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Early intervention, race and ethnicity: making it work for all children

Questions around race equality and how structural racism affects the outcomes of Black, Asian and ethnic minority children must be addressed to ensure that all children have the opportunity to realise their full potential. EIF's Jo Casebourne and Freyja Fischer introduce our partnership with the Race Equality Foundation and how it will shape our research focus and practice going forward, along with our commitment to tackling racism as an employer to create a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Race equality is key to EIF’s vision that all children are able to achieve their full potential, and our mission to see effective early intervention being used to improve the lives of all children at risk of poor outcomes.  

This week EIF embarks on a new journey. With the help of the Race Equality Foundation, we will be challenging ourselves to ask difficult questions about practice and focus in our research. By doing so, we can play our part in creating a fairer society, by focusing on how early intervention can do more to improve outcomes for Black and Asian children and children from other ethnic minority groups.  

Ten years ago, former MP Graham Allen published the first of his independent reports for government, which led to the creation of EIF. He made a strong case then for why early intervention matters, and the case is even stronger now. EIF has used the past decade to build up a solid evidence base around the importance of early intervention for policymakers and practitioners, in areas ranging from child development and adverse childhood experiences, to reducing parental conflict and tackling youth violence. We have always worked hard to put evidence at the heart of everything we do, to ensure the best possible outcomes for children. But we haven’t focused yet on how outcomes for children can differ depending on their racial and ethnic background. 

The evidence is telling us that specific groups of children are being left behind. For example:  

  • Black, Asian and ethnic minority households in the UK are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as their white counterparts, and socioeconomic context has a huge impact on children’s development.  
  • Black Caribbean children are more than twice as likely to receive a permanent school exclusion than the school population as a whole. 
  • 50% of young people held in youth custody are from a BAME background.   

With many racial disparities now widening as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is crucial to shine a light on the role that race and ethnicity play in influencing children’s outcomes. This is what our work with the Race Equality Foundation is designed to help us do over the next four months. We will discuss where we can best add value to the evidence base, and how race and ethnicity impact on children’s outcomes across our areas of focus. The former could lead us to do a deep dive in one race-related focus area; the latter will mean developing a framework to support our researchers to apply a race and ethnicity lens to all our projects. We have a lot to learn, including on some of the fundamental questions about whether the labels and categories of ‘race’ provide valid and useful frames of reference for understanding society. 

Once we have developed specific project ideas and addressed improvements to our current approach to allow us to take race and ethnicity into account, we can decide which areas of research on racial inequality we should prioritise. We will integrate our insights not only into our evidence generation projects, but also into our work to change policy and practice. In this way, we will be ensuring that our work programme reflects the need to prioritise those children most affected by the pandemic, including those facing the impact of structural racism. 

In parallel with our collaboration with the Race Equality Foundation, we are also examining how we can do more to tackle racism as an employer and as a partner and commissioner of services. We’ve started with a diversity and inclusion audit; we are developing a new diversity and inclusion strategy; and we’ve established a steering group, chaired by two of our trustees, to keep us on track and accountable.  We are committed to creating an inclusive workplace where everyone feels valued and respected because of their difference, where every member of staff can be themselves so they can reach their potential and help us to reach our goals.  

In the months ahead, we will be talking about what we are doing and sharing the results of this work, and we will be doing as much as we can to learn from others along the way. 

About the author

Dr Jo Casebourne

Jo is CEO at What Works for Early Intervention and Children's Social Care.