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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:

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:

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

To do that, we will:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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

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:

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:

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:

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: