Prevent is one strand of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy. It aims to safeguard individuals from being drawn into terrorism.
Public bodies must now implement safeguarding policies, train staff in identifying extremism, and ensure that they have appropriate IT policies, welfare programmes and support for individuals in their care. This includes prisons, schools, the NHS and universities.
Often this is implemented by training seminars and workshops. In schools, pupils may be given workshops in critical thinking, take part in activities that break down stereotypes related to terrorism, and engage in discussions about extremism and extremist groups. The aim is to reduce children’s susceptibility to terrorist ideology, especially as young people are a targeted, vulnerable group.
What is Channel?
If an individual is deemed particularly at risk, they can be referred to the Channel Programme. This is a voluntary scheme that provides individualised support plans for those deemed vulnerable to radicalisation.
A multi-agency panel, with representatives from social services, the local authority, police and other welfare agencies, create a tailored care plan for the individual which is then frequently reviewed. This could involve 1-2-1 mentoring, theological counselling, or family/community support.
Only the most serious cases make it to Channel, as referrals are first screened to see if the individual is truly at risk, and then often directed to other services such as help with housing, health or employment instead.
Prevent is a safeguarding policy. It should be viewed in a similar light to other types of grooming and abuse such as gang crime, knife crime and sexual exploitation.
Prevent challenges all types of extremism. Most referrals are Islamist-related, as Islamist-inspired extremism is particularly widespread, systematic and organised. Nevertheless, far-Right referrals are increasing, and make up the majority in areas such as Yorkshire and the East Midlands.
Religious practises are not grounds for referral. This is made explicit in the Prevent Strategy and its accompanying guidance. (E.g. conservative expressions of faith with regard to dress/prayer).
Criticism of the West or foreign policy are not grounds for referral. Guidance for Further Education states “The Prevent Duty is not about preventing students from having political and religious views and concerns, but about supporting them to use those concerns or act on them in non-extremist ways”.
Channel support is voluntary. Consent from the individual or parent/guardian is required.