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The Youth Endowment Fund’s approach to race equity

Update – December 2023: Our Race Equity Progress report is available to download here.

Disproportionality in the youth justice system

Children from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds are significantly overrepresented at all stages in the youth justice system. Black children are four times as likely to be arrested as White children. As of May 2019, more than half of the children in youth custody were from Black, Asian or other minority backgrounds. Clearly, there is a problem – in the criminal justice system and our wider society.  

The Youth Endowment Fund’s mission is to prevent children and young people from becoming involved in violence. Because of this disproportionality, it is clear that if we don’t challenge the role that racism plays in young people’s experiences of youth justice, education and access to employment and mental health support, we won’t be able to make the difference we’re here to bring about. As an employer and a What Works Centre – we need to make sure we are considering the impact on children from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds in our decision-making.  

Our commitment to race equity

Our commitment to equality was stated in our ten-year strategy. But intention alone won’t bring about change. We’re committed to being an anti-racist organisation and setting out a clear plan to become a racially equitable What Works Centre.  

We need to use the evidence we create to challenge our partners to address racism. We also must be the first to challenge our own decision-making. We need to do all we can to continue to fund fairly.

We know that we won’t have all the answers and that we’ll make mistakes, but we hope that by sharing our race equity plans and reporting on our progress, we can deliver on our mission in a way that young people across the country deserve.  

Why are we focusing on race equity?

The reason for our explicit focus on race is because of the significant differences in outcomes of the White children and children from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds who are in contact with the youth justice system. This means that it is almost impossible to deliver our mission without being consciously focused on racial equity.

We need to be clear this commitment doesn’t reflect a view that violence is a problem that is only relevant to people from ethnic minority backgrounds. Unsurprisingly – because they are the largest group – the majority of youth violence is committed by White children. What we want to address are the different ways White children and children from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds are able to access support and services, including diversion away from formal criminal justice processing. We also recognise that there are lots of issues in society that are associated with young people’s involvement in violence – like poverty or experience of the care system. Our focus on race equity doesn’t mean that we won’t address these too. 

Race Equity Progress Report 2023

In October 2022, we published our race equity action plan. This set out clear and actionable race equity commitments across five areas of our work: our funding, our research and change, our partnerships, our leadership and our team.

A year on, we’re pleased to share our first progress report. It highlights what we’ve done, where we’ve taken significant steps forward and where there’s still work to do.

Our goals and objectives

Becoming a racially equitable What Works Centre means ensuring our work helps bring about a world where no child or young person is at greater risk of involvement in violence because of racism. Being racially equitable means our entire team feel equally welcome and able to flourish as part of our organisation, and that our team have the knowledge and understanding to address issues related to race equity in our work. It means we work with partners who share our commitment to advancing race equity, and we challenge practices that don’t align with our commitment, including our own. 

Practically, this means that we’ve set ourselves goals across five areas. Find out more below about what we’re doing across:

  • Our funding
  • Our team
  • Our leadership
  • Our understanding and work to make change
  • Our partnerships

1. Our funding 

We’ll make sure that our funding is accessible to organisations led by – and working for – people from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds. Crucially, we’ll also work to make sure the grants we make reach young people affected by racism. We’ll do this by:

Making sure that our themed grant round funding reaches organisations with Black, Asian or other minority leaders. To make sure our funding is equitable and accessible to a diverse range of organisations and leaders, we will:

  • publish data on the proportion of organisations we fund through our themed grant rounds that are led by people from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds.
  • make sure that, in every grant round, we fund organisations in England and Wales that are led by people from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds.
  • ringfence a £10 million fund specifically for grassroots organisations led by people from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds who are working to prevent children from becoming involved in youth violence. Learn more about the Phoenix Way Project.

Providing funding that reaches children from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds.

To do that, we will:

  • make sure at least 30% of the children who benefit from our funding are from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds. 
  • gather and publish accurate data that we’re confident in, so that we have a solid understanding of the proportion of children from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds our funding reaches. 

2. Our team

Our aim is to reflect the diversity of the communities we serve at all levels of our organisation, including our governance and advisory bodies. We’ll make sure that everybody, regardless of their background or characteristics, is equally able to flourish at the YEF. We’ll do this by:  

Changing the way we recruit and retain staff and our governance bodies. To do this, we’ll:

  • only use recruitment practices and services that help us to build pools of applicants from diverse backgrounds. For example, using recruitment agencies with a strong track record in equality, diversity and inclusion. We want at least 40% of our shortlisted applicants to come from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds. If we fall short, we’ll ask ourselves why, review what’s gone wrong and make changes.
  • develop a retention strategy with recommendations for making sure our Black, Asian and other minority staff members are well supported.
  • commit to at least 20% of members of our Grants and Evaluation Committee being from a Black, Asian or other minority background. Ensuring all advisory bodies we develop and consult with reflect the diversity of the communities they are meant to serve.

Improving the way we monitor staff data.

We need to consistently monitored data on the race of job applicants or our staff. To do this, we’ll:

  • create new systems to securely collect and analyse the diversity of our team across all levels and pay grades.
  • report on the proportion of people from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds in staff and among our applicants.

Training our staff to be confident to sensitively talk about race and racism and how it impacts on our work.

We need to make sure that all staff are able to comfortably discuss and engage in issues of race equity. Ensuring we have the skills and understanding on how we can improve our own practices. To do this, we’ll:

  • develop and execute an internal staff training plan centred on race equity.

3. Our leadership

To make sure that all staff members are working to advance race equity. Our leaders will make sure that it’s a core part of our strategies and activities. As it stands, 50% of our senior leadership team are Black, Asian or from other ethnic minorities. We’ll continue to maintain and grow a diverse team by:

Monitoring and holding ourselves accountable for our performance against our race equity goals. To do this, we’ll:

  • making sure our goals on race equity feature in all of our planning processes, at organisational, team and individual levels.
  • publish an annual review of our progress against each of the goals we’ve set out here. We’ll be honest about what went well, what’s been challenging and where we’ve fallen short. By doing so, we’ll encourage other funders to do the same.

Developing new internal structures, to help us stay on track with our goals. To do this, we’ll:

  • hold regular meetings of senior staff, who will be assigned specific responsibility for progressing race equity within their team.
  • bring in external consultants and advisors to check and challenge our race equity work.

4. Our understanding and work to make change

As a research organisation, we have a duty to make sure that we fund projects that build evidence on how we can reduce racial disproportionality across public services. We also need to make sure that our evaluations improve our understanding of what works for children from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds. We’ll do this by:

Investing to improve the cultural competency of the researchers we work with.

At the moment, in England and Wales, evaluators and researchers are disproportionately White. There’s a lack of lived experience of racism, which affects the design of evaluations and other kinds of research. While we know it’s not a perfect solution, to affect change within the next year, we’ll:

  • build a pool of consultants that we can pair with members of  our evaluators, researchers and project delivery organisations to advise on the race equity implications of their research designs. We’ll cover these costs.

Commissioning specific research about racial disproportionality and racism.

We need to use our funds to develop deeper understandings of the role racism plays in the lives of children who become involved in violence. To do that, we will:

  • commission research into the extent of racial disproportionality in, for example, social care, mental health or other experiences related to youth violence. We’ll use this research to understand how we can help to make change for children from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds.  
  • commission research that will help us better understand existing evidence about approaches to reducing racial disproportionality in the youth justice system.

Making sure all of our work is clear on racism and disproportionality.

At the moment, not all of our research reports look at differences in experiences between White children and those from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds. To change this, we’ll:

  • commit to making sure that every one of our future reports includes a section on race. This means, for example, tracking differences in the change that our programmes make for White children who participate and those from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds, or including specific detail in our guidance on research related to cultural competency.
  • make sure that that findings from our research into racism and disproportionality directly inform our change and influencing work. This means we’ll have clear activities in our change and influencing plans that aim to address racism.

5. Our partners

When working with other people and organisations, we’ll live up to the YEF values of questioning, brave and empathetic. This means that when we believe that approaches or plans have not considered people from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds, we’ll use our position to understand, question and challenge. We’ll do this by:

  • Making sure that we only fund organisations that have considered race equity when developing their plans and enforcing our Code of Conduct if things go wrong. Our zero-tolerance policy to discrimination is clear and public, and all of our funded partners (including evaluators) have to sign-up to work with us.
  • Using our evidence to make change. It’s no good if the evidence we commission and publish stays on a shelf. We’ll always be transparent about any approach that we know is likely to worsen disproportionality, and won’t be afraid to offer well-evidenced, clear and public advice.