Social care system ‘not working’ for black, Asian and minority ethnic children

Children from poorer families, those living in more deprived areas, and those of mixed black/white Caribbean or black “Other” ethnicity are more likely to receive social care than other children, research suggests.

Children in families containing the top fifth of earners are between 81% and 89% less likely to experience social care, compared with those in the lowest-earning fifth of families, according to a Government report.

It found that children from Chinese, Asian Indian, Asian Pakistani and Asian Bangladeshi heritage had “very low” likelihoods of being deemed a child in need, the subject of a child protection plan or being in care, compared with white British pupils and other ethnic minority groups.

Children from mixed white/black Caribbean ethnicity tended to have the highest predicted probabilities across these outcomes, while those from the black “Other” category were most likely to be deemed in need.

The Race Equality Foundation said the evidence shows that social care “is not working” for black, Asian and minority ethnic children.

Overall, the research found that more than one in seven children were in need at least once in the past eight years, and one in 52 children were looked-after at least once.

Since 2013 the number of children in care has been rising, and nearly three quarters (71%) of the increase in looked-after children between 2013-2021 occurred in a fifth of local authorities.

Its analysis found that population growth and a rising number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children explain 56% of the increase in looked-after children since 2013.

The research, Drivers Of Activity In Children’s Social Care, was published by the Government on Monday to accompany Josh MacAlister’s Independent Review of Children’s Social Care.

Another paper published alongside the review examined ethnic disparities among children receiving social care in England.

It found that white Roma and black Caribbean children are twice as likely as the general population in care to need social care because of factors such as sexual exploitation, gangs and trafficking.

Domestic abuse and mental health were the most frequently identified factors in assessments of children in need.

Social care activity due to extra familial harms – socially unacceptable behaviour, gangs, trafficking, child sexual exploitation, or going missing – made up 7% of assessment factors.

For black African, black Caribbean and children from “Any other” black ethnic group, factors representing extra familial harms made up 11%, 14%, and 12% of all assessment factors respectively.

Extra familial harms made up 15% of assessment factors for white Roma/Gypsy children.

This group had the largest proportion of assessments involving child sexual exploitation as a factor – 3%, versus 1% for all children.

And gangs made up 3%-4% of assessment factors for black children, compared with 1% for all children.

The research also found that white and mixed ethnicity children are more likely to first enter care as a very young child, whereas Asian, black and “Other” ethnic group children are more likely to enter as teenagers.

And more than double the proportion of children from Asian, black and “Any other” ethnic groups entered care following no social care activity, compared with all children (42%, 37% and 46% respectively, compared with 19% for all children).

Mr MacAlister told Sky News earlier on Monday: “We’ve seen real racial disparities in the system about help that black and mixed heritage families get early on.

“It’s much lower, but they come into the system with concerns later and much more rapidly.

“That’s new research that we’re publishing today and is a real concern about how the system understands different communities and is actually able to get alongside families and provide that support at the right time.”

While most children in most ethnic groups were placed in care within their local authority area, a majority of children from Caribbean, “Any other” black background, Bangladeshi, Gypsy/Roma and African ethnic groups were placed outside this area.

Black Caribbean children were most likely to be placed away from their local area, and therefore any established support networks.

Race Equality Foundation chief executive Jabeer Butt said: “The evidence shows that social care is not working for black, Asian and minority ethnic children.

“Whilst they are more likely to face the challenges of living in deprived areas and experiencing poverty, there appears to be a lack of early intervention, with 42% of Asian children and 37% of black children entering care following ‘no social care activity’.

“Shockingly, when taken into care they are more likely to be placed outside their area and we know that this breaks many of the protective bonds, including impacting their education as they have to change schools.

“These racial inequalities have been repeatedly highlighted, yet concerted and effective Government action to support black, Asian and minority ethnic families has been missing.”

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