Racist violence continues to be a serious problem in Britain. In 2009/10 more than 50,000 racist incidents were recorded by the police in England & Wales; 10,000 of these were in the London. However, the British Crime Survey suggested that the actual number of such incidents was around 200,000 annually. A report by the Runnymede Trust, which we part-funded, suggests that work to challenge racist attitudes and reduce the incidents of racial violence amongst young people is scarce given the scale of the problem. As part of our work to tackle racist violence, we have funded Leap Confronting Conflict, Working with Men, and Searchlight Educational Trust.
We worked on this issue from 2012 to 2013.
What was the issue?
Racist violence continues to be a serious problem in Britain. In 2009/10 more than 50,000 racist incidents were recorded by the police in England & Wales; 10,000 of these were in the London. However, the British Crime Survey suggested that the actual number of such incidents was around 200,000 annually. A report by the Runnymede Trust, Preventing Racist Violence, Work with Actual and Potential Perpetrators (2005), which the Trust part-funded, suggested that work to challenge racist attitudes and reduce the incidents of racial violence amongst young people is scarce given the scale of the problem.
What did we do?
Three organisations Leap Confronting Conflict, Working with Men, and Searchlight Educational Trust were funded to develop new ways of working with young people to prevent them becoming involved in racist violence. The projects were located in three areas of London – Barking and Dagenham, Thamesmead and Bexley – areas which had a mix of characteristics including pockets of deprivation and fast changing demographics with newer migrants communities settling. The Initiative initially ran from 2007-10, but was extended with further funding for Working with Men to encourage schools and colleges to adopt new approaches as part of their curriculum, which will conclude in 2014.
In 2012, we hosted an open space event to discuss ‘Are you saying I’m racist?’ and in January 2013 we teamed up with the Runnymede Trust and the RSA to host a Race Debate: Do racists have a right to be heard? This resulted in a lively debate with contributions from Sunder Katwala, director, British Future; Catherine Fieschi, director, Counterpoint; Nigel Warburton, philosopher and author of Free Speech: A Very Short Introduction; and Kirsty Hughes, chief executive, Index on Censorship.
What did we learn?
Raising awareness around identity issues, and challenging racist attitudes and stereotypes, can help to prevent involvement in racist violence, especially in deprived areas experiencing rapid demographic change. Practitioners themselves need awareness and skill to undertake prevention work effectively, and should obtain training and specialist advice where necessary. Training young people themselves to act as peer educators around race and identity issues can make a major contribution to preventive work.
For policy-makers and funders
Youth policy needs to include a specific and explicit focus on the need to prevent racist violence. There is a need to stimulate further work aimed at preventing racist violence among young people possibly as an explicit sub-theme within broader funded programmes addressing policy areas such as youth work, anti-social behaviour, and community cohesion. Initiatives should include provision for multi-agency cooperation, and for ensuring sustainability and mainstreaming subsequently.
What evidence was there?
An external evaluation of the work was undertaken by Sarah Isal, Robin Oakley and Aine Woods of the Runnymede Trust.
What was achieved?
The overarching outcome of the Initiative was to provide insights into the value of this work and to develop tools that could be used by practitioners. Project outcomes also indicated that targeted work on tackling racism by providing safe space for young people to discuss their views, with skilled staff, could have an influence on changing attitudes. There was also evidence that work in schools with young people at risk of exclusion due to their overt racism and challenging behaviour, on issues of conflict resolution and identity, resulted in a significant change in attitude and reduced risk of exclusion.
A policy roundtable was organised in November 2011 with Andrew Stunell MP (then Minister for Race Equality and Cohesion), civil servants, a number of lead agencies and representatives of the projects and a follow up meeting was held with a Department of Communities and Local Government policy lead to discuss the work in more detail.