Child Q: 'Council’s commitment to flushing out racism in Hackney has not dimmed'

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A little over a year ago, the world came to hear about Child Q. 

Child Q is a Black Hackney schoolgirl, who was stripped and searched by female police officers. This search involved the exposure of Child Q’s intimate body parts, took place on school premises, and without an appropriate adult present.

This shocking incident triggered a Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review, initiated by the City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP), and with the the Council’s full support.

The review concluded that Child Q should never have been strip searched, and that many of the professionals involved that day failed to apply a safeguarding-first approach to their practice. 

It made a series of recommendations to try to ensure lessons were learned. The Council was not named in any of the recommendations, but we immediately realised that we needed to lead the response in order to act on what had happened to Child Q, embed a safeguarding first approach and rebuild the trust and confidence of the borough’s children, families, carers and communities. This response also became embedded as a critical part of our existing work on anti-racism and is informing an even bolder approach to anti-racism through a new plan that will be launched later this year.

The Living in Hackney and Children and Young People Scrutiny Commissions, made up of Hackney councillors acting independently of the Council’s administration, held a joint scrutiny session on 13 June 2022 to ensure additional accountability; that there was a coordinated response by statutory partners to the recommendations; and they collectively set out how they planned to engage, involve and respond to the community.

A follow-up meeting of the Commissions took place on Tuesday 25 April to help maintain oversight of progress and actions, in particular: 

  • A ‘safeguarding first’ approach by all practitioners working with children
  • Building trust and confidence in local policing
  • Policing and safeguarding policies in schools
  • Development of a Hackney-wide Anti-Racist Action Plan.

Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville responds to the latest joint meeting of the Commissions:

“Hackney councillors held an important, independent meeting to ensure organisations and agencies which wield power, exercise influence and lead public services in the borough, are working with enough action, momentum and rigour in order to protect residents, and especially children, from racism and harm since the Child Q case was publicly revealed just over a year ago. 

“The Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review into what happened to Child Q found that racism and ‘adultification bias’ - where Black children are treated more harshly than their white peers - were ‘likely’ influencing factors in what happened. The details that emerged prompted national outrage as well as focus. It made 14 recommendations to ensure children are protected in future - with a focus on Black and Global Majority children.

“The Council was not named in any of the recommendations, but over the course of the past 12 months we have proactively brought partners - in policing, education, health, as well as in the national and regional political arena - together, to drive the changes so desperately needed and held them and ourselves to account on these much-needed actions.

“This has included extensive work with schools and the police, including a review of the role of officers in schools and a stronger local framework for conducting searches in schools; listening to and hearing about the lived experiences of Black and Global Majority residents; making changes to how the Council works so it’s more informed by the communities it serves; and putting pressure on the Government to make changes in the law to ensure children are better protected.

“I want to thank Jim Gamble, the chair of City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership, for his bold and tireless focus in investigating the appalling cruelty inflicted on Child Q. He was sometimes met with challenge and at other times, with apathy, but his determination to seek truth; to uncover discomfiting systems and malignant processes; and to hold those responsible to account has meant he was able to start to give Child Q the justice, voice and power denied to her on that day. 

“I also want to acknowledge the Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel De Souza, for her subsequent report into the strip-searching of children by police officers across the country, prompted by Jim’s review, in which she found that Child Q’s ordeal was far from an isolated case.

“Instead, it revealed that thousands of children have been stripsearched by police between 2018 and 2022 - most without an appropriate adult present - and that Black children were up to six times more likely to be searched.

“Her findings confirmed what we - and many in Hackney - already knew or suspected: that Black children are more aggressively, excessively and disproportionately policed. That they are wrongly criminalised. And that they are viewed, by police, through an adult lens, and not as the children they are. I thank her for attending the meeting with us last month and we’ll be writing to Dame De Souza to ask her to support us in other areas of education and children’s social care where we think she can help us to further safeguard children in our borough. 

“It is incredible that a year has passed since the sickening details in that safeguarding review came to light. However, the Council’s commitment to holding those responsible to account; to flushing out racism and bias within Hackney; and to making lasting changes has not dimmed. I want to thank the scrutiny commissions which have continued to shine a light on this work, as well as ensuring the work of partners - particularly the police - are subject to ongoing public scrutiny. It is also why we commissioned the update report from the City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP), which is now imminent, and why we keep pushing for the IOPC process to conclude and for the publishing of their report.

“As I - alongside Deputy Mayor Cllr Anntoinette Bramble and Cllr Fajana-Thomas - told the Commissions, the Council immediately stepped in to work with the local police to respond effectively to the report’s recommendations and begin the long and difficult task of helping to restore trust and confidence in the local police force. Its reputation battered, not only by the Child Q review, but also by years of Met-wide scandals and outrages. 

“As part of that, we have co-produced an action plan with local communities and the police, focussing on leadership, culture and practice, anti-racism, community engagement, community monitoring and training. And have ensured that that action plan is relentlessly progressed.

“We have also pressed the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to work closely with the Council and community to bring about meaningful change in policing locally. 

“We have made some significant changes in the past year: from launching a restorative justice pilot scheme to enable young people to share negative experiences of ‘stop and search’ with the Council and police officers; to work with MOPAC, the local police and the community to build London’s first representative ‘Community Scrutiny Group’; to ongoing work to develop an innovative police and partnership training proposal - focused on anti-racism, adultification, cultural awareness, trauma awareness and unconscious bias - in order to learn from successes elsewhere. 

“In the local education system, we have ensured schools created a new, more robust framework for searches conducted in schools; supported spaces on talking to and listening to children and staff affected by racism; expanded and rolled out adultification training and made it available to all schools; and are now in the process of creating an ‘Inclusion Charter’ to centre conversations and actions around disproportionality; and we are continuing our work to diversify governing boards and expand the young governor initiative, focusing on Black and Global Majority recruits.

“I also want to highlight the Council’s wider work on anti-racism. At a London level, Hackney led the work to develop a shared statement agreed by London Council Leaders last December, setting out what racism is and what anti-racism means.

“That statement underpins our Anti-Racist Action Plan, which has been under development over the last few months and which will go out to formal consultation and - then formal adoption - later this year. 

“We now await with interest the follow-up to the Child Q review - again led by the Safeguarding Panel - which will reflect in more detail the progress that has been made against the initial recommendations - and make further calls if necessary. I expect that report to be every bit as thorough and unflinching as its predecessor. 

“I reiterate we await the IOPC report - which is investigating the conduct of the officers who stripsearched Child Q - and if we feel this does not go far enough, we pledge to take this up at the very highest levels of policing.

“Lastly, we want to assure residents that our work will be relentless to ensure that never again will any Black and Global Majority child experience racial trauma or abuse in a space in which they are meant to feel safe and should have been protected; that there is true equality in our borough more widely; and that racism in all its forms and manifestations is stamped out here once and for all.”

You can review the Council’s anti-racism journey and all the work it has undertaken following the Child Q review here