Safeguarding Children and Young People Vulnerable to Violent Extremism

1. Introduction
The current threat from terrorism in the United Kingdom can involve the exploitation of vulnerable people, including children, young people and vulnerable adults to involve them in terrorism or activity in support of terrorism.

Avicenna Academy agree that this exploitation should be viewed as a safeguarding concern.

This guidance is intended to provide a clear framework for all professionals working with children for whom there are concerns that they are at risk of becoming involved in violent extremist activity.

It includes the link between safeguarding procedures and the Channel programme, and provides a mechanism for supporting those who may be vulnerable to violent extremism by assessing the nature and the extent of the potential risk and, where necessary, providing an appropriate support package.

2. Definitions
Violent Extremism is defined by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) as:

“The demonstration of unacceptable behaviour by using any means or medium to express views, which:

  • Encourage, justify or glorify terrorist violence in furtherance of particular beliefs;
  • Seek to provoke others to terrorist acts;
  • Encourage other serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to serious criminal acts;
  • Foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.”

There are a number of offences that can be considered when dealing with violent extremism. They include offences arising through spoken words, creation of tapes and videos of speeches, internet entries, chanting, banners and written notes and publications.

The main offences employed to date have been soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred.

The Sheffield Safeguarding Children Board recognise the government position that Violent Extremism inspired by an Al Qaeda ideology, which advocates a distorted and fabricated version of Islam, is considered to be the greater threat to the UK by the security services. However, the they also seek to protect children and young people against the messages of all violent extremism including that linked to a Far Right / Neo Nazi / White Supremacist ideology, Irish Nationalist and Loyalist paramilitary groups, and that linked to Animal Rights movements.

3. Legislative and Policy Framework
The following legislation and policies have provided the framework for this safeguarding protocol:

  • The Children Act 1989; as revised by the Children Act 2004;
  • Working Together to Safeguard Children (2013);
  • Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families, Department of Health 2000;
  • Channel: Supporting individuals vulnerable to recruitment by violent extremists: A Guide for Local Partnerships, HM Government with Association of Chief Police Officers, 2010;
  • The revised national CONTEST (Counter-Terrorism) Strategy 2011;
  • Recognising and responding to radicalisation. Considerations for policy and practice through the eyes of street level workers. (Recora Institute)

4. Information Sharing and Confidentiality
There is a statutory duty for workers to share information where there are concerns about the safety or well being of a child or vulnerable adult. Numerous pieces of legislation place a power or duty on local authorities to share information safely and actively in specific circumstances including:

  • The Data Protection Act 1998;
  • The Human Rights Act 1998;
  • The Common Law Duty of Confidence;
  • The Crime and Disorder Act 1998;
  • The Children Act 2004 Sections 10 and 11;
  • The Caldicott Principles.

All information sharing must be conducted in accordance with a relevant legal power of duty, and be proportionate and relevant to the circumstances presented.

For further detailed guidance see Information Sharing and Confidentiality Guide.

5. Identification
There is no such thing as a ‘typical extremist’ and those involved in extremism come from a range of backgrounds and experiences.

The research and evidence base pertaining to this risk group is limited, but is developing rapidly.

Most individuals, even those who hold radical views, do not become involved in violent extremism.

Numerous factors can contribute to and influence the range of behaviours that are defined as violent extremism. It is important to consider these factors in order to develop an understanding of the issue. It is also necessary to understand those factors that build resilience and protect individuals from engaging in violent extremist activity.

It is important to be cautious in assessing these factors to avoid inappropriately labelling or stigmatising individuals because they possess a characteristic or fit a specific profile.

It is vital that all professionals who have contact with vulnerable individuals are able to recognise those vulnerabilities and help to increase safe choices.

It is necessary to remember that violent behaviour operates on many levels in the absence of protective factors and that individuals largely act within the context of their environment and experiences.

Research shows that indicators of vulnerability can include:

  • Identity Crisis – Distance from cultural / religious heritage and uncomfortable with their place in the society around them;
  • Personal Crisis – Family tensions; sense of isolation; adolescence; low self-esteem; disassociating from existing friendship group and becoming involved with a new and different group of friends; searching for answers to questions about identity, faith and belonging;
  • Personal Circumstances – Migration; local community tensions; events affecting country or region of origin; alienation from UK values; having a sense of grievance that is triggered by personal experience of racism or discrimination or aspects of Government policy;
  • Unmet Aspirations – Perceptions of injustice; feeling of failure; rejection of civic life;
  • Criminality – Experiences of imprisonment; poor resettlement/reintegration; previous involvement with criminal groups.

However, this list is not exhaustive, nor does it mean that all young people experiencing the above are at risk of exploitation for the purposes of violent extremism.

More critical risk factors could include:

  • Being in contact with extremist recruiters;
  • Articulating support for violent extremist causes or leaders;
  • Accessing violent extremist websites, especially those with a social networking element;
  • Possessing or accessing violent extremist literature;
  • Using extremist narratives and a global ideology to explain personal disadvantage;
  • Justifying the use of violence to solve societal issues;
  • Joining or seeking to join extremist organisations;
  • Significant changes to appearance and/or behaviour.

6. Referral

Each agency will have been asked to identify a Prevent Single Point of Contact (SPOC) who will be the lead within the organisation for safeguarding in relation to protecting individuals from radicalisation and involvement in terrorism. ‘Appendix 1: Roles and Responsibilities of the Single Point of Contact (SPOC)’ sets out the responsibilities of the SPOC. The Avicenna Academy SPOC is Ms Aqsa Ahmed.

As with other safeguarding issues, where a professional has any concerns that a person or their family may be at risk of radicalisation or involvement in terrorism, they should speak with the organisation’s safeguarding lead and the SPOC if this is not the same person. The SPOC should offer advice and guidance about the appropriateness of making a referral to Children’s Social Care and/or undertaking integrated working processes, such as the Common Assessment Framework, to better understand the issue and gather additional information.

If, at any stage, it is felt that the individual poses an immediate danger to themselves or any other person, the police should be called immediately.

If the concerns about an individual are not serious, the Designated Safeguarding Lead / Prevent SPOC may decide that they can be addressed by action within the organisation. In this case, the organisation should take the appropriate action to address any concerns, and review whether the concerns remain after this.

If the Safeguarding Lead / Prevent SPOC consider that the concerns relating to an individual are more significant, and require a multi-agency response, they should:

  • Refer their concerns to the Police;
  • Make a referral to Children’s Social Care

7. Assessment
CAF remains the primary vehicle for assessing vulnerable young people, including those who may be vulnerable to violent extremist messages:

  • However, where a referral is made to Children’s Social Care, given the complexity of this issue and the need to access materials that may only be available within the South Yorkshire Counter-Terrorism Unit, cases will be subject to an initial Vulnerability Assessment as identifying vulnerabilities is necessary for effective intervention and the understanding of individual risk management.

Information received from the Channel Team will be used to guide the decision-making process. See ‘Appendix 2: Channel’ for information about the Channel Process.

Most children and young people do not become involved in violent extremism. Numerous factors can contribute to and influence the range of behaviours that are defined as violent extremism. Therefore, in many cases interventions identified through the Channel process may not appear to be specific to the threat of radicalisation. For example, they might relate to other needs of the individual such as in respect of mental health support, housing, relationships, offending behaviour or drug and alcohol issues. There may however sometimes be a need for specialist interventions in relation to de-radicalisation and disengagement. These will be commissioned as required. See ‘Appendix 3: Additional Assessment Considerations’.

Appendix 1: Roles and Responsibilities of the Single Point of Contact (SPOC)

As the SPOC for your organisation you will be responsible for:

  • Ensuring that other staff in the organisation are aware that you are the SPOC in relation to protecting individuals from radicalisation and involvement in terrorism;
  • Maintaining and applying a good understanding of the relevant guidance in relation to preventing individuals from becoming involved in terrorism, and protecting them from radicalisation by those who support terrorism or forms of extremism which lead to terrorism;
  • Raising awareness about the role and responsibilities of the organisation in relation to protecting individuals from radicalisation and involvement in terrorism;
  • Raising awareness within the organisation about the safeguarding processes relating to protecting individuals from radicalisation and involvement in terrorism;
  • Acting as the first point of contact within the organisation for case discussions relating to individuals who may be at risk of radicalisation or involved in terrorism;
  • Making referrals of individuals at risk to South Yorkshire Police or the Channel Co-ordinator as appropriate in line with the safeguarding policy;
  • Collating relevant information from your organisation in relation to referrals of vulnerable children and young people or adults into the Channel process;
  • Attending Channel meetings as necessary and carrying out any actions as agreed;
  • Reporting progress on actions to the Channel Co-ordinator; and
  • Sharing any relevant additional information in a timely manner.

Appendix 2: Channel

Channel is a multi-agency approach, led by South Yorkshire Police, to provide support to individuals who are at risk of being drawn into terrorist related activity.

Channel seeks to:

  • Establish  an effective multi-agency referral and intervention process to identify vulnerable individuals;
  • Safeguard individuals who might be vulnerable to being radicalised, so that they are not at risk of being drawn into terrorist related activity;
  • Provide early intervention to protect and divert people away from the risks they face and reduce vulnerability.

It is known that violent extremists exploit vulnerabilities in individuals to drive a wedge between them, their families and their communities. Refer to the Considerations below in Appendix 3: Additional Assessment Considerations when deciding whether to refer to Channel.

‘Any person who is susceptible to radicalisation through a range of social, personal and environmental factors that may lead to the person demonstrating or exhibiting violent extremist behaviour. This will also include violent domestic extremism’.

As a minimum there must be information evidencing a concern that the individual is either moving towards support for terrorism, or an attraction to terrorism or a vulnerability to radicalisation.

The Channel Team is based within the South Yorkshire Counter-Terrorism Unit.

The telephone contact number for the Channel Team is 101.

The current link for the Channel Team is

Appendix 3: Additional Assessment Considerations

(To be considered against unique personal circumstances of referred individual.)

The list is not exhaustive and all or none may be present in individual cases of concern. Nor does it mean that vulnerable people experiencing these factors are automatically at risk of exploitation for the purposes of violent extremism.

Section 1 – Access to Extremism / Extremist Influences

  • Is there reason to believe that the subject associates with those known to be involved in extremism – either because they associate directly with known individuals or because they frequent key locations where these individuals are known to operate? (E.g. the subject is the partner, spouse, friend or family member of someone believed to be linked with extremist activity);
  • Does the subject frequent internet access locations for the purpose of extremist activity? (E.g. Use of closed network groups, access to or distribution of extremist material, contact associates covertly e.g. Skype/email);
  • Is there reason to believe that the subject has been or is likely to be involved with extremist/ military training camps/ locations?
  • Is the subject known to have possessed or is actively seeking to possess and/ or distribute extremist literature / other media material likely to incite racial/religious hatred or acts of violence?
  • Does the subject sympathise with or support proscribed groups e.g. propaganda distribution, fundraising and attendance at meetings?
  • Does the subject support groups with links to extremist activity but not proscribed e.g. propaganda distribution, fundraising and attendance at meetings?

Section 2 – Experiences, Behaviours and Influences

  • Has the subject encountered peer, social, family or faith group rejection?
  • Is there evidence of ideological, political or religious influence on the subject from within or outside UK?
  • Have international events in areas of conflict and civil unrest had a personal impact on the subject resulting in a noticeable change in behaviour? Note it is important to recognise that many people may be emotionally affected by the plight of what is happening in areas of conflict (i.e. images of children dying) it is important to differentiate them from subjects that sympathise with or support extremist activity;
  • Has there been a significant shift in the subject’s behaviour or outward appearance that suggests a new social / political or religious influence?
  • Has the subject come into conflict with family over religious beliefs/lifestyle choices?
  • Does the subject vocally support terrorist attacks?
  • Has the subject witnessed or been the perpetrator/victim of racial or religious hate crime or sectarianism?

Section 3 – Travel

  • Has the subject travelled for extended periods of time to international locations known to be associated with extremism?
  • Is there a pattern of regular or extended travel within the UK, with other evidence to suggest this is for purposes of extremist training or activity?
  • Has the subject employed any methods to disguise their true identity? Has the subject used documents or cover to support this?

Section 4 – Social Factors

  • Does the subject have experience of poverty, disadvantage, discrimination or social exclusion?
  • Does the subject suffer a lack of meaningful employment appropriate to their skills?
  • Does the subject display a lack of affinity or understanding for others, or social isolation from peer groups?
  • Does the subject demonstrate identity conflict and confusion normally associated with youth development?
  • Does the subject have any learning difficulties/ mental health support needs?
  • Does the subject demonstrate a simplistic or erroneous understanding of religion or politics?
  • Does the subject have a history of crime, including episodes in prison?
  • Is the subject a foreign national, refugee or awaiting a decision on their immigration/national status?
  • Does the subject have insecure, conflicted or absent family relationships?
  • Has the subject experienced any trauma in their lives, particularly any trauma associated with war or sectarian conflict?

End —

About Avicenna Academy

Avicenna Academy incorporates Primary and Secondary Education. It is the first academy to revive the teaching of neglected sciences such as Herbal Medicine and Islamic Creed (Aqeedah). We hold a broad, open-minded view and approach to knowledge and therefore Avicenna Academy provides a holistic education fit for the challenges of the 21st century.

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