‘Spotting the signs of abuse has never been more important if we are to help protect children from sexual exploitation, gang related activity or other hate crimes’. Peter Wanless, CEO NSPCC
Radicalisation is an incredibly complex and pressing issue in today’s world and recent events have thrust it into the spot light once again. For youth workers, it is a safeguarding issue and as Peter Wanless’s quote suggests, it is our duty to offer protection to young people.
Prevent, part of the UK’s counter terrorism strategy, aims to stop people from being involved in supporting terrorism or engaging in terrorism itself. It has been criticised by communities and politicians in recent months so, as someone who works with young people, I was interested to attend, to understand my responsibilities better.
The aim of the workshop was to provide information about the purpose of Prevent, what the process of radicalisation looks like, how we can identify when an individual may be vulnerable to becoming radicalised and how we should raise any concerns. What I liked about the workshop was that there were people attending from all walks of life, including those from the police force, education sector, local community and the youth sector.
What did it teach us?
The workshop taught us how to spot vulnerabilities in people who may be at risk of being radicalised and why some people are able to influence other people and have the ability to manipulate others to commit crimes. It was eye-opening to say the least. It really emphasised that the process of radicalisation can be taking place anywhere and at any time. One of the most interesting learning points was gaining a better understanding of the process of radicalisation – including how it begins and how it can escalate. For example, the process usually starts as a ‘friendship’, which means that a mutual trust is developed. Often, the victim is unaware they are being radicalised and simply believes that it is a ‘friendship’ – the problem starts when the victim feels like they ‘owe’ the other person and this is where the situation can become dangerous and a risk…
Another very interesting analogy was to think about the topic of terrorism as an iceberg. When thinking about terrorism, words about the action itself tend to spring to mind. These can be classed as factors occurring ‘above the surface’:
- Specific attacks
But, what we tend to forget is the things that could be going on ‘below the surface’, which can often be forgotten or not considered:
- Finance – individuals need money to engage in terrorist activity
As part of the training, we also explored the emotional (internal) and physical (external) factors that could lead people to being more vulnerable, including family breakdown, over-use of social media and the ‘need to belong’. This highlights the fact that warning signs may not always be visually apparent, and it could be a range of factors contributing to put individuals at risk.
Why is this training important?
This has just been a broad overview of the Prevent Training we attended, but I would definitely recommend going along to one if you can – it is free too! The training was valuable to me as a Peer Facilitator at the NYA, as I interact and engage with young people on a regular basis. After all, protecting young people we work with and having the ability to recognise warning signs is a vital part of my job. I gained confidence through the Prevent Training and this is crucial when it comes to a complicated, sensitive and prominent issue like radicalisation.
One of the main messages of the training was that safeguarding is crucial in working to prevent instances of radicalisation. If as many of us as possible can use this low level of intervention to spot these changes in vulnerable individuals, it could make a huge difference.