This article has been published in Enabling Education 3
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Title: The 'system' gave up on me: voices of young Black People in England
Author: Ejo, Y
Publisher: EENET
Date: 1999

“The ‘system’ gave up on me”: voices of young Black People in England

Bibini is a network of Black young people who have spent periods of time in institutional care in the North West of England. The group is made up of young people from Afro-Caribbean, African and Asian backgrounds who have found themselves in extremely difficult circumstances. These young people feel that the care and service they were receiving had not met their needs. As a result many were moved from one institution to another and the ‘system’ finally gave up on them. This is an article based on an interview with three young Black people.

Bibini was established in 1993 in response to the fact that the needs of Black young people were not being met. Young people were central to the process of identifying their needs, setting priorities, interviewing staff and even in the design of new buildings. Initial funding was provided by Comic Relief. The group has had the support of professionals who have worked alongside them and helped with fundraising.

Bibini now runs four projects: a home for Black young people; work with families; support for young care-givers; and accommodation for young people leaving care. This last project is the focus of this article and reflects the views of three young people who are in the programme. Bibini is unique in the UK and works holistically to meet the needs of young people.

The three young people who share their views here are two women and a man aged between 16 and 19. They came to this programme because of the breakdown of family relationships and the lack of support for the young people in various institutions and in the community.

One young woman feels that Bibini is a secure environment from which she could pursue educational goals. She had left school before completing her secondary education. The second young woman feels that she was better able to accept her mixed-race parentage as a result of being with positive peer role models. She had previously rejected her Black identity. The young man, who is a wheelchair user, said that the project provided him with an opportunity to adjust to his newly-acquired disability. They all believe that their attitudes have changed dramatically since being part of Bibini. They can be themselves.

The young people are included in all decision-making in Bibini. A weekly meeting provides them with a chance to air their feelings, express their views and contribute to the running of Bibini.

This is a programme that makes a clear statement about the importance of young people’s participation in making decisions that affect their lives. This process has made a positive impact on their attitudes and changed their lives for the better.

For more details contact: Yoni Ejo . Bibini Centre for Young People . 60a Wood Road . Whalley Range . Manchester . M16 8FB . UK.
Tel: +44 161 881 8559 Fax: +44 161 882 0420