CTP launches safeguarding website to combat ‘perfect storm’ of online radicalisation
18 November 2020
THE IMPACT of COVID-19, social isolation and a rise in hateful extremism online is creating a ‘perfect storm’ which is making more young people vulnerable to radicalisation. Parents, friends and families can now access specialist support to stop their loved ones from being drawn into harmful activities or groups thanks to the launch of ACT Early - a new dedicated safeguarding website (www.actearly.uk) and advice line devised by the specialists at Counter-Terrorism Policing.
This new resource will provide advice, guidance and support for anyone who’s concerned that someone they know may be at risk from being radicalised by terrorists or extremist content online.
Between 1 January 2019 and 30 June this year, 17 children have been arrested in relation to terrorism offences. Some of them were as young as 14 years old, while nearly all will have been radicalised entirely online.
In the same time period, more than 1,500 children under the age of 15 were referred to the Prevent programme to help them choose a different path away from hatred and violence.
Family and friends are best placed to spot the worrying behaviour changes which can indicate that a loved one is heading down a path towards radicalisation, but currently just 2% of referrals into the Government’s Prevent programme emanate from that group.
Prevent is just that – a preventative programme, delivered locally by teachers, healthcare practitioners, social workers, the police service, charities and religious leaders. It places protection around people vulnerable to radicalisation, preventing them from being drawn into terrorism regardless of the ideology. It works in a similar way to safeguarding processes designed to protect people from gangs and drug abuse.
Using the resources
With COVID-19 making regular access to schools, social workers and mental health support more difficult, specialists at Counter-Terrorism Policing are concerned that people who need help are not receiving it, which makes it more important for friends and family to use the new ACT Early resources to understand what might be happening to their loved one(s), and what support Prevent can provide.
“We’re seeing more young people being drawn towards terrorist activity,” explained Neil Basu, head of Counter-Terrorism Policing and Assistant Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police Service. In the last 18 months or so, 17 children under the age of 18 have been arrested in relation to terrorism offences, some of them as young as 14-years-old. That’s a relatively new and worrying trend in the UK, because just a few years ago we were not seeing anyone that young among our casework files.”
Basu continued: “What concerns me most is this. There has been a sharp increase in extremist material online in the last few years, and COVID-19 has meant that vulnerable people are spending a lot more time isolated and online, and with fewer of the protective factors that schooling, employment, friends and family can provide. In my opinion that’s a perfect storm. One which we cannot predict and that we might be feeling the effects of for many years to come.”
Further, Basu stated: “I remain hopeful, because there’s something we can do right now to try and stop this. It requires parents, friends and family to help us by acting early, by talking to their children about what they view online and sharing their concerns and seeking support if they fear someone they know is in danger of being radicalised.”
In conclusion, Basu commented: “Asking for help is a difficult and emotional step, but we must see it for what it is. In short, action which will not ruin their lives, but may well save them.”