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Employment initiative helps 100s of young black men in London

Feb 27, 2019

An evaluation of a two-year, £1 million project to increase the employment rates for young black men in London was launched on 18 July.

The unemployment rate for young black men is double the rate for young white men, even when they have the same level of qualifications. There are thousands of young black men in London who are available for and actively looking for work. However, it is not an impossible problem to solve. If employers, job centres, support providers and young black men pull together, we can end this inequality.

The MoU Initiative aimed both to directly increase the employment rate amongst young black men in London through supporting targeted interventions; and to generate learning that could influence employers, mainstream employment support providers and funders/commissioners.

Download the evaluation report.

Eradicating the opportunity deficit for black, Asian and minority ethnic young people

Feb 27, 2019

Jeremy Crook, Chief Executive of the Black Training & Enterprise Group (BTEG), wrote the following essay forAll Change: Where next for apprenticeships?,  an essay collection with leading experts setting out ways to improve the quality of apprenticeships and ensure fair access to training. It was published by the Learning and Work Institute:

My organisation, the Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG), mainly works with black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) young people helping them to make informed decisions about their futures and to understand the importance of effectively demonstrating their individuality and potential to employers.. We still meet far too many young people in school who are unaware of apprenticeships and what this route can offer. Schools provide little careers information about apprenticeships, have virtually no contact with employers and are largely focused on getting good GCSE grades and progressing their students to Sixth Form to do A-levels.

More BAME young people are choosing to stay in education for longer than white young people. We recently asked a group of young foundation degree students, mostly from BAME backgrounds, why they think that is. They told us that more academic qualifications will give them a better chance of success in the labour market. However, the reality is that BAME graduates have higher rates of unemployment than white graduates.

Apprenticeships traditionally provide a route into the labour market for young people without higher level qualifications but have not always been an option that BAME young people have been successful in accessing.

In 2016/17, just 11% of the 494,900 apprenticeship starts in England, were made by ethnic minority people. Compare that with the national population in the 2011 Census when 14.5 % of England’s population were from an ethnic minority. In that year, around one quarter of applications via the government’s Find an Apprenticeship website were from BAME individuals, but the start rate for BAME individuals was half that of white applicants. BAME people remain particularly under-represented on apprenticeships in sectors like engineering and manufacturing, where average earnings tend to be higher, and over-represented in lower earning sectors such as retail.

Recent measures the Government have put in place are welcome:

  • the target to increase the proportion of BAME apprentices by 20% by 2020;

  • the Apprenticeships Diversity Champions Network championing apprenticeships and diversity amongst employers;

  • the Five Cities Project bringing together partners in Greater Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, Leicester and London to identify ‘what works’ in improving take up of apprenticeships among under-represented groups including from BAME backgrounds;

  • the National Apprenticeship Service promoting the take-up of apprenticeships among underrepresented groups.

While these initiatives are important, and employer focused, the practical challenges will be keeping a strong focus on ethnicity, showing effective change in the workforce profiles of the companies involved and attracting new companies.

According to, the Diversity Champions Network has only around 40 members, including public sector organisations. In late 2017 Business in the Community launched its first Best Employers for Race List but struggled to list 100 companies in the UK. This shows how far we need to go to see real change. Employers appear far more willing to be proactive, and publicly willing, to sign up to national equality standards around gender and sexual orientation, but are reluctant to embrace ethnicity. Policymakers and diversity practitioners need to face up to this and engage with employers to understand why this is the case.

We consider that successive governments have failed to put enough resources into transforming the way apprenticeship providers and employers address diversity and inclusion, particularly for BAME individuals (and those with learning disabilities).

The need to convince employers to adopt and offer apprenticeships appears to have outweighed the need to make sure that providers deliver fair outcomes and that employers recruit from the whole talent pool. All too often employer-led bodies have associated equality and diversity with generating red tape that only produces extra burdens for businesses, especially for SMEs. It’s time to move away from this outdated response and encourage employers to view fair and inclusive recruitment as a necessity that brings both business and social benefits.

So, what more needs to happen to improve apprenticeship opportunities and outcomes for BAME individuals? We need larger numbers of employers to offer advanced level apprenticeships as a real alternative to the full-time university option. There are talented young people opting for degree courses that offer poor employment outcomes. These young people should be accessing quality apprenticeships that provide level 4 and 5 qualifications. This requires employers to create more high-level apprenticeships and to make sure they have an approach to recruitment that delivers for BAME individuals.

Generally, apprenticeship providers and employers focus on the shortcomings of young people, such as a lack of certain work-relevant competencies. There are certainly things the education system can do to help graduates of the system be better prepared for the world of work. But employers have a role to play too, especially around the protected characteristics included in the Equality Act 2010. We need employers to ask themselves the key question - do we reflect the ethnic make-up of the local population? Private sector employers are crucial – and we must do everything possible to get many more employers to embrace both apprenticeships and ethnic diversity.

There are some welcome signs of change: BTEG recently attended two employer networking events where ethnicity and recruitment have been the focus. One was in Birmingham – organised by Unionlearn – and focused on boosting quality and access. The other was an awards event hosted by a successful tech sector provider in London. This provider rightly has a core focus on quality, access and meeting employer needs. Impressively, just over half of the provider’s apprentices, each year, are from BAME backgrounds. It was a very positive event and it was good to see employers nominating and recognising their talented apprentices. The winners were proud to receive their trophies and prizes and all looked forward to advancing their careers in the tech sector. This was proper inclusion: representing all members of our society and recognising talent from across the board.

We hope similar events are held across the country, especially during National Apprenticeships Week. However, providers and employers need to use these kinds of celebration events to ask themselves fundamental questions about the ethnic diversity within their companies and the sectors they operate within.

We need to learn from successful initiatives and apply these across the country. The following initiatives and practical actions offer some ways forward:

Connect employers with schools and diverse young people

The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) recently commissioned a BTEG-led partnership to connect young people at school with tech and construction sector employers that are offering opportunities over the next decade in their locality. The LLDC see the value in school age young people having contact with employers and role models as early as possible. Young people are often not aware of the full range of career opportunities that they can purse in construction, tech and other sectors such as engineering.

Young people value seeing and meeting role models that come from a similar background and this makes a real difference for girls, individuals with learning difficulties and disabilities and BAME young people who may not have considered these options as being for ‘people like them’.

Targeted interventions are necessary to tackle the biggest challenges

In 2014, Trust for London, City Bridge Trust and BTEG formed a partnership called Moving on Up. This aimed to increase the employment rate for young black men in London over a two-year period to match the employment rate for young white men. Six local employment brokerage providers were awarded grants totalling £800k to help 270 young black men into work and, importantly, to help BTEG extract ‘learning’ about the process of engaging and connecting young black men with employers. One of the key learning points from the Moving on Up initiative was that engaging with employers is essential but challenging. The Moving on Up programme found that direct contact with employers helped to improve confidence and motivation, increased the young men’s social capital and sometimes led to job offers. However, getting employers to engage with the programme was a huge challenge.

Through the Moving on Up programme BTEG works closely with Jobcentre Plus. In 2017, BTEG and Jobcentre Plus tried to organise a series of breakfast meetings with small groups of local employers to discuss the initiative to get more young black men into work and explore what they could do to open opportunities and increase their young black male talent profiles. No local firm was willing to engage and one local Jobcentre Plus manager explained that their biggest challenge was convincing employers to employ young black men. Young black men make up 1 in 5 of the young male 16-24 population in London.

Improve workforce ethnic diversity and the employment of BAME young people

One senior leader in a large company spoke to BTEG about BAME recruitment and initiatives aimed at improving the representation of disadvantaged groups. It was pointed out that while the company supports a range of projects focused on BAME young people, the initiative that had had the most impact on the company was one that focused on social mobility. The respondent thought this was because people in the company at all levels had come to see the benefit of the initiative and had mainstreamed it, whereas BAME projects tend to remain marginal to the business.

For BTEG it’s no surprise in a predominately white organisation that leaders, managers and individuals at all grades seem more willing to embrace social mobility programmes. The focus on low income families and young people who are the first to attend university connects with many people who had a similar journey. Projects specifically on ethnicity might be more difficult for them to connect with as they might feel they are discriminatory.

Social mobility programmes are a mechanism for improving diversity. BTEG would like to see these programmes adopted for ethnic diversity as well as for those from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Companies should be careful, however, not to overlook BAME young people from higher income backgrounds especially on graduate schemes and paid internships.

Defining new talent

The recent Open University publication, ‘The Apprenticeship Levy: one year on’ (2018), contains some interesting findings based on a survey of 750 business leaders. The research found that 54% of employers in England are using apprenticeships for training new recruits and 22% for replacing an existing graduate scheme. It said that 37% of employers have found that offering apprenticeships has helped them to attract ‘new talent’. This is encouraging but the report has not defined what is meant by ‘new talent’. BTEG believes we must define what we mean by new talent and the definition must include ethnicity, gender, learning difficulties and disabilities, and other relevant protected characteristics. This is where the National Apprenticeship Service must be bolder and work with employers to ensure that this is the standard definition of ‘new talent’.

There should be no opportunity deficit for any group of young people. Recent initiatives to improve apprenticeship participation rates for BAME young people are welcome, but more needs to be done. The Government has used legalisation to force companies to publish data on the gender pay gap and even though the data provides a limited picture, it’s a very positive step forward. We believe that employer action is key. Large companies should now adopt the Government’s data-led approach to drive change in relation to ethnicity (and for people with other protected characteristics who face similar issues). We also urge companies of all sizes to engage with or replicate for themselves the practical actions outlined in this essay.

Macpherson 20 years on: a personal reflection

Feb 26, 2019

The murder of Stephen Lawrence and the Lawrence family’s arduous pursuit for justice marked a painful period for the nation. For many it crystallised the struggles of Britain’s black and minority ethnic communities for acceptance and equality in British society. Judge William Macpherson’s report into Stephen’s murder was a powerful critique of how our institutions absorb racism into their culture and practice.

Macpherson’s use of the term `institutional racism’, in relation to the Metropolitan Police, evoked a heated response. Macpherson defined institutional racism as:

"The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people."

Many, including the media commentator Melanie Phillips, rejected the concept of `institutional racism’.

I feel a lot of that is wrapped up in an uncritical interpretation of Britain’s history and a lack of empathy to those who were on the receiving end of past British glories. This approach to history is a real turn off to a lot of young people from BAME communities in school. Understanding, or even giving an acknowledgement to, different interpretations of history doesn’t feature in the conventional view of Britain’s past that shapes too much of our politics, mores and world views.

20 years on from the launch of the Macpherson Report, many would say that the country has moved on and got better at addressing racism and inequality. Undoubtedly a lot has changed since 1999 (the war on terror, Islamophobia, the resurgence of the far right and anti-Semitism) but, by the government’s own data through its race disparity audit, inequality on the grounds of race and ethnicity are more widespread and entrenched since 1999.

The challenge now for those campaigning and supporting efforts to address race disparities in the criminal justice system, as we do at BTEG and Equal, is how we actually make progress.

I think Macpherson is still relevant today in giving us lessons in moving forward. Leadership is crucial, as is acknowledging that the problem exists and that it is in the interests of all of us to address it.  We also need to give a greater attention to the self-interest of frontline workers, such as police and prison officers, who I believe do not see any benefit in actions that address race inequality and may, in fact, be quite hostile.

Efforts to make our workforce more representative of the communities they serve have not been successful over the past 20 years.  A good example of this is policing and the dominant media message that more “stop and search” from the police will alleviate knife crime and youth violence. This analysis seems to run contrary to the public health approach with its emphasis on prevention and early interventions and to evidence from academics, such as recent research from Sussex University that showed the link between stop and search and the 2011 riots.

Another aspect of stop and search, that affects me on a personal level, is its impact on children. The father of two sons, my eldest was stopped and searched for the first time at 16 and my youngest at 12. Is this really helping to nurture better community relationships with the police and address the fundamental issues Macpherson raised more than two decades ago? Are the police openly engaged in real honest debates about these challenges and taking them seriously?

The police would make greater progress by reintroducing some old interventions for the current times. I rarely hear senior police officers or political leaders speak about the need for more police officers to walk the streets, speak to members of communities and build relationships and trust. This was the foundation of British policing. It is a visible deterrent and a way to generate greater confidence in policing.

I recently heard the current Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, on Desert Island Discs. It was interesting to learn more about her as a person – the daughter of value-driven parents, losing her father at young age and being brought up by a single parent and, of course, being the first openly gay Commissioner of Police for the Met. She brings all of this life experience to the job. My challenge to her would be where is the authentic experience from London’s BAME communities within her institution? I think 20 years on from Macpherson it’s a pertinent question for all of our institutions.

If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together

Jan 16, 2019

If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together  African Proverb

Welcome to the first in the Connectivity Programme blog series.

For many years we have, as a sector, been making advancements in the key areas of our work but there is still a way to go given the complex needs of the communities we serve. A lot of research and development has been done to assist in highlighting the factors involved in meeting community needs and removing the barriers that impact on the BAME VC sector’s ability to achieve success and create longer lasting impact. These barriers include:

  • Capacity and capability - This could be anything from developing financial literacy, management, programme/project development, bid writing to leadership and policy formation.

  • Cultural and political - Many organisations struggle to understand and navigate the cultural and political landscape both internally and externally that will directly affect their ability to deliver.

  • Reputation and responsibility - Understanding how developing networks enable you to build a reputation in the community and sector are vital to creating lasting impact and success.

  • Trust and respect - building trusting and trusted networks support the development and sustainability of the VCS organisations.

  • Finance and funding  - financial planning within the sector should be supported and developed in order to allow for organisations to understand the ‘business’ of community work to create financially empowered organisations that can respond to emerging community needs as well as their everyday activities

No single organisation or programme can tackle or solve the increasingly complex social problems we face as a society. This can only be achieved by having a stronger collective infrastructure, a stronger brand and a stronger collective voice through the range of development and support activities needed to create meaningful, lasting collaborations that bring about meaningful and lasting change.

Using the Collective Impact Approach - a model designed to assist in removing the barriers and working not just together but with meaningful commitment and collaboration – the Connectivity programme will connect selected partners within the BAME sector to create a stronger collective infrastructure, a stronger brand and a stronger collective voice. It will enable them to:

  • Be better equipped to establish and develop collaborations 

  • Effectively utilise the skills, time and resources through meaningful collaboration

  • Understand the risks and responsibilities when working in collaboration

  • Increase awareness and access to organisations across the sector and wider

  • Increase confidence in leading and managing change

  • Strengthen voices on key issues affecting BAME communities

Creating and maintaining collective impact requires a separate organisation(s) with staff and a specific skill set to serve as the backbones for the entire initiative. The backbones of the Connectivity Programme are BTEG and the City Bridge Fund but they are not alone. Three key backbone organisations working in partnership with us are Croydon BME Forum, Selby Trust and Council of Somali Organisations. Each formed, knowing or unknowingly, with the Collective Impact Approach in mind and have chosen some of their BAME organisations to assist in the growth and development of their communities.

If you would like more information on how you can get involved or want to know more email Simone Williams

Read an extended version of this blog here

Routes2Success Preston Manor Project

Jan 09, 2019

By Hepburn Harrison-Graham

Recently my wish came true, when I was given the opportunity to work with a group of boys at Preston Manor School in Wembley.  It was a real opportunity to do something consequential with the boys, something from which they could learn.

As it was Black History Month, the boys wanted to do a project about contemporary Black British history. After debating various options, such as Stephen Lawrence and the SUS laws, they opted to tell the story of the New Cross Fire in 1981, in which fourteen young black people lost their lives.

I went away and wrote a ten-minute ensemble piece, to ensure all nineteen boys made a verbal contribution. Many of them had never done drama before, so it was both challenging and daunting for them.  Obviously, it wasn’t all plain sailing but, on the whole the boys were focused, disciplined, worked well as a team and, most importantly, had fun.

At the end of the rehearsal process, I was enormously impressed and very proud when they performed the ten-minute play to all Preston Manor year group assemblies.  For some, it was a huge quantum leap in terms of their oral communication, self-esteem and confidence. Proving once more that drama is a great tool for helping young people to overcome their insecurities.

Judging by the feedback, the boys thoroughly enjoyed the project and would be keen to do more. For my part, it was by far the most gratifying thing I ever done during my time with Routes to Success.  Not only because I had more time with the boys but because I was able to equip them with some key life skills while educating them about  one of the darkest days in Black British history.

Read more about the project on page 7 of the Preston Manor School newsletter

Racism in Football

Dec 11, 2018

As a parent of two football-obsessed teenage sons (my eldest son is a regular at the Emirates for every Arsenal home game), and working around the issue of equality in our inherently unfair justice system, the issue of racism in football is an interesting subject.

For my generation going to football matches in the 70’s/80’s was too dangerous an activity due to the hostility shown to BAME people on the terraces. Undoubtedly there has been some progress but the problem is still there as recent events have demonstrated. But it isn’t just about a few ignorant supporters.

Over the past 6 years I have seen the Academy system from the inside, supporting my youngest son who plays for a premier league club at U14 level. It’s always been a disappointment standing on the side lines at matches and noting the dearth of BAME coaches in the system. Our football institutions have been slow to change, they need to walk the talk!

Football has had an impassioned debate around racism over the past years, way ahead of wider society, culminating, I think, in the deep levels of respect and, dare I say, shame following the death of the great Cyril Regis. The sport, or should I say business, has an opportunity to be a beacon in our society and it needs to take this opportunity with actions not just words, as Stan Collymore rightly highlights.

Finally Raheem Sterling is emerging as a great role model for young black men. He’s made mistakes but learnt from them and become a better player ,and probably person, for it.

Articulating so vividly the hypocrisy of the media in his Instagram post was a touch of maturity that showed he is a class above the highly paid columnists who make their living out of lazy opinion pieces criticising him.

He is exactly the sort of role model my two sons and many black boys like them need in what are very stressful times.

The Young Review relaunches as Equal

Nov 27, 2018

The report of the Young Review on improving outcomes for black and Muslim young men was launched in December 2014. It led to the establishment of the Young Review Independent Advisory Group which was chaired for the last four years by Baroness Lola Young. Earlier this year Baroness Young decided to step down as Chair. Her contribution has been immense and critical to the success of the Independent Advisory Group.

With the appointment of our new Chair, Iqbal Wahhab OBE, in May the Advisory Group took the decision to change its name, rebrand and review its strategy.

On 4th December the Young Review Independent Advisory Group will formally relaunch as Equal.

The new name highlights our aim for a justice system that treats all people equally, regardless of faith or ethnicity, whilst recognising the debilitating impact of inequalities across the Criminal Justice System and striving to tackle them.

Our strategy has been reviewed with a renewed remit focussing on people from BAME and Muslim communities within the justice system. Our policy priority areas for the year ahead are:

  • Prisons & Youth Justice
  • Probation
  • Gangs Matrix
  • Public Sector Equality Duty
  • Justice Devolution

These policy areas will be the focus of our work for the year ahead.

We have also made changes to the structure of the Secretariat for the Group, provided by BTEG, with the recruitment of a communications officer reflecting the new strategy’s focus of greater emphasis around our communications.

One of the big achievements of the Young Review Independent Advisory Group has been the relationship that has been built with MOJ/HMPPS particularly around the implementation of the Lammy Review. Here the Advisory Group is viewed as a key partner and scrutineer of the delivery of the recommendations outlined in David Lammy’s report.

However, our new Chair and advisory group members, whilst valuing the importance of working closely with government, want to see Equal challenge policy that perpetuates ethnic disparities. So the policy priorities identify themes such as working with government on the use of the Public Sector Equality Duty in our criminal justice system institutions.

We have also been actively arguing for reform of the Gang’s Matrix through the Mayor of London’s review of the Matrix. The recent report from the Information Commissioner should act as a wake up call for all of our CJS institutions to the dangers of systemically perpetuating the criminalisation of minority groups.

We will progress this agenda of working productively with the MOJ/HMPPS in implementing the Lammy agenda but challenge injustice and building partnerships across civil society and academia to further our aims. 

If you would like to attend the Equal launch event please book here

How do we become responsive to the needs of BAME young people within the Criminal Justice System?

Nov 19, 2018

A local perspective from the North of England by

 Henry Ngawoofah
 Director of Grace Incorporation Faith Trust (GIFT)
 Director of Making Education a Priority CIC (MEaP)


On 14th November 2018, I attended a seminar hosted by the Academy for Social Justice Commissioning at Leeds Beckett University. The key note speaker was Jeremy Crook, CEO of the Black Training and Enterprise Group. He is also currently on secondment at the Ministry of Justice.

Jeremy began the presentation with statistics around the reoffending rates of black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) young people which, as of 2016, was 50.6%.  While the number of children and young people in custody from a BAME background has been decreasing, the proportion has been increasing, accounting for 45% of the custodial population in the latest year, whilst only making up 18% of the 10-17 years’ general population.

These statistics, whilst startling, had me asking after the seminar: ‘What more can be done as black men/role models to influence change within the Criminal Justice System for BAME young people?’, ‘Why, despite the falling number of young people entering the CJS, there is still a higher proportion of BAME young people in custody in our prisons?’.

These questions also took me back to my journey, which began 20 years ago when I studied as a law student to qualify as criminal solicitor. However, part-way through my studies, and during my work experience working with young offenders, I realised that by the time I qualified as a solicitor, and provided the support required by young people through the CJS, it was too late in most cases to help them turn their lives around. I also noted the strong correlation between the number of young people I was supporting who had been permanently excluded from school appearing before the courts.

My journey working with young people took a new direction. This is where GIFT was born, a local social enterprise/charity to provide early intervention in community education, mentoring and mediation support to young people and families. Like many BAME-led organisations through recent times, we are faced with the challenges of remaining sustainable and being able to scale up our services to meet the needs of our young people within the CJS.

Some of the ways we have tried to address these issues is to become more focused with collaborative ways of working with local and national partners such as BTEG, and Making Education a Priority (MEaP), a consortium of supplementary schools and community education providers.

At the seminar it became clear from the discussions that there is a need for more collaborative work and cross-sector partnerships within early years’ provisions, schools, health sector and housing, to identify the needs and to capture ‘at risk’ young people to co-ordinate interventions before young people enter the CJS.

In Manchester the MEaP consortium is looking to address this by becoming the first African and Caribbean-led mainstream free school in Greater Manchester, providing culturally specific education and holistic support to all children. Although we recognise that to bring this vision to reality is a long-term aspiration, there are other opportunities available to us. Specifically, for black men/role models to effect change now to help prevent and address the over-representation of BAME young people entering the CJS.

I was recently asked by a parent to provide advocacy support at an appeal hearing for their child following a school exclusion. The decision of the school was upheld, following both the appeal meeting at the school and an ‘independent review’ leading to another young BAME person being permanently excluded. During this process I recognised that all decisions and procedures were being made/upheld by ‘all white’ senior leaders, governors and panel members. Did this collective ‘unconscious bias’ fail to take into account the culturally specific needs of the young person and family? Could more have been done to address the underlying issues impacting the child’s settlement and development within the school?

This also brought back memories of my experience 20 years ago supporting young people within the Youth Court systems and the sentencing towards BAME young people, such as disproportionate custodial sentences. As asked earlier, what are the lessons learned and what are the opportunities for black role models to influence change within the CJS? I believe early intervention and preventative measures are key.  I also believe that more can be done for we black men/role models to get involved with civic positions:

  • We can apply to become school governors to help influence decisions and policies around school exclusions.
  • We can apply to become a magistrate to help influence decisions around sentencing in youth courts to focus more on rehabilitating for young people within their communities.
  • We need more opportunities to enter local politics and secondments opportunities, similar to Jeremy Crook’s, within the public sector.

To lead by example I recently joined a local governing board of a school by applying through the Governors for Schools website. I am now exploring how to become a magistrate. In Manchester we will be holding our first community consultation in November 2018 about our plans for the Free School Nursery and Primary Academy as we prepare our plans for the Department for Education.

Let us continue to be creative and strategically focused, as we cannot afford to let another generation to be failed by our schools and the Criminal Justice Systems.


Stop and search - 'Who feels it - Knows it'

Nov 08, 2018

The Home Secretary’s speech to the National Police Chief’s Council adds to the bitterly disappointing punitive narrative around the rise in violent crime. The challenge of serious youth violence requires politicians to seriously contemplate the effectiveness of current failed approaches and to have the courage to challenge the conventional wisdoms of perpetual punishment that our failing criminal justice system is built upon.

Bob Marley was the master of lyrical poignancy that would stay lodged in the memory for generations. One of his classic one-liners was “who feels it knows it”.

The issue of stop and search and particularly the dichotomy between the conventional wisdoms that dominate our national discourse around crime and punishment and lead us to the` natural’ assumption that more stop and search’s of target groups (e.g. young black boys) will reduce serious violence epitomises the marked point Marley makes. Of course there is an opposing view to this narrative which unfortunately gets very little air time in the conventional spaces within the mainstream media where these debates play out.

 This of course is largely due to the demographic of those groups and communities on the receiving end of stop and search as a Police power and the huge inequalities and power in-balances in our society this exposes. I will attempt to articulate a counter narrative on this issue which is that stop and search is ineffective and is contributing to the deterioration in police and community relationships that can protect our society and the most vulnerable groups, particularly children from serious youth violence.

My specific concern is around the experiences of children and particularly black and minority ethnic children in relation to their encounters of policing. Last year BTEG with the Children Rights Alliance England wrote to Sir Tom Winsor the HM Chief Inspector of Constabularies requesting he launch a review into the treatment and experience of black and minority children in the area of policing.

Some of the statistics we forwarded to Sir Tom with regards to the Met Police are highlighted below:

  • Stop and search – although use has fallen overall, the tactic is used disproportionately on BAME children in London with over half (54%) of all stop and searches on children in 2016 being of BAME children (with the disparity starkest in relation to Black boys and young men who accounted for 37% of all stops and searches)
  • In 2016 at least 540 children in London were subjected to `more thorough’ or `strip searches’ with BAME children accounting for 71% of these intrusive searches
  • In 2016, 8275 children were detained overnight in MPS custody. Nearly two thirds of these children were from BAME backgrounds (with Black children accounting for 41% of all children detained overnight).
  • In 2008 after Tasers were introduced, MPS officers used them on children 9 times. Yet in the first 9 months of 2016 alone Tasers were used 118 times (including being fired 5 times.) Nearly 70% of these uses in 2016 were on BAME children
  • From December 2016 to July 2017, the MPS conducted an initial pilot of the use of spit hoods in five custody suites. Since then trial of the devices was rolled out to all custody suites in London. By the end of September 2017 there had been at least 7 uses of spit hoods on children (the youngest child being 15 years old.) Of these, four uses were on BAME children.


The concept of` trust and confidence’ is a phrase that has become part of the language of our policing and public authority bureaucracies. However, it very rarely engages with the underlying causes to low levels of trust amongst black and ethnic minority communities, particularly young people.

But of course statistics only show part of the problem. They don’t un-wrap the very human experiences of the children affected by early negative contact with the police. A recent report from Stopwatch (a coalition of academics and community organisations campaigning for the reform of stop and search powers) on the Met Police’s gangs matrix delves deep in to the traumatising  experiences of children and young people routinely subjected from a young age to this model of policing.

David Lammy MP in a recent newspaper article gave us a small glimpse of this world sharing his experiences of being stopped and searched in Tottenham as a child. As a parent I know it is a harrowing ordeal for a young child.

Anyone involved in the current policy dialogues around youth violence (as I am) will be familiar with the term `adverse childhood experiences’. ACE’s (as our public authority officials have shortened them to), are the pointers in a young person’s life that may lead them to be more susceptible to entry into the youth justice system or engaging in serious youth violence (e.g. exclusion from school, parental breakup etc.).

I would suggest the points I raise in this article accounting for the experiences of too many black and minority ethnic children with regards to policing certainly need to be added to the ACE’s chronology.  This may be something the NPCC may wish to contemplate as they take on new shared statutory responsibilities for local safeguarding responsibilities from next year.

So back to Bab Marley’s lyrics - I would suggest that if the model for policing that is being applied to black and minority ethnic children in areas such as London were applied across the country, the response of our politicians would be very different. Falling into the failed comfort zone of more and more punitive measures may play to the majority audience but it will not address serious youth violence and down plays the serious risks and long term damage to community cohesion.


Mark Blake BTEG


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