multiple disadvantage. These essays seek to encourage us, as service providers, policymakers, researchers and people with lived experience, to engage with the real complexities in people’s lives to start to unpick the knots between poverty, trauma and multiple disadvantage. It is only through thinking about the multiple lenses needed to more fully understand a person’s whole life, that we can start to unpick these knots.

To support wider conversations and debates beyond disciplinary and sectoral silos we deliberately chose to approach contributors across and beyond academia. We also worked with our contributors to consider how their research and arguments could be made in ways that encourage collaboration between academics (of various disciplines), people with lived experience, practitioners and policy-makers. Although it is not possible to cover every topic and perspective in just one publication, we hope the collections offers you new lenses, perspectives and frameworks for better understanding the complex interconnections between poverty, trauma and multiple disadvantage. Some of these lenses include: gender, race, human rights and capabilities, age and Adverse Childhood Experiences, place and time, public health, the criminal justice system and Covid-19.

We hope that reading these essays encourages you to take a step back, to think about the interconnections between poverty, trauma and multiple disadvantage from multiple angles and the ways in which we may need to respond differently to really address entrenched disadvantage. We also hope you will join us for the webinar launch to hear our contributors discuss and debate these issues and listen to our upcoming podcast series, to be launched from early March, to hear discussions between our contributors and people with lived experience on these issues.

Julian Corner, Chief Executive of Lankelly Chase, said:

“The framing of multiple disadvantage put forward by these essays is so compelling that it caused me to reflect on why it hasn’t always been my main frame of reference. Until a few years ago, I would have viewed poverty and trauma as important contextual factors in understanding multiple disadvantage, but I wouldn’t have put them front and centre of any response.”

Pavan Dhaliwal, Chief Executive of Revolving Doors Agency, said:

“What these powerful essays lay bare is that our criminal justice system has been failing and continues to fail those in our society who face multiple disadvantages. Why? Because the system is premised on individual pathology as opposed to the social and economic determinants of peoples life chances. Is it acceptable to us as a society that in 2021, in one of the richest countries in the world, that life chances are determined by structural advantages and disadvantages assigned by the lottery of where we are born, the environment we are born into and the colour of our skin? Importantly, this collection forces us to re-examine the piecemeal approach we have been taking to reform elements of the justice system to respond to and account for neglect, abuse, racism, trauma, household dysfunction, mental ill health and substance abuse. Is such a piecemeal approach the right one? Perhaps instead what we need is a more radical re-examination of and approach to tackling structural disadvantage as wholesale reform? The Knot has bought to the fore the need for uncomfortable questions but ones which will no doubt chart us on a new course of action.”


We are grateful for the following contributors who have contributed to the collection:

  • Dr Diana Johns (Lecturer in Criminology, University of Melbourne), Jaime de Loma-Osorio Ricon and Dr Eric Dommers (Banksia Gardens Community Services) - A continuum of harm: how systemic interactions can multiply and entrench complex disadvantage
  • Professor Tracy Shildrick (Professor of Inequalities, Newcastle University) - Where next for poverty and inequality in the UK?
  • Dr. Deborah Morris (Consultant Clinical Psychologist, St Andrews Healthcare) and Elanor Webb (Senior Research Assistant Psychologist, St Andrews Healthcare) - Understanding multiple inequalities, poverty and trauma needs through a gendered lens: the case for inclusive gendered approaches to trauma informed care
  • Professor James Nazroo (Professor of Sociology, University of Manchester) - The central role of racism in shaping the life experiences of ethnic minority people in the UK
  • Dr. Sarah Anderson (Lecturer in Criminology, Edinburgh Napier University) - Trauma-informed or trauma-inducing? The criminal justice system as an active player in the perpetration of trauma
  • Dr. Michael Smith (Associate Medical Director, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde) and Katy Hetherington (Childhood Adversity lead, Public Health Scotland) - Adversity and injustice: reframing and claiming our responsibilities.
  • Miranda Keast (Independent researcher, Fulfilling Lives) - Towards a human rights approach to multiple disadvantage
  • Professor Antonia Bifulco (Professor of Lifespan Psychology and Director for the Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies, Middlesex University) - Child trauma as a source of lifetime inequality – the impacts on mental health and violent behaviour

We would also like to thank our editorial board and external reviewers for their help in reviewing essays and shaping the collection and our lived experience membership, for really engaging with our contributors through our lived experience forums to support them in developing their thinking.

The knot – responding to poverty, trauma and multiple disadvantage

This collection of essays explores the knots between poverty, trauma and multiple disadvantage. It suggests frameworks to help service providers, policymakers, researchers and people with lived experience make better sense of these knots and start to untangle them.

These essays allow us to find greater connection between our understandings of the structural, interpersonal and institutional layers. They lay the groundwork for approaches to multiple disadvantage that are more grounded in the reality of people’s lives. And they help us connect those lives to a wider vision of a fair and sustainable society.