Police and other people who work with young people in Hackney have to show how they are tackling racism, a safeguarding expert has warned.
Jim Gamble, the independent child safeguarding commissioner, said: “Racism is a real problem. It is a safeguarding issue and it undermines the opportunities for some young people to thrive in an environment that should be supportive.”
His annual report into children’s safeguarding in Hackney comes in the wake of the Child Q scandal, which saw a Black schoolgirl, who was on her period, taken out of a mock exam and strip-searched by police.
The teenager’s schoolteachers wrongly thought that she might be in possession of cannabis.
Gamble pulled no punches and said people have to step up to ensure racism is stamped out and does not blight the lives of local youngsters.
He said: “Denying it exists is simply not good enough. Nor is hiding beneath the umbrella of unconscious bias.
“Beyond a written commitment, training and awareness-raising, we expect all partners to be actively anti-racist. This means being able to evidence what they have done, who they have challenged and the sanctions, where appropriate, that they have applied.”
He said organisations may say they are anti-racist but they have to prove it through their actions.
“This is an issue of how harm manifests itself to young Black people in Hackney,” he added.
“One individual is not going to make a difference to a problem that has spanned generations, so we’ve got to make sure that the leadership that is pursuing this is doing so at all levels and in all places.”
Gamble told the council’s children and young people scrutiny committee this week that teenagers have told him about their concerns in dealing with the police and other organisations.
“There is of course the issue of policing but other areas, be it health, education , social care – they don’t escape scepticism,” he said.
He thinks it is crucial to “make sure that our children are seen, that we listen and hear what they say, and we evidence what we’ve done to help them”.
In its review of the Child Q case, the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership recommended that police undertake training on “adultification” – where children, especially Black youngsters, are treated as adults.
Gamble said some senior officers had struggled with accepting that adultification is a form of racism.
Police have been undergoing training to make them aware of the issues, and more than 400 City and Hackney officers have been trained so far.
Children and their families who have contact with safeguarding agencies are now seeing change, Gamble reported.
The Independent Office of Police Conduct is yet to publish the report of its investigation into the Child Q scandal.News