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It’s been a year and a half since the Prevent update placed a statutory duty on local authority staff and partner agencies to work to the Prevent agenda. Bal Kaur Howard, Radicalisation Trainer for Sanctuary Training, discusses the implications for social workers.

On the face of it, local authority duties under the statutory guidance, contained within section 29 of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015, place a great deal of responsibility on social workers. And with recent high-profile cases emphasising the role agencies play in preventing radicalisation, it’s no wonder practitioners have many questions about how to fulfil their statutory duties.

Defining radicalisation

Let’s pause for a moment though and consider the Home Office definition. It refers to radicalisation as “the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and forms of extremism leading to terrorism”. However, it’s still interpreted in many different ways, even by practitioners themselves. This has led to a degree of confusion when assessing risk.

When is it a safeguarding concern?

Simply encouraging somebody to hold a strong sense of belief is not a safeguarding concern. A young person arriving at an idea is not abuse, but grooming them with fundamentalist thoughts with a hatred for a certain country or religion, is.

Vulnerable young people and adults are particularly at risk because their vulnerability is exploited and they are offered a sense of belonging.

As Commander Richard Walton, Head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, said following the conviction of Kazi Islam [above] “there is currently a need to protect vulnerable or impressionable adults or children from the brand of Islamic extremism”.
Grooming involves emotional abuse of varying degrees and sometimes physical and sexual abuse, with young girls travelling abroad after promises of marrying a soldier, all of which are considered child protection issues.

This is why it is helpful to consider radicalisation as part of the overall safeguarding agenda. It is no different to safeguarding young people from child sexual exploitation or honour based violence.

What makes an individual vulnerable to radicalisation?

Individuals can be radicalised in a number of ways, many of which may overlap. The following, however, can make some young people more vulnerable than others:

• Identity crisis. Distance from culture / religion and feeling uncomfortable with their place in in the society around them

Personal crisis. Peer, Social, family or faith group rejection or isolation; searching for answers to questions about identity, faith and belonging

Personal Circumstances. Migration; local community tensions; events affecting country or religion of origin; alienation from UK values; having a sense of grievance that is triggered by personal experience of racism, discrimination or aspects of Government policy

Criminality. Experiences of imprisonment; previous involvement with criminal groups and gangs

Mental health issues. Anxiety, depression, and relational or personality problems can make a person vulnerable. Perceived ‘support’ from others can offer a release from inner angst and turmoil.

There are many different paths to radicalisation and spotting signs is not exact science. There are, however, some behaviours that are commonly found in those who may have been groomed…

To find out what these behaviours are and how a social worker should respond to them, have a read of the latest issue of our magazine, Sanctuary Social Work News alongside many other interesting articles!

If you are interested in radicalisation training, which can be tailored to your area’s specific requirements, email 
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