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Press release

Family support services need to do more to meet the needs of minority ethnic families

Research with minority ethnic young people and their families finds their initial contact with services can be off-putti


30 Jun 2022


This release is based on speaking to minority ethnic young people and their families about their experiences when it comes to family support services.

A new report out today, led by the Early Intervention Foundation in partnership with the Race Equality Foundation and Action for Children, has found that minority ethnic families and young people face additional challenges when they seek early help or family support.   

The research found that young people's first experience when trying to get help can be negative and off-putting. This could have long-term consequences for those young people and families, if it discourages or prevents them from seeking help from trained professionals and services that should be able to support their health and wellbeing, or undermines the effectiveness of the support that they do receive. Some minority ethnic families were proactively seeking support but encountered multiple barriers in doing so, despite repeatedly trying to get the right help.  

The report also found experiences of racism and discrimination were commonly reported among the parents and young people who participated in the research. Young people and their families reported experiencing racism and discrimination, both when it came to accessing family support services and once they were receiving support from services. Respondents also identified a lack of cultural sensitivity within family support services.   

The researchers heard from a parent who said: “There were clear disparities. There were clear differences in the way that my family were treated, my son in particular, and there were racial overtones that were clearly defined.”  

Other experiences reported through the research included that young people and their families felt they were treated unfairly by family support professionals, or that they felt that they were not understood.   

The report states that “participants told us that they did not feel heard, understood, validated or empowered” and that "parents and young people told us about their experiences of not being listened to or not being taken seriously when they had reached out for support.”  

Those taking part in the research also said that the support they received would sometimes make no difference or even made things worse for them.  

A young person told the researchers: “I had one session for my mental health where I was told that my feelings were my own fault, and I should basically fix my own problems and I’d feel better. I wasn’t taken seriously at all, so I suffered for three years before I managed to take the plunge and actually ask for mental health help again, but I was still very wary of this process.”  

Dr Jo Casebourne, chief executive of the Early Intervention Foundation said: “This report shows that too many minority ethnic families face additional challenges when they seek early help or family support. Worryingly, these challenges include experiences of racism and discrimination.  

Racism and discrimination have no place in services for families. The success of family support relies on strong, trusting relationships between families and professionals.  

“High-quality family support, delivered in the right way at the right time, can make a real difference for children and their families. There are stark and persistent ethnic inequalities across a whole set of critical child outcomes – such as school readiness and academic attainment – where we know that effective early support could have an impact. It is vital that public services, designed to provide support to all families, are accessible and effective for everyone who needs their help.”  

One young person commented: “The people who came and the people who ended up trying to help me were not helpful at all and just made me feel like my problems aren’t really problems.”  

Young people and parents suggested a number of solutions. For example, one young person said: “Having support staff and professionals from a diverse background means that families from different ethnicities may find it easier to find people who have a better understanding of them as a person and their background, instead of someone who will treat them more like a client.”  

Jabeer Butt OBE, CEO of the Race Equality Foundation said: "Trying to get support shouldn't be an uphill battle. But this report reveals major roadblocks for minority ethnic young people and their families, not only in terms of the lack of knowledge about support available but also in terms of poor experiences when support was actually sought, including treatment by practitioners and the quality of support offered. The long-term effects that racism and discrimination can have on people's wellbeing and willingness to seek help in future cannot be underestimated. Effective early support is a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to improving life outcomes for young people, so it's essential that the recommendations of this work are acted upon urgently."  

Joe Lane, head of policy at Action for Children, said: “This report highlights many of the barriers minority ethnic families face when accessing support services. It is not right that these families struggle to get the help they need to give their children the best start in life.

“The family help system must be reformed so that children and young people get the right type of support, in the right manner, at the right time. The government must also grasp the opportunity provided by the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care to give family support the strong legal backing it needs.”


The three charities say that the rollout of Family Hubs has the potential to improve the accessibility of services, build closer connections between services and the communities they serve, and reduce the number and complexity of relationships with services and agencies that families seeking help need to sustain. Alongside this, the recommendations of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, if accepted by the Government and implemented well, could enable a step-change in the availability and quality of early help and family support services.   

Other recommendations from the report:  

·       All services working with children and families must embed effective approaches to eradicate racist and discriminatory practices.    

·       Initial interactions with support services are critical. Local areas must make the idea of ‘no wrong door’ a reality - whereby local areas ensure first impressions of family support services are positive, integrated and joined up, so every route to support is welcoming and so minority ethnic people get the right help at the right time.  

·       Early help and wider family support services must be designed to better respond to the needs of minority ethnic families.  

·       Workforce planning in relation to early help and wider family support services must include a focus on the skills needed to build trusting relationships with minority ethnic families.  




The research project was guided by parents and young people with experience of seeking or accessing family support, as well as by an advisory board. We collected two strands of primary data. The first was a qualitative survey with 102 parents and 59 young people; the second was a series of complementary focus groups, including two sessions with young people and one with parents. We analysed the data using descriptive statistics and thematic analysis.  

Definition of family support services   

For the purposes of our research, we have defined family support as any service designed to help children and families deal with challenges, including but not limited to universal services such as GPs, health visitors and schools, and targeted services including Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), children’s social services and early help services.  

Media Contact   

Andy Ross, Senior Press Officer – 07949 339 975 /       


Early Intervention Foundation 

The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) is an independent charity that champions and supports the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children and young people at risk of experiencing negative outcomes. For more information, see:     

The Race Equality Foundation 

The Race Equality Foundation is a national charity tackling racial inequality across public services to improve the lives of Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. We do this by: 

•          Exploring what is known about discrimination and disadvantage 

•          Developing evidence-based better practice to promote equality 

•          Sharing better practice through educational activities, conferences, written & online material 

•          Working with national and local partners from the community, voluntary, statutory and social enterprise sectors. 

The Foundation was established in 1987 as part of the National Institute for Social Work and was known as the Race Equality Unit. It became an independent charitable organisation in 1995, and in 2006, changed its name to the Race Equality Foundation. 

Action for Children 

Action for Children protects and supports vulnerable children and young people by providing practical and emotional care and support, ensuring their voices are heard and campaigning to bring lasting improvements to their lives. With 512 services across the UK, in schools and online, in 2020/21 we helped 604,885 children, young people and families.

About the contributor

Dr Jo Casebourne

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