What is Prevent Duty? The Role You Play in Counter-Extremism


By Skills for Health | 26 January 2021

Modern Britain is a multicultural society with a diverse culture, but unfortunately, there are threats to our multiculturalism. Voices of extremism come in many forms, some of which oppose the multi-ethnic and multi-religious culture within Britain and some of which threaten our welfare as a result.

Between 2019 and 2020, 6,068 individuals were referred to Prevent due to concerns they were vulnerable to being radicalised. This is an increase of 10% compared to the record low in the previous year.

This guide should help you understand what prevent duty is, whose duty it is, the role it plays in helping to protect people and the role you play in empowering that.

So what is Prevent duty?

Prevent Duty is a UK government policy and is part of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act. The prevent duty system aims to reduce the threat of terrorism by providing practical advice, statutory guidance and assistance to help stop individuals from being drawn into terrorist organisations and eventually performing terrorist activity.

In July 2015, the Prevent strategy was given legal status. Consequently, schools and colleges in England, Scotland and Wales have a due regard to stop their students from being drawn into terrorism.

The Prevent Strategy

Prevent is one of the four elements of CONTEST. This is the British government’s counter-terrorism strategy that aims to stop vulnerable individuals from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. The British Home Office works with local authorities to deliver this policy.

The goal of this strategy is to be preventive and pre-emptive, as opposed to reactive. What this means is, instead of responding to acts of terrorism after they have taken place, we can target the preliminary steps that lead to individuals becoming terrorists in the first place.

That is the advocacy of extreme or potentially dangerous views, as well as the vulnerability factors that make some individuals more prone to such views or more at risk of radicalisation. The theory is that, by proactively tackling the ideology instead of the criminal activity associated with it, we can have a wider and longer-lasting impact.

Prevent covers all form of terrorism including non-violent extremism and far-right issues and covers a range of sectors including education providers, charities, healthcare and criminal justice.

There are three specific objectives of the strategy:

  •   Respond to the ideological challenge of extremism
  •   Offer sector-specific guidance and support to discourage and obviate 1. v. t.; To anticipate; to prevent by interception; to remove
    from the way or path; to make unnecessary; as, to obviate the necessity
    of going. Powered by Dictozo
    a person being drawn to terrorist  organisations
  •   Make a larger impact in areas where the risk of radicalisation is higher

Seems pretty simple on paper but what do each of these points actually mean in practice?

What is Channel?

Channel is a programme which aims to protect and provide early-stage support to those individuals who are identified as being vulnerable to radicalisation.

Channel uses a multi-agency group approach to protect vulnerable people by:

·       Identifying those at risk

·       Assessing the risk

·       Developing a support plan for all those involved

So who is at risk?

According to the Revised Prevent Duty Guidance for England and Wales:

“Radicalisation refers to the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and extremist ideologies associated with terrorist groups.”

Radicalisation happens when a person starts to advocate an extreme ideology. They then may be encouraged to participate in acts of terrorism. The way people come to be radicalised varies; through direct contact or through the internet, by family, friends or by complete strangers. Feeling part of an extremist, radical community can give some a purpose and identity.

Anyone can be radicalised, but due to being easily influenced, the risk of children and young people is considered higher. Children at even further risk may have low-esteem or be victims of bullying. The sense of being isolated, depressed and unhappy may raise their likelihood of being radicalised. This may come from being angry at other people, or the government, confused about their future or feeling the pressure to stand up for those being oppressed.

What are my responsibilities under the Prevent duty?

Your responsibility under Prevent duty is to protect people from being radicalised. This means appointing Prevent coordinators and support groups to oversee the prevent strategy and monitor its implementation, compliance and overall effectiveness. Local authorities will provide dedicated Prevent coordinators to work with schools in high-priority areas.

Likewise, to this end, the role and duties of those appointed individuals should be regularly reviewed and evaluated to ensure they are still effective in the protection of children or young adults.

Prevent coordinators’ responsibilities can be summed up as:

·    Protect from radicalisation

·    Protect from extremism

·    Identify individual vulnerabilities and changes in behaviour

·    Teach how to build resistance to extremist ideas and terrorist ideology

·    Have a sound understanding of what steps to take if you have concerns about extremism

As with any safeguarding policy, they should be regularly reviewed and properly communicated to staff. Staff must be appropriately trained and have awareness training of all relevant strategies. Good communication of knowledge between staff, leadership and external agencies is crucial.

As an individual, you are expected work in an inhibitory way, through education and training as well as a heedful way, referring persons that have presented several key signs, behaviours or and/or vulnerability factors for a significant length of time.

So who makes Prevent referrals?

A big part of Prevent duty is exercising professional judgement as to whether an individual is at risk or not.

According to the latest statistics, the Police (1,950; 31%) and Education sector (1,928; 31%) made the highest number of referrals, followed by Healthcare who referred 725 individuals, accounting for 12% overall. Other sectors include local authorities, prison and probation services, employment, military and government (e.g. HMRC, Home Office Immigration Enforcement).

Am I responsible for Prevent Duty referrals?

Friends and family, as well as the wider community, can also make referrals and 240 took it upon themselves to do so between 2019 and 2020.

This means teachers, healthcare professionals, HR personnel and local authority and prison staff all need to provide a safe environment for both students/employees and staff to access informed, actionable advice and support.

What do I do as a teacher or healthcare practitioner?

Prevent is not about spying or intruding. The responsibility of a teacher or healthcare practitioner is to identify worrying behaviour and know-how to offer support for those at risk of radicalisation. There are no mandatory reporting requirements or quotas when it comes to Prevent. If you have a concern, you should follow the safeguarding procedures set up by your safeguarding leaders.

The goal as a teacher will be to increase your student’s awareness of extremist views and their negative effects. Make sure your classroom is a safe space, where students will feel comfortable talking about controversial topics. Creating a space where they feel free and open to share their feelings towards political and social issues without eliminating any taboos.

You should provide your students with the skills and knowledge to explore issues happening around them, understand the risks associated with terrorism and build the resilience to challenge extremist arguments. They should be able to weigh and analyse the evidence, make reasoned arguments and identify fake news.

What are British values?

More recently, the government has reinforced the need “to create and enforce a clear and rigorous expectation to promote fundamental British values” within education, as part of their strategy to overcome radicalisation and terrorism.

British values underpin what it is like to be a citizen in the modern and multicultural British Isles. They are defined as democracy, rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect for those of different faiths and beliefs to you. As an educator and/or employer, it is your statutory duty to promote these fundamental British values.

Teaching British values won’t just help avoid radicalisation, it will also help with emotional development, cultural development and tolerance for those with different personal beliefs. Introducing a regularly elected representative, council or class president, for example, would instil an understanding of democracy and compare it to systems of other countries around the world.

It’s important that practitioners are aware of the links to the fundamental British values, particularly if asked by any inspection body. For example, in England, it will be planned for under Personal, Social and Emotional Development and Understanding the World within the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). If schools should fail to adequately promote these values and principles, they will not receive funding from local authorities for the free early years entitlement.

Prevent duty in schools

From July 2015, all British schools, registered early years providers and education providers have a legal obligation to intercept radicalisation of their students and have robust procedures and policies in place to so.

An educational institution should thus place an appropriate amount of weight on to averting people in their care from supporting or inflicting both violent and non-violent terrorism. Staff are expected to understand the potential risks of children and young people in their local areas and identify those who may be vulnerable to radicalisation.

The statutory framework in place for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets standards for the learning, development and care for children aged between 0 and 5. Early education regulations thus mandate schools, including independent schools, to incorporate fundamental British values into the curriculum in order to promote the “spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils.” 

Victims of radicalisation are often targeted through social media and social networking websites, so this calls for online safeguarding. This is usually done through the appropriate filtering of web-page content.

Are extremism and terrorism the same thing?

Prevent Duty talks about extremism, terrorism and radicalisation, but what do these terms mean? The first two are often used interchangeably, however, they do have slightly different meanings as you can see below.

The UK Government has defined extremism in the Prevent strategy as: “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values”. Extremism can be used to describe both violent and non-violent forms of political expression however it tends to refer more to radical ideology or beliefs than activity. To be an extremist could mean anything from being a nationalist, a communist, to being an animal rights activist – as long as this ideology is regarded to be in opposition to the government’s position.

Terrorism, on the other hand, is predominately used to describe acts of violence, mainly political violence. The Crown Prosecution Service defined terrorism as “the use or threat of action, both in and outside of the country, designed to influence any government organisation or to intimidate the public for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause.”

Not all extremists are terrorists and not all terrorists are extremists (but in the latter case, they usually are). That’s because some extremists never act on their beliefs and some terrorists don’t have many beliefs in the first place (or the ones they do have are not particularly extreme). In fact, 51% of Prevent referrals — up by 48% from the previous year — between 2019 and 2020 were regarding individuals with a mixed, unstable or unclear ideology.

What is Prevent Duty Training?

Getting an individual up to speed on Prevent principles can take time, even more so a whole team. That’s why most organisations such as schools and healthcare practices choose to enrol their employees on prevent training, often as part of their wider safeguarding training.

Prevent training (or counter-terrorism training) will provide an important foundation on which to develop knowledge and understanding around the risks of radicalisation. It will also help you understand how you can play a critical role in supporting those at risk and identify those vulnerable to it.

Prevent training will address all forms of terrorism and will benefit a range of persons and sectors. Staff training programs have benefitted from the feedback of teachers, local authority leaders, community groups, childcare providers and many others.

Generally, a prevent training module covers:

  •    What extremism is and how it’s linked to terrorism
  •    The range of threats and types of terrorism we face
  •   The processes of radicalisation, including the role of the internet, social media and religion
  •    The key legislation and recent updates
  •    What makes people vulnerable to radicalisation, how they may be radicalised and how to report concerns
  •    What prevent duty means to different sectors
  •    How organisations must comply
  •    How to support those at risk


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