The Race Equality Foundation facilitated six ‘action learning sets’ and supported them to develop better practice to safeguard black and minority ethnic children.
Evaluation indicates that the participants found learning sets a useful way to reflect on practice. The project highlighted a number of important issues:
Recording and using ethnic data
- The data collection currently required by the DfES is of limited value in analysing practice and tracking decision making.
- Identifying information gaps relating to black and minority ethnic families could lead to improved data collection and address current shortfalls in practice.
- Understanding which factors have influenced practitioners’ decisions is vital to safe practice with black and minority ethnic children.
- Although ethnicity is usually recorded, the extent to which race and culture have influenced practice is not usually included in case write-ups.
- Time pressures mean that it is often difficult to reflect on the influence of race and culture during day-to-day supervision.
- Both practitioners and supervisors should explore the basis of their own professional judgement, considering the influence and place of personal values or race and culture in decision making.
Culture vs. individual nature of families
- Making safe decisions about families requires that information is analysed in context.
- Family history and functioning can be understood using the ‘Assessment Triangle’. This avoids stereotyping or generalised notions of common culture, by exploring social, cultural and environmental factors on a family- by- family basis
- Understanding how culture shapes parental values can also help professionals to understand the context in which abuse occurs, and to work with families to develop appropriate safeguarding strategies.
- However, while cultural differences exist, black and minority ethnic children should not suffer harm because professionals are fearful of being accused of racism.
Developing culturally specific services
- Services and resources are often unsuited to the needs of black and minority ethnic families.
- In particular, specialist services such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Teams, Child and Family Consultation Services and locally based therapeutic resources are often ill equipped to offer culturally specific services.
- This lack of suitability means that black and minority ethnic families are frequently reluctant to use services.
- Many authorities also lack workers from shared community backgrounds or who have an understanding of community languages or cultures.
- However, ‘matching’ the ethnicity of workers to families is not foolproof, and other factors should be taken into account.
- Equally, while black and minority workers do have expertise, they may not want to be seen as ‘cultural experts’.