1) Tell me about your job role and what you do?
Carole Skeete, senior practitioner in children services qualified in 2003. My main role and what I do is actually child protection front line social work.
2) Within your line of work what percentage of your cases are from BME communities?
It depends of what area of the country you are working in. I have worked in London which was high in percentage, about 45% of the people where I worked with where from BME communities. I have also worked in Berkshire and Bedfordshire where caseloads are lower but I will say about 25% of the people I work with are from BME groups.
3) Tell me about the importance of a good role model in a young person’s life when growing up?
I believe that you need them especially in your younger years from the ages of 0-5 because those are your formative years. That is where the role models around you influence the way you start to grow as an individual because, it’s a copying stage of development.
4) In your view why do the BME community lack positive role models to inspire young people?
Statistically there is research to suggest that young black males are at the bottom of the heap that is seen through education, the judicial system, and children services. It has been highlighted throughout the establishment, In my view there are two strands to this:
- Profile figures in the UK. There aren’t many black role models around, the ones around now are either sports personalities or are from the music industry. In terms of anything else i.e.: politician and people who have real power, it is minimal or there is nothing. So the role models that are projected in the society (popstar and football personalities) feeds into the stereotypical myth that the white society have about how black men should be. If you look at history it has always been said that, black males are either good at sport of have good rhythm. Young black males in the UK do not have a lot of role models to aspire to. Majority haven’t got the father figure role model in the family. However you do have to say that some white children do not have father’s figures in their family either. So again, there is another myth in the society which says that black men have children and they leave the home. Which isn’t true because there are other cultures that do not have father figures in the home either.
- Due to this lack of positive role models in the UK, many young black males may look to America where you have prominent black people in power, leaders, singers, business and entrepreneurs who made it. Subsequently, maybe young black males look to America in a negative way because there you have the influence of gangster rap, MTV and all the things a young person may aspire to, fast cars, money and women because it is the here and now. We are in a here and now society and a lot of young people are living in this society and not only that but also with the influence of social media.
5) How does that lack of a positive role model impacts young people?
I think for especially for black young males the lack of this it detrimental because it is about finding belonging. In the UK, there is a lot of racism and young black males do not stand much of a chance. You have got school, the judicial system, the police stopping and searching and its been recently evidence that yes that is institutionalised racism in the metropolitan police. What happens is that, these young males tend to rev together to find a common goal, the gangs then becomes the family and the people in that gang become their role models. If there isn’t a solid father figure In the home, then young males rev towards gangs because they get a sense of belonging and family values rightly or wrongly.
Also, as there is no grounding for young black males in this generations, a lot of the hand me down from when the original immigrants came down were still handing down stories about back home. As it has gone down the line in relation to how we are in now, they are 5th/6th generations removed. So males in this generation have no identity and have created their own sub culture within the UK.
6) In your line of work/experience where do you think young people seek for reassurance and guidance if there is no positive role model in their lives and why?
Again, there are a lot of young black males who tend to get drawn to gangs especially if they have had difficult life experiences. If coming from disadvantaged backgrounds and background with complexities within the family they look up to the gangs as their families. Nevertheless, it has to be acknowledged that, there are a lot of black males who are trying and striving to get into education and to better themselves.
7) What are some of the implications you have witnessed as a result of a lack of positive role model in a young person’s life?
From working with young black males 16/17years of age who are on the perimeters of gang culture, it appears that they are looking for something (it could be anything in their perception) which they are getting from the gangs. Sadly when they are in there and realise that they no longer want to be a part of the gang, it is a case of either peer pressure, violence, consequences of coming out of the gang and possibly choosing to stay due the money they are earning from drug dealing, selling guns and all sorts. The Implication is that, if they choose that life they can be dead by 25, they are lucky if they get to that age to be honest.
8) Do you think there is a link between absent fathers and young people entering the judicial system, if so why?
Not necessarily so, no. There are a lot of sole parents either mothers or fathers who are doing a fine job. Within social care we tend to link things together, disadvantaged families are made to look that an underclass by the system which looks like there is a link. But if you take a step outside of that, I don’t think there is a link because of an absent father. I don’t know much about the judicial system but there is a high proportionate of black males who enter that but I don’t think it’s due to an absent father. I believe its because of society and the entrenched racism in the establishment in this country, it runs through the mental health system, the police and most probably even somewhere along local authority services and it’s there, It is alive and kicking but maybe not as predominant as it was in the 60’s and 70’s.
9) What are the benefits of positive role models within the BME community?
A role model can be anyone it does not need to be a father, it can be a brother, any adult in the community or family. It’s about having the mentor who encourages and gives the mind-set that if you want something you can get it but it will not come easy and will require hard work but the hard work comes with the satisfaction of self-actualisation.
10) What advice would you give to a young person lacking a positive role model in their life?
It is difficult because as young people do not want to listen to adults but it’s a hard journey and a piece of work to get this through to young people because when are getting the fast lane life, the fast cars, latest clothing and money the idea of having to slog for something over years of training is boring! They want things now. At the end of the day there is more to life than the road you are on, there is more out there. You are on the road to death or prison. The advice I will give is the race of the hare and the tortoise, although the tortoise was slow it made it to the finish line.
Carole Skeete, Senior Social Worker
Please Note: This interview was initially recorded however, due to some technicalities, the responses of the professionals had to be typed. For this reason, some of the responses had to be tweaked to address the questions appropriately.