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Will secure schools improve outcomes for BAME young people serving custodial sentences in the youth justice system?

Jun 12, 2018

The MOJ are consulting on their procurement prospectus for the new model of youth custody that promises to put education at its heart. But will this result in improved outcomes for BAME children and young people?

It’s almost three years since the then Justice Secretary Michael Gove instigated a review into the youth justice system. Charlie Taylor, a respected educationalist, was appointed to chair it and the subsequent Taylor Review was published in December 2016. Mr Taylor is now chair of the Youth Justice Board.

The centrepiece of the Taylor Review was its proposal for a new model of youth custody - Secure Schools. These new institutions would be run by a head teacher and specialist staff teams, with smaller intakes of young people and with the focus on education.

This all sounded incredibly positive, so why should I have my doubts that this new model will deliver improved outcomes for BAME young people, who are heavily over-represented in the youth justice system?

There are a number of issues and precedents which lead me to question the plausibility of this new model delivering for BAME children.

The Taylor Review itself identified the issue of the over-representation of BAME and looked after children in the youth justice system. However, it failed to explore the reasons behind this disproportionality.

In the draft prospectus BAME groups and Looked after Children are both identified as groups disproportionality over-represented in the youth justice system. This is a step in the right direction but the prospectus should go further.

Why aren’t bidders being asked about their experience in working with BAME and looked after children and for evidence that they can improve the outcomes experienced by these groups? Assessing their track records in working with these groups would appear to be an obvious aspect of their credentials to interrogate.  

Many of the potential bidders are likely to come from Academy Trusts. However, there is continuing concern about higher rates of exclusions from Academy schools for SEN and BAME children, some of the very groups who need to see the greatest improvement in outcomes within the youth justice system. We believe the prospectus should be looking to promote a greater breadth of non-profit making bidders.

If specific engagement with children and young people directly affected and experiencing custody cannot be part of the pre-procurement process then surely engaging with civil society organisations who work with these groups should be. For a number of years the YJB has failed to proactively engage with civil society around the deteriorating outcomes for BAME children and young people compared with those for white young people children.  This stark disproportionality was at the heart of David Lammy’s observation that youth justice was his biggest concern.

Informing policy through engagement and dialogue is at the heart of the work BTEG has been involved with through the Young Review; supporting both the Lammy Review and partnerships across civil society in highlighting and engaging with government around ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system.

There is now a major concern in society around increased violent crime involving young people. At the same time violence and outcomes within the youth estate have deteriorated over the past years. This led to HM Prison’s Inspector stating last year that all of our youth prisons were unfit for purpose. With the over-representation of BAME groups in the system as both perpetrators and victims and the rise in violent incidents within custody and in the community now, is it time to give real thought to the experience of BAME children and young people in the youth justice system? Could there be a link between a system that clearly treats them more harshly, punitively and delivers poorer rehabilitative outcomes and the increase in violence?

We need greater engagement from the YJB and all public bodies working with vulnerable and marginalised children and young people with civil society. This must be about putting the voice of the user, and engagement with communities, at the heart of policy development not just as a tokenistic gesture.

Secure Schools are an opportunity but a traditional procurement development approach is, in our opinion, unlikely to reap the results for BAME young people and children that are so desperately needed.   

Photo credit: cphoffman42 on Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

The month of giving

Jun 05, 2018

We are half way through the month of Ramadan - the holy month when over one billion Muslims around the world fast and focus their attention on giving to charity, known as Zakat. 

During Ramadan, both fasting and acts of charity are obligatory for all Muslims who are able to do so. Fasting (no food or water) from sunrise to sunset represents a spiritual cleansing; an effort to become closer to God and an attempt to gain a better understanding of human suffering. The daily routine during this month helps me focus on the principles of generosity, discipline, honesty, selflessness, tolerance and sacrifice. It also helps me reflect upon, and show compassion for, the less fortunate. 

Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam and, as a result, during Ramadan there is much charitable giving by the community. It is estimated by the Muslim Charities Forum that British Muslims gave approximately £100 million to charitable causes during the month of Ramadan in 2016 – almost £38 a second! Donations are usually focused on giving to those suffering from poverty and hunger and much is distributed to international causes. I don’t recall seeing much in the media about this positive side of Islam.

I like to advocate on behalf of the UK-based causes. How many of us consider donating during Ramadan to our local causes –homelessness, mental health, employability projects, work with offenders/ex-offenders or mentoring programmes? This year I have decided to allocate my donation as a 50/50 split between international causes and a local cause.  

For those of us working in the charity sector perhaps it’s time we started making the ask for donations to Muslims during the month of Ramadan.

Matrix or made up? Does the Gangs Matrix have a purpose?

May 21, 2018

Race equality, or the lack of it, is high on the news agenda at present:

  • the controversy around ‘The Windrush Generation’;

  • the anniversary of  Stephen Lawrence’s murder and the documentary that highlighted the huge part institutionalised racism had to play in the failures of the case and;

  • the recent visit by the UN special rapporteur on racism and related intolerance

Adding fuel to the fire are the revelations of the ‘new’ gang matrix used by the Metropolitan Police!

What is the “gang matrix”? Well, this is not the first time I’ve heard about it!

In 2014 I was working with a young man who had been trying to turn his life around. As a teenager, after witnessing his best friend stabbed to death, he turned to a life on the streets and had been in trouble with the police. In his early 20s he became a father and decided that he wanted to be a positive role model for his children. He left life on the streets and turned to organisations like BTEG who support young people into employment or entrepreneurship.

When we met, as we were discussing his social enterprise ideas, he said was finding it difficult to move forward as he was on the gang matrix and was always being targeted by the police. The matrix, he explained, identified people who were associated with ‘gang members’. He said that though he knew of people who were in gangs they were not his friends, just people he said hello to if he saw them on the streets. This was enough for him to be added to the gang matrix. I was horrified at the thought of young people being added to this “guilty by association” list.

This year the gang matrix has been made more public. I find myself questioning its credibility and purpose. Listening to Vanessa Feltz on BBC London radio, I heard an officer of the Metropolitan Police say that this ‘new’ gang matrix was designed to protect those at risk and prevent young people turning to violence and criminal activity. If this is the case, they failed the young man I was talking about earlier. He was on the gang matrix. He was sadly murdered on the streets of London in 2015.

How exactly are these young people identified?

This is a huge concern, especially as we know institutionalised racism still exists in the Metropolitan Police, even after the Macpherson Report. According to BBC news, a report by Amnesty International found the Met's Gang Violence Matrix was “racially discriminatory and breaches human rights law”. Figures from July 2016 showed that 87% of the people listed were black, Asian and minority ethnic, and 78% were black according to the Amnesty report. This is absolutely shocking!

Does this leave us with much faith in the matrix?

I think not.

At a time when knife and gun crime is rife in the capital shouldn’t the Metropolitan Police be more focused on the right tools to tackle the issues rather than a matrix made up of people they believe are ‘at risk’? Amnesty’s UK Director Kate Allen said: ‘There is clearly a huge problem with knife crime violence at the moment in London, but the Gangs Matrix is not the answer. It’s part of an unhelpful and racialised focus on the concept of gangs. Put simply, it’s the wrong tool for the wrong problem.’

Surely at a time when young black men are losing faith and trust in the police, the Met should be working with these young men, repairing the damage that has been done and letting them know that institutionalised racism is being tackled!


  • Does the matrix have a purpose?

  • Is it really going to be used to tackle knife and gun crime?

  • Or is it simply another tool used to racially profile young black men?

It appears to me that it is the latter!

Photo: Yukiko Matsuoka via Flickr

The UN, the UK and racism

May 14, 2018

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance,  E. Tendayi Achiume, was recently in the UK, at the invitation of the Government, to meet with stakeholders across the nation.

She was here to:

  • examine manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and related trends in the UK;

  • assess the existing legal, institutional and policy framework for the protection of groups and individuals that may be subjected to racial discrimination and related intolerance;

  • follow up on recommendations made to the UK by various human rights groups;

  • seek information on existing good practices for combatting racial discrimination, and the challenges to their implementation;

  • gather information on achievements that have advanced racial equality;

  • document remaining gaps and challenges with a view to making concrete recommendations to the Government and other relevant stakeholders.

This fact finding mission included two sessions that BTEG staff attended. They covered:

  • the intersectionality between racial discrimination and discrimination based on gender and/or sexual orientation and

  • policing and the administration of justice.

The events gave us the opportunity to promote BTEG’s work, especially around criminal justice, education and employment. More importantly, we were able to express our frustrations around continuing racism, race disparities and discrimination that exist despite decades of UK legislation and initiatives. Questions around racism have arisen over the last year. Grenfell Tower, Brexit and the Windrush scandal have all led to public debate around race. Some may say that this is a good thing and that “at least we are talking about race and racism again”. This perception can be appreciated as it is true to say that racism was taken off the agendas of public sector bodies for many years,  allowing systematic and institutionalised traits to seep in and reinforce discrimination and disparities.

A complementary workshop was hosted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The event was for civil society organisation to consider how their work is relevant to the examination of the UK Government under the Convention against Torture that is expected to take place in spring 2019.  A UN committee will visit Britain to hear evidence from the British government and UK civil society organisations. Torture is most commonly associated with criminal justice and military settings but the scope of the committees review will include social care, mental health and asylum detention settings.

The committee’s visit will be an opportunity for BTEG to raise:

  • the consistent over-representation of BAME groups – including women and young people -and their poor treatment across the criminal justice system

  • the treatment of black, Muslim and ethnic minority prisoners, including the use of force and the likelihood of  harsher prison regimes

  • the police’s use of force and the treatment of BAME children.

BTEG will contribute to a report from civil society organisations on these issues to the UN committee.

Amnesty Report - enforcement-led response to youth crime criminalises delinquent behaviour

May 09, 2018

The Metropolitan Police’s Gangs Matrix is a database of individuals involved in gang activity, so-called gang nominals, across the capital. Trapped in the Matrix, a new report from Amnesty International, is a comprehensive review of the Gangs Matrix. It highlights a policing tool that appears to be both ineffective and discriminatory and covers a range of concerns including:

  • Racial profiling
  • Lack of consistent policy and practice regarding data sharing across local multi-agency partnerships
  • Risk assessment processes which conflate elements of urban youth culture and link them to gang association
  • The potential for innocent people to be criminalised with no clear framework to find out why they are on the matrix or how to get their name removed

Some of the data in the report illustrates the inequities built into the system:

  • 72% of those flagged for gang-related violence are black while 27% of recorded serious youth violence incidents are recorded as committed by black young men
  • 78% of people on the matrix are black
  • 80% are 12-24 year olds
  • 35% have never committed a serious offence
  • 75% have been victims of violence themselves

The matrix was conceived prior to the riots of August 2011 but was then accelerated by the Met and London Mayor Boris Johnson. Understanding the context and the policy and political drivers after 2011 can give us a better understanding of some of the causes to the current increases in violent crime and what we need to do in response to address those causes.

Previous crises, such as the riots of the 1980’s and the deaths of Stephen Lawrence and Zahid Mubarek, saw quite liberal responses, with independent judge-led enquiries that recommended placing an emphasis on engagement, inclusion and prevention. The response in 2011 was far more punitive. The `war on gangs’, as the then Mayor of London framed it, was at the heart of this, and black and minority ethnic young people have subsequently had worsening outcomes throughout the justice system.

The response was, and still is, enforcement-led. The recent media debate around youth violence has generated a lot of comment from political and police leaders suggesting the need for prevention, working with communities and public health approaches. The reality is that tough enforcement is still the primary vehicle in addressing youth crime.

Within this context understanding the experience of BAME children and particularly black young men is crucial. Their experience of the justice system has deteriorated since 2011. The Children’s Rights Alliance England, through Freedom of Information requests, obtained the following statistics with regards to children and the Met Police:

  • Stop and search – although its use has fallen overall, the tactic is used disproportionately on BAME children in London. Over half (54%) of all stop and searches in 2016 were 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’. BAME children accounted for 71% of these intrusive searches
  • In 2016, 8275 children were detained overnight in Met custody. Nearly two thirds of these children were from BAME backgrounds (with black children accounting for 41% of the total).
  • When Tasers were introduced in 2008, Met officers used them 9 times on children. Yet in the first 9 months of 2016 Tasers were used 118 times (including being fired five times.) Nearly 70% of these uses in 2016 were on BAME children

There is no clear evidence for the current rise in violence and homicides in London but at BTEG we would contend that with around 60% of perpetrators and victims being black that their negative experience of the justice system and the adversarial relationship they have with the police, and the state generally, is a contributing factor. A public health approach to violence prevention has been bandied about by politicians and senior police officers but, with a majority of victims and perpetrators coming from black communities, little is mentioned in effectively targeting this group with regards to prevention and early intervention. Instead the onus is on more enforcement which will, in our opinion, be ineffective and further erode police/community relations.

If we are to address the root causes of violent crime we have to put prevention, community engagement/involvement and early intervention at the forefront of our thinking and action, and stop the criminalisation of children and young people. Adopting the recommendations of this report from Amnesty International to halt the gang’s matrix would be a good place for the Mayor of London to start.

Jeremy Crook seconded to HMPPS

Mar 28, 2018

Jeremy Crook, Chief Executive of BTEG, will be seconded to HM Prison & Probation Service for three days a week from 1st May 2018.  His role will be Race - External Liaison & Learning Lead. This post has been created as part of HMPPS’s response to the conclusions and recommendations in the David Lammy review of race and the criminal justice system.

Jeremy has led BTEG for 26 years and welcomes the opportunity to have a new challenge. This is his second secondment to the Civil Service and the learning from the first secondment was very useful for him, BTEG and BTEG’s network.

The BTEG Board have created a new role for the period of Jeremy’s secondment - Deputy Chief Executive (DCE). This post will be filled by Tebussum Rashid, currently BTEG’s Head of Volunteering and Innovation. Tebs has been a big part of BTEG’s success to date and the Board is confident she will drive the Group and help shape its future.

Jeremy will remain the Chief Executive, employed by BTEG and be responsible for the overall delivery of BTEG’s mission.

Routes2Success extended to include ethnic minority females

Feb 28, 2018

Routes2Success is now in its fourth year of delivery. Initially it focussed on black males from African, Caribbean and mixed backgrounds. Following a consultation with over 100 young girls regarding role model programmes the programme has been extended to include ethnic minority females.

Young males of African, Caribbean and mixed origin and ethnic minority girls and young women don't reach their full potential in education and employment.  Routes2Succes aims to inspire, motivate and raise the attainment of ethnic minority females and black males aged 11-25 in education, employment and entrepreneurship. We do this by using a dedicated volunteer force of successful role models from ethnic minority backgrounds who act as role models for the young people.

The programme engages with a range of stakeholders including young black males, ethnic minority females, parents, role models, schools, pupil referral units, youth offending institutions and local community organisations. It is funded by John Lyons Charity and benefits children and young people up to the age of 25 who live in nine boroughs in northwest London: Barnet, Brent, Camden, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Harrow, Kensington & Chelsea and the Cities of London and Westminster.

What are the aims of the programme?

Routes2Success will:

  • Inspire young people at risk of becoming NEET (Not in education, employment or training) to continue in school or college.

  • Encourage young people to have career ambitions which are not constrained by ethnic or gender stereotypes and have realistic plans for how they will achieve their ambitions.

  • Help young people have a better understanding of the skills and qualifications employers want.

How can you get involved?

BTEG want schools, care homes, community groups, colleges, universities, youth offending services and pupil referral units to contact us to discuss how we can best support their young people on the R2S programme.

Any organisations outside of the nine boroughs that we are funded to work with can also contact us to see what we can offer.

Contact the Programme Manager:

Brianna Cyrus / 0207832 5840

Tackling the youth justice crisis for BAME children must involve addressing their treatment by the Police

Feb 12, 2018

The Lammy review into the treatment and outcomes for Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in the criminal justice system was launched in September and the Government responded just before Christmas. Lammy cited the youth justice system as his ‘biggest concern’ with a near decade of improving outcomes for white children and a simultaneous deterioration of those experienced by BAME children.

But what Lammy’s review clearly demonstrated was that although youth justice was the area where he had most concerns, the terms of reference of his review did not provide the scope for him to map out a route to comprehensively address the challenge. What happens in what could be described as the pathways into the youth justice system in education, the care system and children and adolescent mental health services are critical along with policing.

When we look into what is happening around policing and BAME children, the figures and, we believe, the underlying culture is a major cause for concern. In our view, this problematic culture is demonstrated by a lack of recognition of the problem by the police and statutory partners which could be in breach of their statutory obligations.

For example, research by the Howard League for Penal Reform found that, although across England and Wales police forces made fewer than 88,000 arrests of children in total in 2016, BAME children accounted for 26% of all child arrests. The Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) research has revealed that in 2016 more than a third (36%) of children detained overnight in police cells in England were from BAME backgrounds. We think there is a pattern of ethnic disproportionality in policing which is impacting on BAME children and young people.

That’s why BTEG and CRAE, with the support of a number of knowledgeable organisations in the field of children’s services and race equality, have written to Sir Tom Winsor, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS). We are requesting that conducts a national thematic review into the treatment of children and young people from BAME groups with specific focus on police forces’ legal duties with regards to safeguarding children and their duties under the Equality Act 2010.

One of the forces we are most concerned about is the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). Some of the MPS’s  own data (obtained through CRAE’s Freedom of Information requests and detailed in this briefing) shows stop and search is used disproportionately on BAME children in London with over half (54%) of all stop and searches on children in 2016 being o 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 the 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.

A national thematic review would provide an opportunity to address highly pertinent questions regarding the legal obligations and policy frameworks that the police work within and address crucial questions around the underlying policing culture in relation to BAME children.

CRAE and BTEG set out a number of key questions in the letter to Sir Tom including:

  • Is there effective and regular monitoring in place, including analysis of data by ethnicity?

  • Are regular equality impact assessments conducted across all policing activities which include an element of external challenge and are they published and used to develop improvement action plans? This is a requirement under the Equality Act.

  • Are disparities that are evident in force’s own data underpinned by differential treatment and stereotypes of BAME children and young people? Are forces acknowledging the potential for institutionalising differential treatment and how are they tackling this?

  • Is challenge given to the force through local multi-agency arrangements established to safeguard children and are these partners challenging forces on disproportionate treatment of BAME children and young people?

If we want to meet the challenge David Lammy has set around BAME children and youth justice we have to address policing. At BTEG we hope Sir Tom Winsor will carry out this review which could provide a much needed objective analysis of the current position.


The Government’s response to the Lammy Review - BTEG’s view

Feb 05, 2018

In December the Government launched its response to the Lammy review. The review made 35 recommendations to improve outcomes within the justice system in England and Wales for BAME communities.  Since then we have had a change in Justice Secretary with David Liddington MP departing to the Cabinet Office and David Gauke MP becoming the fifth incumbent in the role within the last four years.

A great deal of media coverage on the day of the launch focused on recommendation 16 from the review on the setting of target for the appointment of judges and magistrates. BAME individuals make up only 7% of judges and 11% of magistrates. This was the one recommendation the Government decided not to take forward. 

The issue of low levels of trust and confidence in the justice system from BAME groups was a central theme in the Lammy review and David Lammy has expressed his disappointment that the government did not pledge to go further to address ethnic diversity in the judiciary and magistracy. We agree with the importance of setting a target and want to see the judiciary do more to unlock the blockages that persist for BAME lawyers. The Government’s response had very little to say about the magistracy but we think a new drive to attract more BAME lay magistrates would see our magistrates courts reflecting the national BAME profile of 14%.

From our perspective at BTEG there were a number of points from the Government response that we welcomed particularly:

  • Recommendation 10 - A positive response to the proposal around deferred prosecutions building on the West Midlands Operation Turning Point with an emphasis on addressing ethnic disproportionality. The Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime in London is considering a pilot scheme. Our view at BTEG is that a pilot should be developed for the youth justice system which should be targeted at helping to address the challenge of ethnic disproportionality within the system.

  • Recommendation 17 - The recommendation for the development of a maturity assessment tool and that HMPPS is currently piloting this with offenders aged 18-25 in the adult system. The review highlights the growing neurological evidence around the development of the brain and that many young adults lack the maturity to make informed decisions up to and beyond their mid 20’s.  BAME young people who the review identify as being under diagnosed with regards to neurological conditions such as ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome should benefit from a greater recognition and assessment  of the role of maturity throughout the justice system.

  • Recommendation 34 - A strong commitment to address and rebalance the criminal records check framework as soon as relevant legal cases that are waiting to be heard are concluded. Employment and BAME communities is a key area of work for BTEG and the disparities in the employment market highlighted in the Government’s race disparity audit are further compounded for BAME offenders and clearly a major impediment to successful rehabilitation.

But there are areas where we are concerned.

  • BAME women - There are no specific recommendations for BAME women. However the review highlighted a number of concerns including disproportionately heavier sentencing for drug related offences.  At BTEG we noted the rise in the female offender population to numbers above 4000 for the first time in nearly 20 years which was disappointing. The impact of female incarceration on BAME communities and children in particular is huge.  BAME women and the disparities they face must get a greater recognition within the female offender strategy which should have reducing the number of women in prison at its heart.

  • Recommendation 31 - Despite the Young Review making the case for a greater role to be played by BAME led organisations this recommendation did not go far enough in addressing these imbalances in commissioning and representation. The focus primarily on Community Rehabilitation Companies supply chains was limiting and negated to reflect the Government’s difficulties in grappling with funding levels and supply chains generally. We welcome the MOJ taking a broader look at this issue encompassing a wider view of commissioning across the justice system.

  • The responses to the proposals around prisons are generally positive. However the difficulty of implementing these changes within the current instability in the prison system is a worry.

  • The Youth Justice System is our biggest area of concern. David Lammy in his review intimated at a lack of leadership on this issue and laid a great emphasis on the context of a more than decade long improvement in outcomes for white youngsters in terms of the numbers of first time entrants and those coming into custody with the vivid contrast to the outcomes for BAME youngsters. Our experience of highlighting this issue primarily with the Youth Justice Board (YJB) for the past seven years would lead us to concur with Lammy’s analysis. The response in our view has been frustratingly inadequate and has lacked a clear plan to reduce the number of BAME young people entering the youth justice system.

However rightly concerned Lammy was on the need to address this challenge as it provides a potential indicator to future increases and more entrenched ethnic disproportionality across the system, his terms of references focused on the system at the point of charge, and lacked the scope to get to the root causes. There needs to be a much greater focus on custody and youth-offending services and we hope the YJB will rise to this challenge but the pathways into the youth justice system must also be part of the scope of any strategy to address ethnic disproportionality in the system.

What is going on for BAME children within our schools particularly around school exclusions, amongst children cared for by the state, Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services and of course policing must be part of any over arching comprehensive strategy. This will necessitate bringing into scope a number of government departments and local agencies.

The opportunity offered by the Government’s race disparity audit to coordinate efforts across government to address a challenge of multi faceted disadvantage is in our opinion one the government should grasp. BTEG with the Young Review will be raising this with David Liddington MP in his new role as Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Overall we welcome the Government’s response which should create the kind of framework for addressing ethnic disproportionality within the justice system in the long term that the Young Review called for in 2014. This will not be an overnight fix but should help to ensure that ethnic disproportionality and improving outcomes for BAME communities is a priority in how our justice system operates and develops.  

Photo credit: Policy Exchange via

Some myths young people have about volunteering……

Jan 31, 2018
……and how to dispel them

There is a need to promote volunteering to young people. Despite the benefits they are often unwilling to volunteer. 

Some of the reasons for their reluctance, and how you can counter them, are:

  • They are reluctant to work for free If money is their goal point out the long-term affect volunteering might have on their earning potential. It could help them get a place at college or university and may help them into a higher paid job in the long run.

  • They see it as ‘slave labour’ Many young people believe that volunteers do mundane tasks that no one else in an organisation wants to do. This is not the case. There are many volunteer roles available and young people can choose what kind of work they want to do, depending on their interests. Although they cannot pay them, organisations value their volunteers greatly. Volunteers increase the organisation’s capacity, allowing it to do work that otherwise would not be done.

  • They think they are not old enough In principle anyone can volunteer as long as they are able to do the task required. In reality, it is harder for under-16s to find opportunities because of the capacity, policies and insurance of the individual organisations using volunteers. However, under-16s should not be put off and should seek support and advice from appropriate sources.

  • They don’t have time There is often a misunderstanding about how much time volunteering takes up. Some people think it’s a great deal of time but actually volunteering opportunities can be as little as a couple of hours a month.

  • It’s just ‘not cool’ Volunteering has an image problem. Many young people think people like them just don’t do, it’s just for the elderly or unemployed for example. This is untrue. Thousands of young people across the country volunteer successfully in interesting and meaningful positions.

  • They cannot afford travel expenses etc. Volunteers should not be out of pocket by their volunteering and most organisations will reimburse travel costs.

  • They are concerned about police checks People working with vulnerable groups will need to be checked under the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme, whatever their age. This is the organisation’s responsibility and there is no cost involved to the individual. For young people with a criminal record, a record check can be daunting, though many offences don’t prohibit a person from volunteering. Each case is different and whether or not a young person will be accepted for a role will depend on the offense itself and the individual policy of the organisation. Volunteers must also be prepared to wait several weeks for their record check. This requires them to plan ahead.

  • They ‘can’t be bothered’ Volunteering is a choice not a punishment. People should not be forced to volunteer but point out the advantages to them.

For more information, contact Tebussum Rashid


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