Radicalisation is defined as the process by which people come to support terrorism and violent extremism and, in some cases, to then participate in terrorist groups.
There is no obvious profile of a person likely to become involved in extremism or a single indicator of when a person might move to adopt violence in support of extremist ideas. The process of radicalisation is different for every individual and can take place over an extended period or within a very short time frame.
Three main areas of concern have been identified for initial attention in developing the awareness and understanding of how to recognise and respond to the increasing threat of children/young people being radicalised:
- Increasing understanding of radicalisation and the various forms it might take, thereby enhancing the skills and abilities to recognise signs and indicators amongst all staff working with children and young people;
- Identifying a range of interventions – universal, targeted and specialist – and the expertise to apply these proportionately and appropriately;
- Taking appropriate measures to safeguard the wellbeing of children living with or in direct contact with known extremists.
2. National Guidance and Strategies
The following are part of the government’s counter terrorist strategy, referred to as CONTEST.
The Prevent Strategy: A Guide for Local Partners in England. Stopping people becoming or supporting terrorists and violent extremists The expectation is that within all local authority areas a Prevent multi-agency partnership board is established to plan and manage responses. Children’s Services should be involved and participate in the Area Partnership Board for Prevent and kept informed of the particular risks in their area.
Learning together to be safe: A toolkit to help schools contribute to the prevention of violent extremism. This provides guidance and advice on the importance of schools developing approaches to prevent violent extremism in children and young people within their existing work.
Working Together to Safeguard Children (WT) 2010 (now archived). Chapter 11 of WT 2010 identifies the risk of radicalisation to support terrorism and violent extremism as one of a number of factors which may make children and young people particularly vulnerable.
Channel: Supporting Individuals vulnerable to recruitment by violent extremists: A Guide for local partnerships. The Channel programme is an initiative led by the Police and operates in areas identified as having higher levels of risk, to provide support to those at risk of being drawn into violent extremism. The guidance identifies as good practice the importance of having:
- A clear referral process incorporating a multi-agency panel;
- An identified co-ordinator or location of expertise for advice, guidance and support;
- Information sharing protocols.
Cambridgeshire Police operates a local Channel project which can provide advice and support to individuals at risk.
3. Referral and Intervention Processes
The NPCC guidance provides a model referral process for children and young people who are vulnerable to radicalisation and/or who may be at risk through living with or being in direct contact with known extremists.
Staff working with children should use this model to assist them in identifying and responding to concerns about children who may be vulnerable to being drawn into violent extremist activity.
Any member of staff who identifies such concerns, for example as a result of observed behaviour or reports of conversations to suggest the child supports terrorism and/or violent extremism, must report these concerns to the named or designated safeguarding professional in their organisation or agency, who will consider what further action is required. See also Section 5, Understanding and Recognising Risks and Vulnerabilities of Radicalisation.
As set out in the flowchart, the named or designated professional must discuss any such concerns with the local police. After consultation with the police and in light of any further information gathered about the child and the family, if it is considered there are grounds for further involvement, a multi agency assessment meeting (usually involving the child, parents and relevant professionals) should be convened to determine the appropriate response and how this should be delivered.
The aim is to ensure an early identification of children’s vulnerabilities and promote a coordinated response, wherever possible within universal provision (Tier 1) or through targeted interventions (Tier 2) and the Early Help Assessment process. The emphasis should be on supporting vulnerable children and young people, rather than informing on or “spotting” those with radical or extreme views.
The attached table, Appropriate, Proportionate Responses and Interventions (which has been reproduced from the NPCC Guidance) gives examples of the range of responses where concerns of radicalisation have been identified.
In exceptional cases, it may be considered that a child or young person is involved or potentially involved in supporting or pursuing extremist behaviour. This may be, for example, where the child is part of a family with known extremists (e.g. people who are currently subject to criminal proceedings or who have been convicted of terrorism related offences). Where this is the case, a referral must be made to Children’s Social Care Services under the Making Referrals to MASH Procedure and the police must be informed. Further investigation by the police will be required, prior to other assessments and interventions.
While the nature of the risk may raise security issues, the process should not be seen as different from dealing with the likelihood of Significant Harm or vulnerability due to the exposure to other influences.
Consideration should be given to the possibility that sharing information about the concerns with the parents may increase the risk to the child and therefore may not be appropriate at the referral stage – see Making Referrals to MASH Procedure.
Consideration should also be given to the need for an emergency response – this will be extremely rare but examples are where there is information that a violent act is imminent or where weapons or other materials may be in the possession of a young person or member of his or her family. In this situation a 999 call must be made.
Where there is involvement as a result of the concerns, any provision of services should be subject to regular reviews until it is deemed appropriate to end the agreed response.
4. Local Support
Locally, the following organisations are able to provide additional advice and guidance in relation to safeguarding individuals vulnerable to radicalisation and children who may be at risk through living with or being in direct contact with known extremists:
Key contacts within Cambridgeshire Police are:
- Kevin Vanterpool (Kevin.Vanterpool@cambs.pnn.police.uk); and
- Matt Newman (Matt.Newman@cambs.pnn.police.uk);
- Steve Lodge can provide advice and support for the Cambridgeshire Channel project (email@example.com).
5. Understanding and Recognising Risks and Vulnerabilities of Radicalisation
Children and young people can be drawn into violence or they can be exposed to the messages of extremist groups by many means.
These can include through the influence of family members or friends and/or direct contact with extremist groups and organisations or, increasingly, through the internet. This can put a young person at risk of being drawn into criminal activity and has the potential to cause Significant Harm.
The risk of radicalisation is the product of a number of factors and identifying this risk requires that staff exercise their professional judgement, seeking further advice as necessary. It may be combined with other vulnerabilities or may be the only risk identified.
Potential indicators include:
- Use of inappropriate language;
- Possession of violent extremist literature;
- Behavioural changes;
- The expression of extremist views;
- Advocating violent actions and means;
- Association with known extremists;
- Seeking to recruit others to an extremist ideology;