More than 2,000 children and teenagers were referred to the Government’s counter-terrorism programme in 2015/16—including more than 500 girls.

The first detailed Home Office figures revealed that nearly a third of all those referred to the Prevent scheme were under the age of 15, and over half under the age of 20.

However the figures also show that just one in 20 of those referred receive specialist support to help deradicalise them, and 16 per cent of those drop out of the voluntary scheme.

In one case, a nine year-old boy was referred to Prevent by his teacher after he stood up in class and announced he supported Isis.

Experts said children as young as five or six have been sent for help because of their older siblings’ involvement in terror activity, including some who traveled abroad to Syria and Iraq.

More youngsters are being reported than ever before after teachers were given specialist training to identify the signs of radicalisation, although some mentors involved in the scheme said increasing numbers of autistic children are being referred.

The numbers have raised questions about how children and teenagers are being affected by access to online extremism including terror videos on YouTube.

Amber Rudd the Home Secretary is currently in America meeting social media giants in a bid to curb the level of extreme and illegal content online.

The figures released today show that many of the 1,072 people who were deemed to need help to stop them getting involved in terrorism were referred for mental health treatment, while only 381 actually got specialist support.

Over 60 people dropped out without finishing the voluntary programme and the Home Office was unable to provide figures for how many became involved in terrorism further down the line.

Prevent aims to reduce the threat to the UK by stopping people being drawn into terrorism.

The initiative is part of the Government’s overarching counter-terror strategy known as Contest, which was first drawn up in 2003.

Anyone who is concerned about a person they think may be at risk of radicalisation can refer them to Prevent.

Only a small percentage of referrals are ultimately deemed to require intervention in the anti-extremism sphere.

When authorities conclude there is a risk relating to extremism, the individual can be given support through the Channel scheme.

The new Home Office report on the 7,631 referrals to Prevent in 2015/16 show:

  • 2,766 (36%) left the process requiring no further action
  • 3,793 (50%) were “signposted” to alternative services
  • 1,072 (14%) were assessed as suitable to be discussed at a multi-agency Channel panel

Of the 381 cases which subsequently received support through the programme, 108 were under 15.

The Home Office said that of those who have left the Channel process, more than four in five were judged to have had their vulnerability to being drawn into terrorism reduced.

Almost 5,000, or just under two-thirds, of referrals in 2015/16 related to concerns about Islamist extremism while 759 (10%) were linked to right-wing extremism.

Of the 4,997 referred over Islamist extremism, three in 10 were under 15, the data shows.

The largest proportion referred in relation to Islamist concerns were from London, at 28%.

Of those flagged up over right-wing extremism the largest proportion were from the North East at 21%. Those referred over right-wing concerns were proportionately more likely to receive Channel support.

Prevent has repeatedly come under fire, with critics labelling it heavy-handed and “toxic” amid claims it unfairly focuses on the Muslim community.

But police and ministers say it is a crucial plank of wider counter-extremism efforts.

The programme has been credited with playing a role in disrupting more than 150 attempted journeys to the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

In July 2015, authorities including councils and schools were placed under a statutory requirement, known as the Prevent duty, to stop people being drawn into terrorism.

The figures show a sharp jump in referrals following the introduction of the duty, while officials say the increase may also have been linked to the Paris attacks in November 2015.

Topics: , , ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.