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Introducing SpeakOut: a vital chance to learn more about Black, Asian and minority ethnic families’ experiences of seeking support

Published

19 Jan 2022

Hannah Wilson introduces SpeakOut, a new project and survey developed by EIF with partners, designed to increase our understanding of what works in family support, particularly for families from minority ethnic backgrounds, and to inform recommendations on building a system that provides effective support for everyone who needs it.

Our research into the issues affecting children, young people and families looks at a range of policy and public service areas, from social work to health to education to justice. Across all of these areas, there are large and worrying inequalities in many of the outcomes experienced by minority ethnic groups, compared with White British peers or the population as a whole.

For instance, the proportion of children who are on protection plans or looked after is relatively stable across age groups among White British children, but among mixed ethnicity, Asian and Black children, it steadily increases with age. Infant mortality rates tend to be higher from groups including Black Caribbean, other Black and Pakistani groups, while access to community mental health services is lower for Black African, Asian and other White mothers. Other Asian, other White and Asian Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani parents are significantly less likely to use formal childcare, which can support children’s healthy development. School achievement rates vary across ethnic groups – for example, with a below-average proportion of Asian Bangladeshi and Black African young people getting three or more As at A-levels – and school exclusion rates are higher among certain minority ethnic groups.

This is not to say that ethnicity is predictive of these outcomes, but disparities are clear, potential indicators of unmet needs in too many families and communities. Where there are stark differences in outcomes, this may reflect stark differences in how support services are designed, who they reach, how they operate, and who does or doesn’t benefit as a result.

At EIF, we believe that effective family support has a crucial role to play in helping to address many of these issues early, preventing problems before they arise, or working to reduce their severity before they become entrenched in a young person’s life. Family support – which takes many forms, working at the national, local and community level – can look at the issues a family is facing in the round, provide more holistic solutions, and help to bolster a family’s own skills, resilience and resources to tackle challenges in the future.

However, there is currently very little data available on how minority ethnic families interact with family support services, what enables them to form a strong and trusting relationship with practitioners and service providers, and what experiences they may have that are perhaps alienating or preventing them from receiving timely support. It is unclear how early interactions shape families’ perceptions of services, which roles organisations and individuals across sectors can play in supporting families effectively, and how the foundations for a collaborative, inclusive, and enabling relationship between families and service providers can best be laid. If family support is to play a leading role in helping to address some of the disparities listed above, then we need to understand much more about how the current family support system is serving the needs of these families.

Today we are very pleased to launch SpeakOut, a research project designed to start filling this gap. At its heart, SpeakOut is a short online survey designed, with support from families, to gather experiences, views and ideas from young people and parents from Black, Asian and minority ethnic families. We want to understand how easy it is to find support, whether it is meeting families’ needs and how things could be made better. We will use these stories to inform the advice we develop for those working nationally and locally to improve the help and support available to families through current commitments such as Family Hubs and the expansion of the Supporting Families programme. This work will help form recommendations on what types of family support are needed, how to ensure wide and fair access, and what makes support effective in terms of improving the lives of those who need it.

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We are very glad to have two invaluable partners in the SpeakOut project – the Race Equality Foundation, with whom EIF has been working for more than a year to help shape our approach to reflecting issues of ethnicity and diversity both in our organisation and our research work; and Action for Children, who bring a wealth of experience and insight in conducting research that incorporates and amplifies the voices of young people.

You can find out more about SpeakOut at SpeakOut.Family. We want to hear from young people and parents from Black, Asian and minority ethnic families, and to reach as wide an audience as we can with this work. If you are able to spread the word to organisations, groups or individuals in your area, or through your work, please do share the resources available on the SpeakOut website.

We believe that every family should be able to get the support they need, when they need it, no matter their background. It is vital that family support services can support all families, from all ethnic backgrounds, to reduce the risks that can arise in young people’s lives. We hope that SpeakOut, and the stories we gather through it, will help to ensure that services are more likely to be more effective for more families in the future.

About the author

Hannah Wilson

Hannah is senior adviser for impact and improving evaluation at EIF.