Child Q update report: Hackney Council responds

Last year, an independent investigation described how a Black schoolgirl, anonymised as ‘Child Q’, was stripsearched by police officers. 

That search involved the exposure of Child Q’s intimate body parts, took place on school premises in Hackney, and was conducted without an appropriate adult present.

This Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review concluded that Child Q should never have been stripsearched. That the professionals involved did not apply a ‘safeguarding-first’ approach. And it found that racism and ‘adultification bias’ were ‘likely’ influencing factors in what happened.

That review, conducted by the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Panel (CHSCP), made 14 recommendations of local and national statutory bodies. 

Hackney Council was not named in the review. However, under its leadership, it assumed the principal oversight role in coordinating the recommendations: 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 work was intense and wide-ranging, and is outlined here

And, in the days following the publication of the review, the Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville and Deputy Mayor Cllr Anntoinette Bramble asked the CHSCP to undertake a further independent update on the progress made in response to the review. 

This follow-up report, published today, focused on the implementation of the review’s recommendations and the range of activity that was generated as a consequence of Child Q’s experiences. 

And it also reflected the voices of children, parents, carers and community networks affected by the incident. 

The report concludes that concerns about safeguarding, racism and disproportionality extend to all statutory services, and that all bodies and organisations need to work together in a coordinated way to embed change.

Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville; Deputy Mayor Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services; and Cllr Susan Fajana-Thomas, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, have made this joint statement.  

“Not long after the original Child Q report was published, we recommitted to being an actively anti-racist organisation and to work with greater urgency. 

“This redefinition goes beyond just seeking equality for our Black and Global Majority residents. A position for which we have sought and campaigned for years. Instead, it meant we would seek to expose injustice. We would challenge and speak out against racism and injustice. We would be an agitant in the system. We would confront unfair hierarchies. And seek to unroot ways of working that fail to serve everyone equally. We would unmask racism.  

“We have applied that to the Council itself and also pledged to hold to account those with whom we have influence and reach.

“Our work in this space - covering four key areas of activity - has been about short-term impact and long-term change. We have been listening to the community and championed, not just the cause of Child Q, but a set of actions to try to ensure that what happened to her would never again happen to another child.

“Underpinning all that, is work aimed at embedding active anti-racism in the culture of organisations and how their practitioners engage with children, young people and families. 

“It is within that context, that Hackney Council accepts and welcomes the recommendations within the report, including to lead the work with other agencies - such as schools and education settings, health and policing - to eradicate racism and deliver levelling-up opportunities. 

“It is the voices of our communities, captured in this report - particularly the children - that rises to the surface. These testimonials share experiences of racism and concerns about the disproportionate discipline levels in our schools and education settings. We will listen to and act upon what our children and their families are telling us. But we can’t do this alone, and will need the education system to support this work.

“These powerful and emotive testimonials may come from across Hackney but they give one clear message: Black and Global Majority people face or feel racism and suffer injustice from all statutory institutions. Indeed, Child Q was right when she said all organisations bear responsibility for what happened to her, and must change.

“We want to also take this as a further opportunity to continue to examine our own practices. Is some of the work we carry out too punitive? Where are we behaving in an unfair way? Where are we failing to treat our residents with the respect they deserve? And, how are our systems racist or leading to racist outcomes? 

“The work undertaken by the majority of schools and education settings in the wake of the Child Q report has been both widespread and impactful. We have worked hand in glove with many school leaders to ensure children in our schools had the space to be heard; had the resources they needed to process the trauma to which they were exposed as a result of the report; and had a much better understanding of their rights. 

“We have an education system in Hackney of which we are really proud. We have some of the very best teachers, support staff and school and education setting leaders in the country, and we do not underestimate the scale of the work they undertake to ensure our children are safe and receive an education that is the envy of many. 

“This - our ‘family of schools’ - includes our primary schools, most of which are directly supported by the Council, and our secondaries, the vast majority of which are independent academies.

“We know there is excellent, forward-thinking and growing anti-racist practice in our schools and education settings. We recognise and thank them for this difficult work. 

“The report is positive about progress made, and applauds the work of a number of  schools, settings and their leaders. The report acknowledges examples of ‘exceptional work’ in the space of active anti-racism in the wake of the Child Q review.

“And the report further recognises that most children in Hackney attend schools and education settings where they learn together and thrive. They are educated and cared for by committed teachers and other staff who are good at their jobs and a credit to their profession. 

“We’re glad the update report highlights all of this. We’re also grateful that the report recognises that the political and corporate leadership of the Council has played the leading role in driving the forward the recommendations in the report, despite not being named, and have relentlessly challenged and pursued improvements. 

‘We particularly welcome the progress made with the local police, and look forward to the establishment of a new community panel who will work together with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) to hold the police to account for their use of police powers such as stop and search, handcuffing, use of tasers and intimate searches. 

“We’re also happy the local borough commander has accepted and welcomed, in his response to the update report, the need for his officers to adopt a child-centred approach to policing. 

“But, we again reiterate our calls to the top of the Met Police to recognise and accept the definition of  institutional racism. Real and lasting progress and change will remain paralysed until this happens.

“We have always said that this journey to create an anti-racist borough will take time. The report recognises that lasting, systemic change is a deeply complex issue and that there are no easy answers. We are prepared for difficulties and frustrations. For tough conversations and decisive action. 

“But we are committed to justice and success - however long it takes. Which is why we also accept the recommendation in the report for additional and strategic oversight of this work.

“We want to thank Jim Gamble and his team for this update report, which we think is fair and balanced. As well as all the children, parents and carers, and others who have contributed to it, despite the toll this will have taken on them. 

“We also want to thank the members of the Trust and Confidence Group for working with us and the police to develop the Trust and Confidence in Policing Action Plan.

“And last but not least: we continue to think of Child Q and her family and recognise her ongoing bravery. We will continue to offer her and her family the support they need at this difficult time.”