Protecting Young Black Lives, Celebrating Black Professional

Sunday 1th October

A multi-day event to highlight the contributions of Black professionals in safeguarding Black children in the UK.


A multi-day event to highlight the contributions of Black professionals in safeguarding Black children in the UK. The event will follow the Cumberland Lodge format and is designed to foreground anti-racist methods of knowledge creation (learning through conversation) and healing (creating space for rest and prayer).

Structural, contextual, and interpersonal experiences will be explored, to build recommendations that celebrate, protect, and develop Black professionals (and in doing so improve service responses to Black children in the UK).

This event has been developed by Professor Carlene Firmin (Contextual Safeguarding Programme, Durham University) and Ben Lindsay (Power the Fight) as two Black professionals who attended the UK child trafficking event held at Cumberland Lodge in 2021.


In October 2021, Cumberland Lodge ran an event in partnership with the UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner on Practitioner Responses to Child Trafficking in the UK. A key theme running through the event was the impact of race and racism on children’s experiences of trafficking and their access to protection. From disproportionality in school exclusions, to experiences of criminalisation rather than protection, and late diagnosis of ASD and other learning needs; the issue of racism was a repeatedly cited vulnerability associated with child trafficking, a concern increasingly rehearsed in research in this field (i). Yet participants at the event were largely white; talking about Black and Brown children, families, and professionals, rather than having them lead these conversations. To an extent this is reflective of the sectors charged with protecting the welfare of young people. And yet, emergent work in this field suggests that there is much to learn by foregrounding the experiences of Black professionals in efforts to improve the protection of Black children (ii). As people with direct experience of racism and intersectional forms of discrimination, who play an integral role in supporting young people, their potential contribution is multi-faceted. This contribution is rarely understood or celebrated; the impact of working in this context is under-acknowledged; and this in turn leaves many challenges undiscussed at best, and unaddressed at worst.

In 2019, Cumberland Lodge ran an event entitled Race in Britain: Inequality, Identity & Belonging. This event, and associated report, highlighted a need to understand and address systemic and structural drivers of harm; sufficiently support community responses; and support pluralist efforts to engage minoritised communities. Published ahead of the renewed interest in racism that has built following the death of George Floyd, this report raised critical issues that warrant revisiting in a post-George Floyd era – using safeguarding as an example of where Black professionals, and the communities they work with, are impacted by (and taking steps to impact) structural causes of harm, while also nurturing, retelling, and celebrating the contributions Black people make to society.


To progress work in this field, and create environments in which Black children, families and communities can thrive (and not just survive), Black professionals need space:

· to lead, and participate in, open and honest conversations and their work to safeguard young people

· to rest, and be restored, in what can offer be a high-impact and trauma-inducing field of work

· to network with each other, and build inter-disciplinary links that go beyond statutory safeguarding functions and instead engage with ‘community’ sources of support and success

· to develop recommendations in which Black professionals can be left with hope: hope that change is possible, and that their contribution to that change is recognised and valued.

In the process, this event will build on the 2021 event on child trafficking, by foregrounding the topic of race in discussions of safeguarding; creating a safe and nurturing space for Black professionals, Black young people, and their families, to lead those discussions and develop solutions. It will also provide an opportunity to revisit the 2019 event on racism in Britain through the lens of safeguarding, and in a post George-Floyd era, to develop recommendations with those at the forefront of safeguarding, and promoting the welfare of, lives of Black children and families in the UK.


The key themes of discussion, cross-sector recommendations, and examples of best practice from this conference will be presented in a report, authored by freelance Research Associate: Jessica Agboola and due to be launched Spring 2024.

The draft report will be reviewed and refined during an expert consultation, before being launched in central London and published online and in print. Conference delegates will have the chance to be listed as contributors to the report