Local community services identified thousands of UK children as ‘at risk of radicalisation’ in just one year.
The National Police Chiefs Council has revealed that local authorities, schools, prisons, police and local health services believed as many as 4,611 people were in danger of joining extremist groups in the year leading up to June. Worryingly, 2,311 of these were under the age of 18 and 350 were younger than ten.
The total number represents a striking 75 per cent increase on the previous year. Meanwhile, the number of under-18s identified rose by 83 per cent in the same time.
Once a person has been identified as “at risk”, they are assessed by a government panel. If the individual is deemed to be truly in danger of becoming radicalised they are referred to Channel. This is a one-on-one mentoring programme designed to stop people becoming extremists of any sort, such as radical Islamism or neo-Nazism. It is part of Prevent – a government strategy established following the London terrorist attack in July 2005.
Jonathan Russell of counter extremism think tank Quilliam suggested the “increased visibility” of the so-called Islamic State group could be responsible for the rise in referrals. Speaking to The Times, he said the most important thing to take away from these figures is that “trained professionals think an increasing number of young people are vulnerable to radicalisation”.
However, the move has attracted criticism from commentators on social media. Twitter user and feminist blogger @stavvers claimed “the government has been undertaking racist harassment” of children under ten. Some of the warning signs supposedly indicating a risk of radicalisation such as “wanting adventure … wanting to be cool in a group, falling out with friends and making new ones, and wanting “street cred”” amounted to “normal kid stuff” she insisted, adding that the authorities “only intervene on the brown ones”.
Last month, following an analysis of 54 family cases, Cafcass insisted that it was not possible to create a standard profile of children at risk of radicalisation.