Family support services need to do more to help minority ethnic families - report

Katy Morton
Thursday, June 30, 2022

Minority ethnic families face additional challenges, including racism and discrimination, when accessing and receiving help from family support services, finds new research.

The report from the EIF, Race Equality Foundation and Action for Children highlights the negative experiences of ethnic minority families when trying to access family support services PHOTO Adobe Stock
The report from the EIF, Race Equality Foundation and Action for Children highlights the negative experiences of ethnic minority families when trying to access family support services PHOTO Adobe Stock

A new report out today, led by the Early Intervention Foundation in partnership with the Race Equality Foundation and Action for Children, reveals minority ethic young people and their families commonly find their initial contact with services such as CAMHS, GPs, schools, social services and health visitors ‘off-putting’, impacting how they engage with these services in the long-term and the support they receive.

It highlights how some ethnic minority families that took part in the research were proactively seeking support but encountered multiple barriers in doing so, despite repeatedly trying to get the right help.

Experiences of racism and discrimination were commonly reported among the parents and young people when it came to accessing family support services and once they were receiving support. Respondents also identified a lack of cultural sensitivity within the services.

Researchers heard from one parent who said, ‘There were clear differences in the way that my family were treated, my son in particular, and there were racial overtones that were clearly defined.’

Other families felt they were treated unfairly by family support professionals, or that they were not understood.

The report states that ‘participants told us that they did not feel heard, understood, validated or empowered’ and that 'parents and young people told us about their experiences of not being listened to or not being taken seriously when they had reached out for support.’

The research is based upon responses to a survey of 102 parents and 59 young people, along with a series of focus groups.

'Racism and discrimination have no place in services for families'

Dr Jo Casebourne, chief executive of the Early Intervention Foundation, said ‘This report shows that too many minority ethnic families face additional challenges when they seek early help or family support. Worryingly, these challenges include experiences of racism and discrimination.  

‘Racism and discrimination have no place in services for families. The success of family support relies on strong, trusting relationships between families and professionals.  

‘High-quality family support, delivered in the right way at the right time, can make a real difference for children and their families. There are stark and persistent ethnic inequalities across a whole set of critical child outcomes – such as school readiness and academic attainment – where we know that effective early support could have an impact. It is vital that public services, designed to provide support to all families, are accessible and effective for everyone who needs their help.’ 


The charities make a number of recommendations, they include:

  • The rollout of family hubs has the potential to improve the accessibility of services by building closer connections between services and the communities they serve, and reduce the number and complexity of relationships with services and agencies that families seeking help need to sustain.
  • All services working with children and families must embed effective approaches to eradicate racist and discriminatory practices.   
  • Initial interactions with support services are critical. Local areas must make the idea of ‘no wrong door’ a reality - whereby local areas ensure first impressions of family support services are positive, integrated and joined up, so every route to support is welcoming and so minority ethnic people get the right help at the right time. 
  • Workforce planning in relation to early help and wider family support services must include a focus on the skills needed to build trusting relationships with minority ethnic families.  

The authors also say that the recommendations of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, if accepted by the Government and implemented well, could enable a step-change in the availability and quality of early help and family support services.   

Jabeer Butt, chief executive of the Race Equality Foundation, said, ‘Trying to get support shouldn't be an uphill battle. But this report reveals major roadblocks for minority ethnic young people and their families, not only in terms of the lack of knowledge about support available but also in terms of poor experiences when support was actually sought, including treatment by practitioners and the quality of support offered. The long-term effects that racism and discrimination can have on people's wellbeing and willingness to seek help in future cannot be underestimated. Effective early support is a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to improving life outcomes for young people, so it's essential that the recommendations of this work are acted upon urgently.’ 

  • The report, 'Improving the way family support services work for ethnic minority families', is available to download here 


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