Evidence Based Practice Unit


Equity, diversity and anti-racism: our commitment

18 August 2020

By Professor Jess Deighton, Director of the Evidence Based Practice Unit, and Dr Julian Edbrooke Childs, Deputy Director.

EBPU logo

Earlier this month, the Evidence Based Practice Unit (EBPU) published Our commitment to equity, diversity and taking an anti-racist stance. This commitment came about as a collaboration between colleagues across EBPU and the Child Outcomes Research Consortium (CORC), the Anna Freud Centre and UCL in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and in recognition that there is much more we could be doing to improve equity and stand against all forms of racism. This is true of both our day-to-day operations and in the research we carry out.  

Systemic racism undermines our vision for every child to thrive. If we are to move closer to realising our vision, it is vital that we take proactive and timely steps to improve equity across all of the work we do – from funding applications and research design, right through to the language we use in our papers and reports, and our approaches to dissemination.

We are discovering how much we have to learn. An important discussion we’ve been having is around the need for reflective use of language. For example, increased prevalence of mental health difficulties for individuals from minority ethnic groups is often in research referred to as these groups having an ‘increased risk’ of mental health difficulties. We agree with reflecting on and carefully considering use of such language. We live in a society in which systemic racism operates on multiple levels and in which people of colour face additional barriers and ensuing health and mental health inequalities. It is these inequalities, rather than an individual’s race or ethnicity, which confer ‘increased risk’ of mental health difficulties.

In addition to the broad principles and actions outlined in Our commitment to equity, diversity and taking an anti-racist stance, we have planned a number of activities in the shorter term to improve equity and diversity in the work we do and to take some initial steps towards becoming an actively anti-racist research unit:

  1. We will internally agree language and draft initial guidance for talking about race and ethnicity in research by the end of August 2020. We will regularly reflect on and review the language we use.
  2. We will host a public seminar about our learning emerging from our first activity (number one in this list) in late Autumn 2020.
  3. We will work with our colleagues at the Anna Freud Centre on proactive strategies towards a diverse workforce that is more representative of the diversity of our stakeholders.
  4. We will reflect our ongoing learning in how we conceptualise and report on race and ethnicity in publications going forward (July 2020 onwards).
  5. We will incorporate a spotlight on race and ethnicity into the next coronavirus ‘Emerging evidence’ briefing (August 2020).
  6. We will identify topics for and carry out two ‘research bite’ briefings that focus on challenges of social inequalities experienced by people of colour.  
  7. We know we need to be aware of diversity in the participation groups we engage with as much as in the research teams we recruit. Therefore, we commit to incorporating into research grants going forward (where funding rounds permit) resource allocation for the active contribution of young people, particularly those from underserved groups including young people of colour (June 2020 onwards).
  8. We will work with our researchers to develop concrete timelines for the following three working research questions:
  • The experience of Black young people in the secure estate
  • Unpacking the social inequalities driving difference in prevalence of mental health problems across different ethnic groups
  • In-depth qualitative analysis to explore language used by those of different ethnicities to describe mental health challenges

Embedding our commitment to equity, diversity and anti-racism in all of our research and our working practices will take time. The energy and commitment from staff at EBPU and our colleagues at CORC, the Anna Freud Centre and UCL to move forward with this work have been invaluable. We thank them for their ideas and for their thoughtful challenge.

Staff across EBPU and CORC will continue to meet regularly to check our progress. We acknowledge that equity and diversity does not stop at race and ethnicity, and further work needs to be done in considering other groups who may not feel well represented by our research. If you have suggestions or reflections you would like to share as we move forward in this crucial area, please email ebpu@annafreud.org