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What we’ve done and what we need to do: YEF’s progress on race equity

By Peter Babudu, Assistant Director of Research and Youth Understanding

In 2017, the Labour MP David Lammy delivered a report that had been commissioned by a Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, investigating the way Black, Asian and other minority people are treated by the criminal justice system in England and Wales. After months of analysis, his view was clear – the biggest area of concern, the place where unfairness was most stark, was in youth justice.

When you look at the figures, it’s not hard to see why he came to this conclusion. Children from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds are significantly overrepresented in every single stage of the system. Black children are four times as likely to be arrested as white children. And, as of May 2019, more than half of the children in youth custody were from Black, Asian or other minority backgrounds. Something is going wrong and we, at the Youth Endowment Fund, need to make sure that we’re using our £200 million endowment to do something about it.

Our mission is to end youth violence. Research has consistently shown that Black children – particularly Black boys and young men – are regularly stereotyped as associated with crime and viewed as older or less innocent than their White peers. This has a real impact on children’s lives, and their experiences of youth justice, education and access to employment and mental health support. And all of this means that, if we’re serious about making change, we need to be serious in the ways that we think about and tackle racism.

Today, we’ve released a series of commitments, about how we’re going to do that. To produce these commitments, we drew on a race equity audit of the YEF conducted by Justice Studios. Some of the commitments are about how we spend our money and monitor to make sure it’s reaching children from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds, including a dedicated £10 million fund for Black and Asian-led community organisations. It’s also about us as an employer and What Works Centre, outlining what we’re doing to address an underrepresentation of researchers from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds. It’s also about how we’ll invest in research to understand the structural factors that impact on children’s experiences – like poverty and racism – and how we’ll use our findings to make change.

We’ve already improved our processes, which mean that we’ve begun to address a historical problem – particularly present in our Launch Grant Round – which meant that organisations led by people from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds were less likely to be successful in gaining funding from us. Through later grant rounds, we’ve shown that, by thinking about race, we’re making better decisions; while there’s work to do to make sure our data’s as robust as possible, the changes we’ve made mean that roughly 37% of the children we’re now supporting are from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds (while they represent 18% of the population of England and Wales).

But we can’t be complacent. We’ve shown that by taking these problems seriously, things can change – so we need to keep challenging ourselves and holding ourselves accountable when we aren’t doing enough. We’ve published these ambitions so that you can see what we’re doing and hold us to our commitments. Every year, we’ll publish data against the targets we’ve set, showing you where we’ve made progress and how we’re investigating and changing if things have gone wrong.

It’s our duty to make sure every single child and young person is supported to flourish, free from violence. Using this plan as a guide, and with your help, we can do more to find out what works to reduce discrimination and create a fairer society.

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