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Thematic inspection on the experiences of black and mixed heritage boys

In October 2021, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation released their latest findings on the experiences of black and mixed heritage boys in the youth justice system.

From inspecting nine different youth offending services (YOSs), and interviewing over 80 service users in five areas, they found that the quality of service delivery to black and mixed heritage boys tended to be overwhelmingly poorer than that of work delivered to their peers.

Justin Russell, Chief Inspector of HMIP commented: 

There is a disproportionate number of black and mixed heritage boys in the youth justice system. Addressing this disparity has been a long-standing goal, but we found a lack of clarity and curiosity about why this disparity exists and what needs to be done to change it.

Key statistics from the report:

  • 60% of those interviewed had been excluded from school, the majority permanently
  • Almost a third had been a victim of criminal exploitation
  • Half of the boys (where recorded) had experienced racial discrimination
  • A third were subject to Child Protection or Child in Need processes
  • A quarter (where recorded) the number of cases in which the child had a disability

Members event and EQUAL's response:

We were delighted to welcome Justin Russell to EQUAL's Independent Advisory Group meeting in December 2021, where members had the opportunity to discuss the report, their key areas of concern and feedback where pressure is most urgently needed.

EQUAL members welcomed the report and HMIP's plans to revisit this thematic in two years' time to revisit the status of its recommendations.

The Effective practice guide: Black and mixed heritage boys in the youth justice system for Youth Offending Teams, which was released shortly after the report, was also well received for its specialist insight.

Whilst these are positive steps, we were disappointed in the continued disproportionately and consistently poorer outcomes experienced by black and mixed heritage boys in the youth justice system, and the blocks to progress the sector is facing four years since the Lammy Review and David Lammy MP's clear concerns with the youth justice system as a key priority.

Jeremy Crooke OBE, Vice Chair of EQUAL commented:

This is a systemic problem that requires a systemic response from the whole CJS. We have to consider the high rates of exclusion, and the factors behind that; the low uptake of mental health support; the nuanced training staff require to build positive relationships with black and minority ethnic young people; and the culture of support that is needed for BAME staff in probation and prisons to be able to do their job properly - if the needs of these young black boys are to be met.

Members also highlighted that procurement and commissioning of resource for black and Asian specialist organisations was an important way to deliver effective solutions. We called on better and faster commissioning, and more resource, for smaller organisations who have direct expertise with young people and practitioners on the ground.