Children's mental health

Project NextGen B: Research partnership with Global Black Maternal Health

We’re working together on a year-long research project to better understand Black and mixed heritage families’ experiences of support for their children’s special educational needs and behavioural difficulties

Join us at the launch event on 21st October

Key information

  • Partner: Global Black Maternal Health Institute
  • Duration: 18 months 
  • Amount: £99,600 incl. VAT 
  • Programme: Children’s mental health

What are we doing together

We are partnering with Agnes Agyepong founder and CEO of Global Black Maternal Health and a group of other experts working to improve care for racially minoritised families, on a year-long, community-led research project. Our aim is to better understand Black and mixed heritage families’ experiences of support when a child has special educational needs (SEN) or behavioural difficulties.  

The project will include qualitative and quantitative research, and focus on families in our local boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark with children who are nursery or primary school aged.  

Historically, Black students in England have been much more likely to be suspended from school. This includes pre-school children aged 3 – 4. They are also disproportionately represented in the youth justice system, where the vast majority have experienced multiple adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), have SEN, and/or mental health problems. Often none of these things have been identified, and no appropriate support has been offered, prior to their involvement in the justice system. 

The hypothesis being explored is that Black and mixed heritage children are least likely to receive and access adequate SEN and behavioural support up to primary school age and beyond. We want to better understand why that is and identify ways to address it. The consequences are long lasting and have a huge impact on the mental health of these children and the communities they are a part of. The lack of access to early, safe, and effective support is a health inequality that we need to understand better before we can help to address it. 

Aims of the partnership

  • To better understand the role race plays in families’ access and experience of support and explore the implications of race, gender, and their intersection in how nursery and primary school aged children experience mental health services  
  • To prioritise the experiences and expertise of children and families in South London. To make sure it is their knowledge and insight that shapes change 
  • To identify opportunities for reshaping the support children and families receive so that it’s accessible, safe, appropriate, and equitable  
  • To ensure Black and mixed heritage families in Lambeth and Southwark know what their rights are, and the different types of support that are available to them 
  • To shift harmful narratives that centre responsibility on children and families rather than the distress they are being caused by the oppressive systems around them – reducing stigma and advocating for systemic change

Our driving philosophy at Global Black Maternal Health is “nothing about us, without us”. We are really excited to be partnering with Impact on Urban Health to develop and lead on pioneering research that aims to uplift our communities. Children are the bedrock and the future, therefore ensuring that families and guardians are able to share their experiences of accessing SEN and Behavioural support for their school aged children, and more importantly, we are able to act upon these findings to improve outcomes, means happier and healthier children who can grow into well rounded adults who thrive in society.

Agnes Agyepong
Agnes Agyepong Founder and CEO of Global Black Maternal Health

Strategic fit

A key priority for the children’s mental health programme is to ensure all children and families can access early support that works for them when a child is in distress and experiencing behavioural difficulties. By understanding the barriers and inequalities that Black and mixed heritage families experience in accessing early support, we hope to understand what good services can look like and how they might be better designed for all children. 

We have heard from so many families that support systems can be blaming, stigmatising and dismissive of parents’ experience and expertise. The system is also disjointed, complicated to navigate, and support often doesn’t meet families’ needs.  This project could help us understand how to enable parents to shape existing support and to design and deliver support themselves, bringing to focus the knowledge held within Black and mixed heritage families. Centring their voices also helps to shift the stigmatising narratives around ‘behavioural difficulties’, that are so harmful to young Black and mixed heritage children particularly.  

This project aims to build on the nuanced experiences of Black and mixed heritage families of not being believed or trusted about children’s SEN or behavioural difficulties. This includes older members of their families who due to experiences of racism within the health system are distrustful of services. We’re hopeful that through this piece of research, stewarded by Agnes and partners, we will have a better sense of how we might try to influence the health and education systems in Lambeth and Southwark to improve the quality of support for parents, children and families.

Kamna Muralidharan
Kamna Muralidharan Portfolio Manager

About Global Black Maternal Health and other partners

Agnes Agyepong is the founder and CEO of Global Black Maternal Health, an organisation committed to putting research back into the hands of Black communities as leaders and change agents. As a key speaker her credits include the British Medical Association, The Royal College of Midwifery, Royal Society of Medicine, NHS and the Westminster Health Forum. She is also a named author on the Babies in Lockdown Report and supported the UK government on the flagship Early Years Healthy Development Review, a review into improving health and development outcomes for babies in England. Her work has been published by the World Health Organisation and her article “Why bias is key to stopping institutional and structural racism in healthcare and research” made it to the front page of international nursing journal, Nurse Researcher. She also sits on the Nursing and Midwifery council and Maternity Transformation Programme. 

Other experts involved in this project include: 

More about Global Black Maternal Health