Significant overhaul of Prevent ‘on track’ with new Home Office guidance published
The Home Office says it is “on track” to fulfil the majority of the recommendations from the Independent Review of Prevent by February next year, with significant changes already implemented to bolster governance and embed oversight.
It says ten out of the 34 recommendations have been delivered in full, and progress has been made against every single recommendation, with 68 of the 120 required tasks completed.
It comes after Home Secretary Suella Braverman promised “wholesale and rapid change” across the anti-terror Prevent programme after the independent review into the programme was published in February.
The review made it clear that Prevent needed to refocus on its core mission of stopping people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.
This included Prevent placing greater emphasis on tackling ideology and its radicalising effects, rather than attempting to go beyond its remit to address broader societal issues, such as mental health.
Ms Braverman said the review also found that in its efforts to tackle the causes of radicalisation, Prevent had become “overly focused on addressing vulnerabilities rather than protecting the public from those who willingly support extremism”.
Led by William Shawcross, the Independent Review of Prevent found it was “out of kilter” with the rest of the counter-terrorism system and the UK terrorism threat picture.
Among the findings, Mr Shawcross said Prevent was not doing enough to tackle “non-violent Islamist extremism” and had double standards when dealing with extreme right-wing and Islamist cases.
He was also “disturbed by the prevalence of anti-semitism” in the ‘Channel’ cases he observed and said Prevent must “better understand and tackle anti-semitism where it is relevant to its work”.
In his assessment, Mr Shawcross said Prevent was “carrying the weight for mental health services”.
“Vulnerable people who do not necessarily pose a terrorism risk are being referred to Prevent to access other types of much-needed support,” he said. “This is a serious misallocation of resources and risks diverting attention from the threat itself.”
The review said Prevent must return to its core mission – countering all those ideologies that can lead people to committing or supporting acts of terrorism. This can only be done if Prevent properly understands the nature of these ideologies and how they attract and suborn individuals, it added.
The Home Office has now published refreshed draft Prevent duty guidance that delivers on several key recommendations of the independent review, making it clear that Prevent’s objective is to “tackle the ideological causes of terrorism”.
It includes practical advice for those with responsibility to stop people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.
The Home Office says strengthened due diligence checks on civil society organisations will also ensure that “under no circumstances” will Prevent work with or fund those who legitimise or support extremists.
“Prevent funding has ceased with groups which have fallen foul of these standards,” it added.
The guidance, published on Thursday (September 8) is designed to help frontline professionals in healthcare, education, local authorities, prisons, probation and the police comply with the Prevent duty.
A statutory instrument has been laid in the House of Commons to bring it into force under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, aiding frontline professionals in stopping people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.
Ms Braverman said: “Terrorists seek to destroy the freedoms and values we cherish. It is the duty of government to disrupt this enduring and evolving threat.
“Ongoing improvements to Prevent are paving the way for a stronger, more transparent and proportionate approach to tackling radicalisation in this country. This includes ensuring that we are no longer working with or funding groups who legitimise extremists.
“The updated Prevent duty guidance provides frontline professionals in education, healthcare and local government with a renewed focus as well as new tools and information to stop people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.”
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan added: “Our schools are committed to protecting pupils from radicalisation and extremist influences, and this guidance along with the support of frontline workers will be pivotal to achieving that.
“These changes will provide greater clarity, practical advice and access to best practice for all teachers and education settings.”
A new security threat check will ensure that Prevent activity is always in line with the national threat picture, while new training on the ideological foundations of extremism and terrorism is being rolled out throughout the country.
Terminology has been updated in the guidance throughout to reflect an individual’s susceptibility to terrorism and vulnerability will only be used where appropriate.
To address the reviewer’s concerns about the prevalence of anti-semitism in Channel cases, specialist intervention providers have been recruited. There is also new training being provided to civil society organisations to tackle antisemitism.
The Home Office said a refreshed ministerial oversight board will meet in the coming months to oversee continued implementation of the independent review and ensure delivery remains in line with Shawcross’ recommendations.
Delivery of Prevent has also moved from a national to a regional model, which provides support for all local authorities in England and Wales. The areas with the highest radicalisation risk will also receive multi-year funding to combat the local threat.