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Keeping our children safe: Raising awareness in black and minority ethnic communities

The safety and wellbeing of children and young people is a concern for everyone. Whatever their background, most parents and carers of children want the very best for their children and most do their utmost to ensure that they are achieving, developing well and growing up safe from harm.

In the United Kingdom today, the majority of children who are black or from a minority ethnic group are well looked after by their parents and carers. However, a significant minority of children do experience harm and, in many cases, they and their families do not receive appropriate help and support.

Some black and minority ethnic parents do not get the support services that can help them to care for their children. This is because of discrimination, language difficulties or lack of awareness about services.

Some black and minority ethnic children and young people do not get help because members of their community do not believe that child abuse happens in their community. Sometimes the way a child is looked after or the practice of a particular community is harmful to children. Communities and parents may not know this and the fear of involving support services have meant children have been hurt.In 2012 the Government produced the National Action Plan to tackle Child Abuse linked to Faith or Belief. This was the work of a national workingparty set up for the specific purpose of producing the plan.

The plan is organised into four themes: engaging communities; empowering practitioners; supporting victims and witnesses; and communicating key messages. It identifies 16 actions, each with key problems and solutions, and includes information about work that was already being undertaken to tackle abuse linked to faith or belief. In developing the plan, the action group deliberately confined their work to considering abuse that is linked to a belief in witchcraft, evil spirits and the supernatural. It did not attempt to look at other issues (such as female genital mutilation, forced marriage or honour violence) where there might be a link between faith/culture and abuse. It also did not look at abuse that might take place in a religious or cultural context but not have a clear link with cultural or religious belief (for example, sexual abuse by those living or working in a religious community).

According to the Office of National Statistics and Scotland’s Census and NISRA (Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency), there are people from 18 ethnic groups currently living in the United Kingdom. Within each group there are numerous different cultural sub-groups, each with their own traditional child-rearing practices. Many of these traditional practices bring long-term benefits to children’s development and need to be understood and respected. However, there are also traditional practices that are harmful or potentially harmful to children’s development. These must be identified and responded to effectively.The aim of this resource is to take safeguarding into the very heart of black and minority ethnic communities by providing an opportunity for sharing andlearning about positive and harmful childcare practices and ways in which children can be kept safe.