Since 2015, Hackney Council has worked with voluntary sector umbrella organisation Hackney CVS and a multi-agency partnership, that includes the police and NHS, on an ambitious 10 year programme to improve outcomes for young black men in Hackney.
Led by the Deputy Mayor Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, The YBM Programme was created in response to the fact that young black men tend to fare worse than their peers in many ways. Outcomes are disproportionate in a range of areas, including criminal justice, child protection, educational achievement, health and wellbeing, employment and housing.
Our aims are ambitious. We want to reduce disproportionality for young black men over the next 10 to 15 years. Within 10 years we want the outcomes and opportunities for black boys and young black men to be the same as the wider population. We want to begin to see cultural changes in terms of aspirations and in terms of trust of the state. And we will be working with other authorities, central government and the state, and also journalists to see change in media representation and portrayals.
The YBM Programme is working with local people, the voluntary and community sector and the statutory sector to shape and deliver solutions, which young people will be at the heart of.
The project is overseen by an officer group at Hackney Council and steered by a multi-agency partnership. The partnership is wide ranging – from the local Clinical Commissioning Group, to the Youth Justice Service and community voluntary sector organisations.
At the centre of the programme is our commitment to co-production; a group of young men have been trained as inspirational leaders by Hackney CVS to engage other young people in positive activities and to support co-production of the programme.
The inspirational leaders are at the centre of the peer-led engagement, delivering workshops to young people and offering insight and a steer to The YBM Programme. There is now a core group of 12 young people who deliver workshops in schools and community settings, working in partnership with Skyway, the Crib and Hackney Marsh Partnership.
Progress is already being made. Headteachers are leading work to address inequalities in exclusions, behaviour and achievement by recognising the impact that the individual actions of a school can have on the wider community.
City and Hackney CCG have set up a Reach and Resilience Programme as part of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service to address specific community issues and community solutions with year 1 focused on work in black communities.
East London Foundation Trust and Hackney CVS have developed different ways of supporting mental wellbeing in a community sector, centred on a strengths-based approach.
Also, the Moving on Up Programme at Hackney CVS was delivered between 2015 and 2017 with funding from Trust for London. The project was one of six funded across London. The Inspirational Leaders were trained to engage young people on issues around employability. The programme worked with 123 young people, 58 percent of whom had positive job outcomes.
Co-production has brought home the impact that racial stereotyping and racism has on young people’s outlook and worldview. It has helped to sharpen our focus on a range of areas from education, mental health, culture and identity.
Feedback on local mental health services has provided a powerful insight into how we should engage with young people and the urgent need to do so. A study commissioned by City and Hackney CCG into the perceptions and experience of mental health found there were high levels of stigma and fear associated with mental health, with some indication this might be linked to cultural background.
Regarding leadership, we want a culture that develops solutions in a multi-dimensional way, looking at what can be changed at an individual, community, institutional and societal level, along with a recognition that the current ways of working, whether in the community or public sector, are not tackling the underlying issues
We also must recognise institutions often shy away from talking about race and racism, which can lead to overly bland responses to inequalities or a rejection of the issue. Discussions on racial inequalities need to acknowledge the legacy of colonial history, slavery and intergenerational trauma. There is a tendency to suppress any consideration of how this might impact on young people outcomes today.
What next for The YBM Programme?
From 2018, the three main areas of focus for The YBM Programme – as identified through our work with partners and YBM, are mental health, education and reducing harm.
Our overarching aims are to see:
- Fewer young black men presenting in crisis and a more proportionate representation of them within mental health services overall – and at different tiers.
- Greater understanding and availability in appropriate settings of mental health services for young black men.
- To focus on education, attainment, exclusions.
- To focus on safeguarding and offending.
We are also beginning to influence what is happening in other areas, but we still think that policymakers and thought-leaders need to focus much more on how we tackle structural racial inequality.
The work that the Synergi Collaborative Centre is spearheading can really help move this agenda forward. But we all need to listen to the lived experiences and insights. This means getting into some uncomfortable conversations and taking some radical departures in our thinking about public policy.
If you want to find out more about The YBM Programme please visit: hackney.gov.uk/young-black-men
Cllr Anntoinette Bramble is Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Lead for education, young people and children’s social care at Hackney Council.