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The Youth Endowment Fund’s approach to race equity

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 for 2024/25

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 four areas. Find out more below about what we’re doing across:

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

1. Our funding

Objective: We’ll make sure our funding reaches organisations with Black, Asian or other minority leaders. 

To do this, we will…

  • Publish data on the proportion of organisations led by individuals from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds that receive funding through our grant rounds.
  • Assess the accuracy of demographic data gathered from funded organisations and identify any essential information that may be missing and needs to be sourced.
  • Commission at least one multi-site trial in 2024/25 so we can fund smaller, minority-led organisations, that are well-placed to support children from minority backgrounds.
  • Explore new communication and dissemination channels to broaden the reach of our funding rounds and ensure equitable access for a diverse range of potential applicants.
  • Aim for at least 25% of our total committed programme spend to be awarded to organisations led by individuals from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Objective: We’ll provide funding that reaches children from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds. 

To do this, we will…

  • Continue to distribute our funding and expand our support into Wales via The Phoenix Way.  
  • Apply the learning from The Phoenix Way to make our funding systems, processes and practices more equitable and accessible. 
  • Ensure at least 30% of the children and young people who benefit from our funding are from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds.
  • Make sure all impact evaluations include subgroup analysis, where possible, to detect variations in results based on demographic characteristics, including ethnicity.
  • Continually strive to improve the accuracy of data we collect regarding the proportion of children from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds who benefit from our funding.
  • Commit to continue publishing this data.

Objective: When scoping new rounds and projects, we’ll assess their impact on racial disparities in outcomes, along with other forms of disadvantage.

To do this, we will…

  • Commit to ensuring that intersectionality (i.e. how race overlaps with other protective factors) is considered in the set-up phase of programmes and evaluations, including trialling the use of more formal processes in our commissioning decisions.

Objective: We’ll live up to our values of being questioning, brave and empathetic when working with other people and organisations. This means that when we believe that approaches or plans have not considered people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, we’ll use our influence to understand, question and challenge.

To do this, we will…

  • Only fund organisations that have considered race equity when developing their plans and enforce our Code of Conduct if things go wrong.

2. Our team

Objective: Ensure our team and governance bodies reflect the communities we serve.

To do this, we will…

  • Proactively recruit candidates from diverse backgrounds, with the target of having 40% of shortlisted applicants from minority communities.
  • Ensure that any new internal policy or policy review takes into account the impact on and challenges faced by ethnic minority team members.
  • Ensure that all advisory bodies we establish and engage with represent the diversity of the communities we serve.
  • Continue to report internally and externally on the background of our team and how it reflects the communities we serve. Where issues are spotted at any level in the organisation, we’ll develop a plan to address them.

Objective: We’ll train our staff to confidently and sensitively talk about race and racism and understand how these issues impact our work.

To do this, we will…

  • Create a robust training plan that ensures all YEF team members have a strong knowledge and understanding of equity and inclusion.

3. Our leadership

Objective: We’ll monitor and hold ourselves accountable for our performance against our race equity goals. 

To do this, we will…

  • Make sure that our goals on race equity feature in all our planning processes – at organisational, team and individual levels.
  • Continue to publish our progress against our race equity goals.

Objective: Maintain our internal structures to ensure they remain fit for purpose and help us stay on track with our goals. 

To do this, we will…

  • Refresh and expand the membership of our Race Equity Accountability Group (REAG). Regular meetings will be held with staff members responsible for advancing race equity within their teams. An annual agenda will be set to ensure that the topics discussed align with the group’s remit.
  • Ensure we have a pool of race equity experts available to support our team across our seven priority sectors. Meaningful engagement with these experts will inform the development and execution of our funding and operational priorities.

4. Our understanding and work to make change

Objective: We’ll invest to improve the cultural competency of the researchers we work with. 

To do this, we will…

  • We will update our pool of Race Equity Associates to ensure we have a diverse range of expertise available to advise on all research projects.
  • We’ll continue to work with our Race Equity Associates to ensure our teams consider the race equity implications of their research designs.
  • We’ll identify research teams who specialise in working with children from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds and leverage their expertise in our research and evaluation work.
  • We’ll develop resources to facilitate the comprehensive scoping and assessment of projects. These tools will identify strengths and areas for improvement, focusing on race equity and its intersections with other protected characteristics.

Objective: We’ll commission specific research about racial disproportionality and racism and will include relevant questions in research and evaluation projects.

To do this, we will…

  • Publish a report on the extent of racial disproportionality among children at risk of involvement in violence. The findings from this review will inform our grant-making, research funding, policy and advocacy work.
  • Ensure that at least 50% of Secondary Data Analysis projects commissioned this year are designed to produce subgroup findings on racial disproportionality.
  • Continue to build evidence on approaches that may exacerbate racial disproportionality. 
  • Ensure that this year’s Children, Violence and Vulnerability report asks racially sensitive questions, provides robust subgroup results categorised by ethnicity, and incorporates questions to promote race equity.
  • Ensure that the Peer Action Collective evaluation examines any possible barriers to participation.

Objective: We’ll make sure that all of our work is clear on racism and disproportionality.

To do this, we will…

  • Ensure that all reports include a dedicated section on race. For example, tracking differences in the change that our programmes make for White children who participate, as well as those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Or including specific details in our guidance on research related to cultural competency.
  • Use consistent language when talking about race and racism in all research reports.
  • Ensure that each report details the racial demographics of the sample and discusses its limitations.

Objective: We’ll translate learnings into activity to change practice to reduce racial disproportionality.

To do this, we will…

  • Engage our Race Equity Associates from the outset when developing our Guidance reports.
  • Pursue new research on stop and search.
  • Develop and share practical tools, resources and workshops to promote racially equitable practices.

Objective:  We’ll work to reform systems that drive racial disproportionality.

To do this, we will…

  • Include one or more recommendations in all Systems Guidance Reports that explicitly seek to reduce racial disproportionality.
  • Support system leaders to deliver on the recommendations set out in the Systems Guidance Report to make the system more racially equitable.