Radicalisation cases ‘no different’ from other safeguarding work

Police and government tackle social work concerns about Prevent duty at Community Care Live, and stress that radicalisation is a "core safeguarding issue"

Under the Prevent duty, social workers need to identify and act in cases where radicalisation is a factor

Social workers have been told that radicalisation cases are “exactly the same” as other safeguarding concerns.

At a packed session on preventing radicalisation at Community Care Live on Tuesday (3 November), Alamgir Sheriyar, active referral coordinator for Kent Police, said that in cases of grooming, child sexual exploitation and young people becoming involved with gangs, social workers “make notes, and you pass it on to your safeguarding team,” and there was “nothing different” in cases of suspected radicalisation.

“We are not talking about reinventing the wheel of safeguarding, it is what we do,” Sheriyar said.

He added: “When we talk about radicalisation, child sexual exploitation, and issues with gangs, it is exactly the same process, and if something has the same process involved then it makes sense that the identification will be very, very similar.

Vulnerable young people

“What we’re talking about is vulnerable young people. Vulnerable people who are being targeted, not because they are bad people or want to get involved in criminal activity, [but] because they are vulnerable and they need a sense of belonging and through that grooming process they are given that.”

You can take Community Care’s survey on how confident you are as a social worker to deal with cases of radicalisation.

In suspected cases of radicalisation, social workers and local authorities are under a duty to refer the case to the local Channel panel, which will then decide the correct, if any, intervention and support to be offered to that individual.

In recent months, high-profile radicalisation cases in the press have placed a greater emphasis on the role of agencies in preventing the radicalisation of individuals. This has brought the social work role more into focus, and concerns have been voiced about how well social workers understand the duty and what role they should be playing in it. 

However, Victoria Latham, head of local delivery for the government’s Prevent programme, said that radicalisation was a part of the same safeguarding agenda as other preventative work done by social workers.

Latham told delegates that the Prevent duty, introduced on 1 July, was “not actually asking anybody to do anything new or different, it’s about reflecting a safeguarding issue as part of everyday practice”.

‘Core safeguarding issue’

“Ultimately, this is a safeguarding issue, this is not radicalisation bolted on to a safeguarding conversation you would already have about an at risk individual. This is a core safeguarding issue, it’s just one that has drawn a great deal more attention of late,” she said.

The Prevent guidance was first put in place in 2011, Latham reminded the social workers present, and she said the Prevent duty had only placed a new emphasis on the issue.

“It’s not a new strategy, it’s not a new design, it’s not a new thing. It’s the 2011 strategy and work that has been placed on a statutory footing,” Latham said.

‘Pre-crime’ concerns

Amid concerns from other panellists and the audience that the Prevent agenda reflected a “pre-crime” approach, where radical thoughts are taken as an assumption that someone might commit a crime – and questions about how radicalisation fits in with other forms of abuse dealt with in child protection – Sheriyar said that a young person arriving at an idea was not abuse, but how that position was “developed through the grooming process” was “absolutely” abuse.

He said: “When you break down the radicalisation and the grooming process, there is emotional abuse because you are telling someone they don’t fit in. There is, in some cases, sexual abuse, [like] young girls travelling to Syria with this dream they are going to get married to a soldier. So when we are talking about these things, these abusive cultures are represented within child protection. When we talk about child protection we are essentially talking about keeping young people safe. That is what we are doing through the Prevent strategy.”

However, Jo Finch, deputy director of the Centre for Social Work Research, questioned social workers’ involvement in these cases.

Finch asked: “Are we getting into dangerous ideological grounds here? Is this our role? Should it be our role?”

“My concern is about the notion of pre-crime. If people have a genuine interest, does that mean they are going to commit terrorist acts? I remember my radical self at 13, animal rights, anti-vivisection and strict vegetarian, that’s part of growing up isn’t it, to perhaps have views that aren’t very well informed,” she added.

Sheriyar said the process involved referrals of radicalisation being verified and understood: “What is the worst thing that can happen if you share that risk? You speak to somebody like myself, a Prevent officer, and we say ‘Do you know what, this doesn’t fit the Prevent criteria’.”

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4 Responses to Radicalisation cases ‘no different’ from other safeguarding work

  1. Steve Campbell November 4, 2015 at 5:18 pm #

    I would hope that social workers around the country are not silently accepting this illiberal and fundamentally oppressive diktat. Prevent is supposed to safeguard “British values”, whatever they may be outside the op-ed columns of the Daily Mail; it would appear that freedom of thought and expression don’t fall within the confines of such values. It may also be salutary to ask people from around the world where Britain has previously invaded what they might think of such values.

    Young people, even small children, have been referred via the Prevent process for such things as showing support for disinvestment in Israel, support for Palestine and even a reference in an essay to the historical Caliphate. The list goes on and can include anything deemed by this state and the police to be radical; Tolpuddle Martyrs anyone? Ask any policeman through the ages in any part of the world whether they need more powers and you would always be guaranteed their enthusiastic assent; nothing has changed. There are laws aplenty to deal with the threat of violence without sinking to depths Theresa May would have us do.

    Jo Finch is quite right to raise concerns about “pre-crime”. The concept here is pernicious nonsense and raises the very Orwellian notion of ‘thoughtcrime’, dealt with by ‘crimestop’: “Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought…..Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity” (1984).

    As John Prescott has said: “When I hear people talking about how people are radicalised, young Muslims. I’ll tell you how they are radicalised. Every time they watch the television where their families are worried, their kids are being killed and murdered and rockets firing on all these people, that’s what radicalises them.”

    Just as the US (literally) helped found Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, Britain and the US have created the devastation and chaos which has given birth to the reactionary horror of ISIS, through the illegal and just plain wrong invasion of Iraq.

    Britain has a proud and illustrious history of radicalism, through the birth of Chartism, the founding of the trade union movement, the Suffragettes and so on. This is a history of which we should all be proud.

    • Jackie Lowe November 8, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

      I agree with the above. I was at the conference and agreed with those questioning the panel about how radicalisation fits into the CP categories. I was not impressed by the home office /police response which showed a limited understanding of how CP conferences work and of the meeting’s concerns that social workers were being used politically. They did not address the questions as to why other issues such as young people holding extreme right wing views and strong beliefs regarding animal rights were not similarly considered.

  2. Vicky November 5, 2015 at 8:41 pm #

    I was in attendance to this session and I heard a social worker ask “is this our role” this instantly rang alarm bells with me, as Social workers for adults or for children, no matter the service. Social Workers represent, support and advocate for the most repressed and vulnerable individuals in society therefore, I don’t feel the need to question if this is our role as to me it’s crystal clear that if it involves our service users and effects them it’s within our role.

  3. Jane November 9, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

    I can only ask that social workers do not begin to do the Daily Mails work for them.