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Racism does not constitute a separate category of abuse, although it can be a source of significant harm and can be an aggravating factor in other incidents of abuse.

Children and their families from black and minority ethnic groups are more likely to have experienced harassment, racial discrimination and institutional racism and are disproportionately over- represented in the child protection system.

Racism includes stereotyping individuals or groups, because of their difference, bigoted assumptions about abilities, motives and intentions and stigmatising individuals or groups because of their ethnicity.


The experience of racism is likely to affect how the child and family respond to and feel able to participate in the assessment and enquiry processes. Failure by professionals, workers and managers to consider the effects of racism undermines efforts to protect children from other forms of Significant Harm.

Children who have been trafficked or unaccompanied asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable.

Working with different minority cultures in the context of a child protection investigation may be an unfamiliar experience for practitioners and specific advice about the cultural needs of a child may be difficult to obtain at short notice. There is a difficult balance to be struck between how to maintain respectful and culturally sensitive practice with a child-centred focus.

Protection and Action to be Taken

The effects of racism differ for different communities and individuals and should not be assumed to be uniform. Specific attention should be given to the assessment of the needs of children of mixed parentage and refugee children to ensure that their welfare is promoted.

Children who have been trafficked or unaccompanied asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and maltreatment.

When there are concerns about a child or young person a MASH Enquiry should be made (see Children and Young Person Safeguarding Referrals Procedure) and the need for interpreters or advisors on cultural issues should be considered as part of any Strategy Discussion or risk assessment. Where written information may also be needed in a different language this should also be considered at an early stage because there is almost always a delay in organising this. Family members or members of the same community should not be used as interpreters; in no circumstances should children be used to translate for their parents. All interpreters and translators should be DBS checked and have received some basic child protection training.

All organisations working with children and young people within the Safeguarding Children Boards’ area must address institutional racism: defined in the Macpherson Inquiry Report, 2000 as:

“the collective failure by an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people on account of their race, culture and /or religion.” 

All assessments, enquiries and meetings such as Child Protection Conferences and Core Groups must ensure that they are inclusive and respectful to all participants and address any issues of racism, culture and religion whether it concerns the child, family or any other participant.

All staff or clinical supervision and training must consider the issues not only of institutional racism but also of the effects of racism in relation to the child and his or her family.


Racism does not feature in Working Together to Safeguard Children; earlier versions contained several prompts to consider the impact of race and racism at various points, Whilst safeguarding should not be a culturally relative concept, effective safeguarding practice requires knowledge of different cultural and religious practices and beliefs in order to investigate abuse and assess needs and risks.