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T2A Chair Leroy Logan MBE reflects on the findings of the Alliance for Youth Justice’s (AYJ) briefing paper on the transition from the youth to adult justice system – focusing on the experiences of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic young people.

A Black person with a grey beard, blue suit, and glasses

A spotlight on racial disparities

As the briefing suggests, young people who turn 18 while in contact with the justice system face a steep cliff edge. Studies show that this age is a crucial turning point where many young people begin to desist from crime with the right support and interventions. But rather than take advantage of this capacity for change, statutory services fall away. For Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic young people, the transition to the adult justice system can be even more challenging. 

This latest briefing from AYJ has cast a harsh spotlight on the failings of our justice system to address the racial disparities that have blighted many young people’s lives. From an early age, many Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic young people find themselves associated with criminal stereotypes. Labelling young people in this way is incredibly damaging, eroding self-belief and making it harder to move towards a pro-social identity. Once Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic children enter the justice system, they are less likely to be diverted, more likely to receive harsher sentences, and more likely to be sent to custody, sentenced or on remand, compared to white children. 

“Guilty before proven innocent… you kind of learn authority figures don’t actually care.” – (Young person) 

This can create a huge gulf in understanding and trust between Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic young adults and the professionals working in the system.  Sadly, these findings confirm what many of us working in the sector already expected. That’s why I welcome AYJ drilling down into the causes of this crisis, and what needs to change to deliver better outcomes. Too often, we focus solely on what’s not working and forget that we must create a roadmap for the future we wish to see. 

An over-stretched and under-resourced system

It’s clear that even with a diverse workforce, culturally competent training, and the best will in the world, the probation service is struggling to keep its head above water.  A professional quoted in the briefing had this to say: “Record levels of staff sickness, extended sick leave, people fleeing the service in droves – that then exacerbates every other issue we have. We can’t be ambitious, we can’t be progressive, we can’t make many changes if you’re barely able to keep the regime running.” There are many admirable professionals working in the system who want to do better for young adults, but they don’t have the time, resources, or support to implement creative approaches.  Without sufficient investment, the system can barely meet young adults’ basic needs – let alone support them to take steps towards a more positive future.  

Collaboration with the VCSE sector

In this depressing climate, the work of voluntary and community organisations has become even more vital.  Specialist Black and Ethnic Minority-led organisations have an intimate understanding of the communities Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic young people come from and how their experiences inform their behaviour and identity. As the research highlights, these grassroots organisations are well placed to provide nuanced support that recognises these young people’s overlapping needs – support that statutory services would struggle to provide. 

These organisations are also more likely to have lived experience embedded in their staff and support services, meaning they can provide peer mentoring and positive role models – both of which are essential components in facilitating the shift towards a pro-social identity 

Ring-fenced funding to commission specialist organisations

I believe that we could take this further by developing a model where specialist Black and Minority-Ethnic led grassroots organisations are commissioned to operate services in their communities. Funding would be ring fenced for these local organisations who have the expertise to deliver the best outcomes.  This model could be supported by local roundtables where information and knowledge are shared regularly so that young adults can access support from multiple agencies. Meeting in this way will also help criminal justice agencies better understand how these organisations are well placed to support young adults. Having buy in from all partners will be vital to the success of this model. 

The Newham Transition to Adulthood Hub is a great example of how this approach can work in practice. They have a wide variety of services in one space, so staff can consult each other on individual cases and referrals to different services are much easier and more efficient. Regular spotlight sessions are held where different teams share their expertise and explain how their services can benefit young adults.  

Grassroots organisations excluded from funding opportunities

Unfortunately, the AYJ’s report found that organisations with strong community links and knowledge are effectively excluded from funding opportunities. They lack the resources to compete with larger organisations who can meet the excessive commissioning processes and compliance requirements demanded by the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS.  However, many of these larger organisations lack the knowledge and cultural competence to successfully deliver these services. Shockingly, they often sub-contract their services at a lower rate to the very grassroots organisations that have been denied a place at the table. 

It is crucial that the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS immediately reform VCS funding allocation so that specialist Black and Minority-Ethnic led grassroots organisations can build the capacity of their services – ensuring every young person receives age-appropriate, trauma-informed, culturally competent services that reflect their entire lived experience. 

We are very pleased to cross-post this introductory blog by Action for Race Equality’s new Head of Policy, Meka Beresford.  In it she reflects on recent statements on policing and racism across England and Wales, and the implications for advancing race equality work.

Last week Home Secretary Suella Braverman urged police forces to increase the use of stop and search. In a statement addressed to all 43 forces across England and Wales, Braverman stated that officers would have her “full support” to increase use of the tactic.

While the Home Secretary cannot make police forces increase the use of stop and search, as they operate separately from government, it will undoubtedly impact young, Black boys, men and other ethnic minority people, who are disproportionately targeted by police when using stop and search powers.

Suella Braverman’s statement has come soon after His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) published its annual ‘State of Policing’ report which assesses policing in England and Wales in 2022.

In his report, Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke described widespread systemic failings in both the police and the criminal justice system, and called for ‘definitive action’ which would address these failings and seek to restore public trust in the police force.

Failures to fulfil basic, fundamental duties and issues with governance and leadership were highlighted as key issues, as well as a need to target resources on crimes that ‘matter the most to the public’.

Despite acknowledging systemic failings across the criminal justice system, the annual report crucially fails to meaningfully reflect on racism and the detrimental impact institutionally racist practices have had, particularly on young Black men. Rather, the Chief Inspector encouraged the use of stop and search powers, deeming it an effective crime deterrent, even if it “polarises the public”.

The Chief Inspector went on to note that disproportionality in stop and search rates could not be explained by disproportionality in crime victimisation rates – with people from Black, Asian or ethnic minority communities almost twice as likely as the wider public to know a knife crime victim or to have been one themselves. This was not evidence of racism within policing, the Chief Inspector said.

“There needs to be better evaluation and more research to measure disproportionality and the effectiveness of stop and search to fully understand how it affects certain communities and deters crime…This research could have a meaningful effect on police practice and help forces make sure that they use stop and search effectively and fairly.”

Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke QPM DL

But we already have the research. According to Home Office data published on stop and search and arrests for year ending 31 March 2021, individuals from a Black or Black British background are seven times more likely to be searched than those from a White ethnic group. Under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994) powers, which allow for ‘suspicionless’ searches, disproportionality doubled, with Black people being fourteen times more likely to be searched.

Moreover, the government’s own research suggests that stop and search is not an effective deterrent in reducing offending.

It is disappointing to see a lack of reflection on, or acknowledgement of, racism within policing in the ‘State of Policing’ report. It follows the recent unwillingness of prominent police and governmental figures to accept the existence of institutional racism in policing.

In March, the Casey Review, a year-long investigation into the standards of behaviour and internal culture of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), found the MPS to be institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic.

MPS Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley refused to accept the terminology used by Baroness Casey, but the review confirmed what Black communities, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community have known for decades – policing is broken.

Acknowledging the existence of institutional harm is just the first step in a significant journey which police forces across England and Wales will have to take in order to regain the public confidence that is necessary to effectively police. That’s why we welcomed chief constable Sarah Crew acknowledging that her own force, Avon and Somerset Police, is institutionally racist.

With two out of the 43 police forces having been formally described as institutionally racist, other forces would do well to review services in line with the criteria used within the Casey review and accept reality.

Beyond this basic recognition, there is an urgency for the government to identify and enact effective policies which will tackle violent crime without discriminating against young Black, Asian, and mixed heritage people. This should start as early as the classroom – reversing cuts to education and ending exclusions, in order to foster a society which values our young people, rather than criminalising them as children.

For Action for Race Equality (ARE), having a more equal society means young people will be able to believe that their race, ethnicity or faith will not limit what they can achieve in life, and I look forward to helping the organisation work towards this goal in my new role.

Author: Meka Beresford, Head of Policy

This blog was originally written for T2A (Transition to Adulthood) by Chair, Leroy Logan MBE.  He reflects on the lack of progress on the Lammy Review recommendations and what this means for young Black and minority ethnic adults. 

Last week, Prison Reform Trust published an update on the progress of the Lammy Review’s prison recommendations. Commenting, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said: 

“More than five years on since David Lammy’s review revealed the shocking extent of racial disproportionality in our criminal justice system, our report shows that many of the issues he identified remain stubbornly persistent.” 

Of course, I welcome the transparency that this analysis brings. However, as someone who has worked tirelessly throughout my career to create a fairer criminal justice system, I am bitterly disappointed by the government’s lack of progress on its commitments. 

In his 2018 Perrie Lecture, David Lammy said: “You cannot be in the criminal justice business and not be in the race business.” 

And one cannot support children and young adults in the criminal justice system without being uncomfortably aware of the deep-seated racial disparities that exist. According to the Ministry of Justice’s statistics, over 40% of 18-24 year olds in custody are young Black and minority ethnic adults. 

That’s why the work of T2A is hugely important. Together with T2A Alliance members, we’re doing all we can to ensure that every young adult in the criminal justice system gets the support they need, based on their ongoing maturity and not simply on their chronological age. 

We often speak to practitioners across HMPPS who want to do more to support young Black and minority ethnic adults, so we must continue to create accessible resources and tools that enable them to do so.24 year olds in custody are young Black and minority ethnic adults. 

Training materials should cover everything from understanding how to talk about race and increasing cultural awareness, to learning more about implicit bias and discrimination. Listening to Black and minority ethnic organisations and the young adult they support will ensure these materials are grounded in lived experience. Spark Inside’s recent #BeingWellBeingEqual report highlighted the importance of this approach, and how promoting young Black men’s wellbeing can help them unlock their full potential. 

Learning how to support young adults to move from a pro-offending to pro-social identity will also be crucial. With a stronger insight into how identity and trauma inform behaviour, staff will be able to develop more positive relationships with the young Black and minority ethnic adults in their care. 

I know that the scale of the challenges we face may feel insurmountable at times. Many people, myself included, are rightly disappointed that so little has changed since David Lammy’s landmark review five years ago. 

But we must not let this deter us. We must harness this energy and relentlessly focus on the work ahead of us. And if you’re feeling a tad cynical, which is completely understandable, I invite you to delve into the power of optimism. 

Want to learn more about how to support young adults in the justice system? 



T2A Chair, Leroy Logan, blogs about the relevance and importance of Spark Inside’s new report, Being Well, Being Equal. This blog was initially posted on the T2A website.

“I was quite positive when I went inside and I think the system strips you of that. And once it has been stripped you then have the issue of well, trying to get that back and they are not putting support in place to rebuild that.” (Young adult, Being Well Being Equal Report)

When we see young adults in the criminal justice system solely as people to be punished, we deny them the opportunity to forge a better future. We rob them of their full potential. If we don’t rehabilitate young adults at this crucial juncture in their development, the desistance process becomes much more complex after the age of 25 due to the “scarring effect” of “new adversities which are emergent in adulthood” (University of Edinburgh Study March 2022).

Prisons should focus on the rehabilitation of every individual. Young adults who are given the chance to grow, develop and realise their potential during their time in prison are less likely to reoffend – and more likely to positively contribute to society.  This is exemplified in a new report from Spark Inside. Its detailed paper Being Well, Being Equal contains a comprehensive list of recommendations on how we can prioritise the wellbeing of young men, and particularly young Black men in the criminal justice system. Spark Inside’s recommendations could not be more timely when we consider the scale of the challenges young adults face.

A 2021 thematic report from HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (HMIP) on the outcomes of young adults in custody stated: “if action is not taken, outcomes for this group and society will remain poor for the next decade and beyond.” The December 2022 HMIP thematic review into the experiences of adult black male prisoners and black prison staff found that lack of trust in prison staff was a significant barrier to asking for support.

“Prisoners generally had low expectations of the help that they might be given if they needed support; some gave examples of times when they or friends had sought support and not received it, and others did not feel that staff had the cultural sensitivity, expertise or experience to help them, and therefore did not want to ask for help.” (HMIP, 2022)

This places young Black men in the criminal justice system in an incredibly vulnerable position – one where they feel unable to seek help from the very people who have a duty of care to keep them safe.

The evidence is clear. We must act now. But where to start? Spark Inside believes we need to listen to the voices and experiences of young adults and the organisations that advocate on their behalf. Involving Black-led and Black specialist organisations in the development of wellbeing strategies will lead to greater engagement and trust on both sides – creating an approach to young Black men’s mental health and wellbeing that considers their distinct needs.

Empowering young adults to play a role in shaping policy and practice is also key. Being able to actively participate in matters that have a huge impact on their lives will boost their self-confidence, self-esteem, sense of agency, and wellbeing. Spark Inside have rightly identified that training and coaching will be vital to see through the report’s recommendations.

Many prison and probation officers want to do more to support young adults, but they don’t have the resources, time or support. HMPPS ringfencing time for staff to receive specialist training will help them understand how to effectively meet the needs of young adults – leading to more open and positive relationships. It will also help people working across the prison estate to explore and challenge discriminatory attitudes towards young adults, particularly young Black adults.

Right now, with organisations like Spark Inside working directly with young adults, we have a chance to create a criminal justice system that focuses on rehabilitation rather than punishment. A system where young adults can gain the skills and confidence they need to thrive. A system where every young adult can unlock their full potential. But we need to grab this chance with both hands if we are to ever make it a reality.


This blog, written by Debbie Pippard, Director of Programmes at BCT, was originally posted in Equally Ours on 3 December 2021. 

The Funders for Race Equality Alliance is a growing network of charitable funders determined to take action to tackle racial inequity and injustice. Now with 45 members and counting, the network provides space for challenge, knowledge exchange and peer support, helping us to review the extent to which we are funding racial justice. The Alliance also tests new ways of providing, in the words of the network’s mission, ‘more and better’ funding to organisations led by and for people affected by racial inequity. Read more about the Alliance (pdf)

To help funders understand where their grants are going, and to provide a baseline against which to measure change, the Alliance developed an audit tool which can be used by funders of any size, type or specialism to analyse the extent to which their grants are supporting the race equality sector and furthering racial justice. In May 2021 we published the pooled results from the pioneers who tested the audit tool, and we have now added those from the second cohort.

The first cohort included a variety of charitable funders, including social justice funders such as the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and Barrow Cadbury Trust, a community and place-based funder, – Bedfordshire and Luton Community Foundations – as well as some bigger foundations including Esmée Fairbairn, Paul Hamlyn and Lloyds Bank Foundation.

The second cohort includes the National Lottery Community Fund, Henry Smith Charity and the People’s Health Trust, amongst others, illustrating the significant uptake of the audit tool amongst a wide spectrum of charitable funders.

Here are the results from both cohorts, which have been combined to reduce biases and give a better overall picture of where funding is going.

Racial justice funding over time

There are some notable differences in the results from the two cohorts. In the first, almost a quarter of the total grant funding provided was designed to benefit Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups, compared to only a tenth from the second. Interestingly though, the proportion of funding allocated to organisations led by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities was almost identical – 6% in the first cohort versus 5% in the second.

These figures are both much lower than we’d expect if funding were to be equitably distributed across the whole voluntary and community sector.

The second big difference is the amount of funding going to the race equality sector for service provision compared to campaigning and influencing work. Almost 80% of the funding in the second cohort went to race equality organisations for provision of direct services, compared to less than half in the first cohort. However, a very different pattern was found when we looked at campaigning and influencing work – almost a fifth of grant funding in the first cohort was given to support campaigning with a full half devoted to work aimed at creating structural change, but the funders in the second cohort spent less than 1% on this work.

The pattern will partly be due to timing – the second cohort analysed their grants during or after the big push to provide crisis grants given to help people through the Covid-19 crisis – but the second cohort may also be more typical of the foundation sector as a whole, which tends to fund much more service provision than work that directly addresses the root causes of racial injustice.

Funders are changing their grant-making practice

It’s clear that funders are eager to understand their grant-making better. Twenty funders have shared their data with us, representing more than 3,000 grants totalling £270 million, and we know others have undertaken the audit for internal purposes only. It’s clear that their findings are helping them to think and fund differently.

For example, Lloyds Foundation identified barriers to organisations led by racially minoritised groups and introduced a 25% ringfenced fund in August 2020 for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic-led charities. Its evaluation of that fund showed that it had exceeded that target, with 38% going to those organisations.

When Trust for London audited its grants, it found that while 70% of its funding would benefit racially minoritised people, only 14% went to organisations led by people from those communities. Subsequently, they are now working up plans to make a significant investment to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic-led organisations to increase their skills, capacity and policy influencing activities in tackling racial injustice. And the Smallwood Trust has also changed its processes and has seen its funding for the sector increase from 7% to 21% across its portfolio.

The audit has led to wider changes too: Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the National Lottery Community Fund supported 360Giving and the Social Investment Consultancy to develop a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion data standard for 360Giving. This will pave the way for consistent data collection that all grant makers can use and which covers all protected characteristics. We hope this will lead to more consistent reporting, greater accountability and lasting change.

Looking to the future

Now that the audit is well established, the Alliance will be publishing pooled data on a regular basis. Since these first two cohorts, we have revised our racial justice audit tool to integrate it with 360Giving’s new DEI Data Standard and to update our language and terminology around communities experiencing racial inequity. This revised tool will be published shortly.

We are confident that the changes funders have made in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, the resurgence of Black Lives Matter and the stark and long-standing inequalities brought to light by Covid-19 will show up the next time we publish audit figures. But funding behaviours and priorities have so far been reactive – we cannot continue to only fund the sector in times of recognised injustice and allow the momentum for change to seep away in the coming years. We are asking for all members of the Funders for Race Equality Alliance to commit to auditing their grant making at least every two years, to ensure a steady shift towards equity.

If you want to find out more about the Alliance or get support with undertaking the audit, please contact the Alliance Secretariat. We look forward to you joining us!


This blog by Debbie Pippard, Barrow Cadbury Trust’s Director of Programmes, was originally posted on ACEVO’s website.

The shockwaves that followed George Floyd’s murder, the distress and anger at continuing race inequality in the UK and the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on racially minoritised communities have led foundations, like much of the third sector, to reflect as never before on what we do and how we do it.  And, for the foundation sector, how we spend our money is of course of paramount importance to us and those to whom we are accountable.  So many, probably most, funders across the UK are scrutinising their grant-making, aiming to increase their impact and extend their reach and accessibility, particularly into communities and sectors that have traditionally found it more difficult to secure funds.

The Funders for Race Equality Alliance is a peer learning, support and challenge network aiming to improve practice and increase the amount of funding going towards race equality and to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic-led organisations, currently with 43 funders in membership.  Realising that we needed a benchmark of how members’ funds were being spent in order to measure progress, one of our first initiatives, in 2019, was to develop a straightforward racial justice audit tool that funders could use to analyse their portfolios as a first step in setting targets and developing strategies for change.

Developed by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, Lloyds Foundation, Power to Change and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation in consultation with the Coalition on Race Equality, the audit asks funders to analyse a sample of grants in their portfolios using four key questions: is the grant going to an organisation led by and for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people?  Is the grant intended to benefit Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people?  What is the funding for (for example capital works, services, campaigning) and, if the grant is for race equality work, is it designed to address the root causes or the consequences of structural inequality?

Recommended reading: in September 2020, following the launch of the Home Truths report, V4CE and ACEVO wrote to the 20 largest grantmakers. We asked these funders to publish data outlining the proportion of their grants that are awarded to BAME-led organisations or projects.

Composite findings from the first cohort of 13 funders to complete the audit can be found here. Of the £122 million-worth of funding audited, 23% was for work designed to benefit Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. A further 19% of funding would benefit Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups among the wider community, but was not specifically designed to meet their needs. But when we analysed the types of organisations being funded we found very much lower levels going to the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic sector: 14% went to organisations with a mission or purpose of supporting BAME or minority communities and an even lower proportion, 6%, of funded organisations were led by representatives from the communities being served.

The numbers starkly highlight a story that we already know, that relatively little funding, even from foundations with an interest in tackling race inequality, goes to organisations led by and for racially minoritised communities. But, encouragingly, the process of auditing grant portfolios has provided a stimulus for change.  Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales introduced a 25% ring-fenced fund last August for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic-led charities; the Smallwood Trust has looked at the systemic barriers to Black and Minority Ethnic women’s groups accessing grants and has increased its funding to that sector from 7% to 21% and Barrow Cadbury Trust has set aside funds that it will use, with other foundations, to co-develop a leadership offer for the Black and Minority Ethnic criminal justice sector as part of its drive to reduce the disproportionate number of people from racially minoritised communities in the criminal justice system.

The racial justice funding audit has also catalysed wider change, with 360Giving adopting a new diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) data standard to encourage funders to collect DEI data as part of standard practice, leading to a continuous cycle of improvement.

For more information about the Funders for Race Equality Alliance, get in touch via email and follow FREA on Twitter. Please note that the Alliance does not provide funds; it is a learning network for funders.


This blog on racial justice in the VCS comes from Jeremy Crook OBE, Chief Executive of BTEG.  It was planned as one of our 2020 centenary blogs.  December’s Covid-related events pushed it into January – but it’s much too good to miss. 

The Trust has had a strong involvement in racial justice issues over many decades.  But this is a challenge to our own governance and management, and we are very aware that our board and senior management team are not sufficiently racially diverse.  In a majority family governed foundation, racial diversity is an issue, and working with a  small staff team we can only make new appointments when posts become vacant.  The board has not been monochrome over the past five years and  we are committed to increasing our Black and Minority Ethnic membership in the coming year.  This has been written into our performance objectives as a Chair and a Chief Executive and we are currently working on it.
Erica Cadbury and Sara Llewellin

The Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG) was set up 30 years ago. We focus on helping children and young people succeed in education, employment and minimising their involvement in the criminal justice system. As one of the longest serving chief executives of a national charity, I want to reflect on how the conversation on race equality has changed in the voluntary and community sector (VCS).

I joined the VCS in the early 1980’s by volunteering for the Afro-Caribbean Youth Council, a charity in Walsall. The driver for its creation was social exclusion of black youth from mainstream organisations, school exclusions, lower educational attainment, youth unemployment, access to housing and police racism.

Race equality always felt like a peripheral issue in the VCS and was only supported by a handful of charitable trusts. The VCS was content to support race inequality initiatives if it did not reduce the resources available to the mainstream sector.

Last year an explosion of global anger was ignited by the killing of George Floyd in broad daylight on a public street by a group of police officers. Many parts of the world were awakened to how people of African origin are treated by the police, at work, on the streets, in the media, in the justice and political systems. The Black Lives Matter movement gave voice to more black people, many of whom have suffered in silence and/or been under-valued in the workplace for many years.

Reinvigorated scrutiny of the VCS highlighted that the presence of black and Asian people at senior levels in the VCS is extremely poor. There are some black and Asian individuals leading large charities and charitable trusts but, overall, their representation at senior levels is inadequate. According to ACEVO only 3% of charity CEOs were from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds (2017).

It has also brought into focus what it means to be anti-racist in the VCS. Unacceptably, we still find race equality conversations in the VCS taking place without any black or Asian people present.

In the VCS the conversation shifted to discussions about the distribution of opportunities, the distribution of resources and the control of those resources. Whilst this is not the first time these issues had been considered it did feel for the first time that there was a cross-sector impetus, and more people are demanding more from their own leaders and organisations.

For much of the last thirty years [some] national VCS leaders engaged in discussions about racial inequalities but did not improve their own organisational performance. Equalities policies were adopted but there was no change in the ethnicity of those making decisions.

Young black, Asian and white people have demonstrated for change and are rightly rejecting tokenistic change in the VCS. It has been difficult, traumatic and uncomfortable, but it has provided a sense of hope that there will be change.

The issue of institutional racism has re-emerged with the usual denials that it exists in many large organisations. Structurally it would be easy to say that race equality never really featured in the core policy conversations within the VCS and, at best, it was a marginal issue often characterised with tokenistic gestures, e.g., the lone black or Asian individual employed to deliver the time limited ‘ethnic minority’ project.

In 2020 black and Asian colleagues in the VCS sector have demanded change. I think there are white leaders in the VCS that are prepared to listen and change their behaviour. They are prepared to use their influence and levers to tackle racial inequality. But there are leaders in large or influential organisations who are oblivious to the need for any change in the VCS. We all need to challenge and support these leaders to do better.

The conversation in some parts of the VCS has not changed – race equality is still not discussed. In other parts of the VCS what has changed is that the treatment of black people has been elevated up the management agenda. However, there is a risk that many white colleagues and leaders in the VCS view this as a moment and not the start of a transformation process.

Charitable trusts have also come under pressure to look at themselves and the equity of grant making decisions. Some have embraced this and have had a serious look at their organisation cultures, ethnic representation, and their relationship with black, Asian and minority ethnic organisations. Charitable trusts also have the lever of their grant making and must use this to drive change in the charities they support.

Government too has its procurement lever but has been reluctant to drive change. Large charities receive millions of pounds per year to provide public services and they should be held to account for bringing about change. For too long they have been dismissive of the need to reflect the ethnic diversity of their service users within their hierarchy. All too often black and Asian organisations have been excluded from the real decision making.

Today more importance is being placed on intersectional considerations – black and Asian individuals want to be respected and treated fairly for all their characteristics and not only in relation to ethnicity and colour. Black and Asian communities are demanding that they are not treated as a one-dimensional monolithic group.

We must be careful not to aid an inclination among leaders in the VCS to state the race equality box has been ticked now – “we’ve reviewed our policies so let’s move on now”.

Jeremy Crook OBE