Keeping communities safe
By Susan Press
When the Government identified Calderdale as a Prevent priority area in 2015 we knew it might lead to difficult conversations with our communities.
As part of CONTEST – the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy – Prevent aims to stop people from supporting violent extremism and terrorism.
We received Home Office funding to recruit a Prevent co-ordinator, Sadia Hussain, and to develop a local strategy. This has three key objectives:
- To respond to the ideological challenge of terrorism and extremist views which can incite terrorism,
- To prevent vulnerable people being drawn into terrorism and ensure they receive appropriate advice and support, and
- Work with organisations where there are risks of radicalisation and opportunities to prevent it.
Calderdale has been vulnerable to extremism from Daesh-inspired, extreme far-right and environmental groups in the past and it was clear our Prevent programme could complement our other community work. Safeguarding is a strand which runs through many of our services and Prevent is about keeping our communities safe.
For our Prevent work to be effective, it is essential we are very open, talking to our communities, listening and answering questions, so that it is a real partnership.
Whenever you speak to Ms Hussain she will say that it is fine for people to disagree with Prevent but will encourage people to ‘talk about it’ and she will always follow up with an invitation to join her Community Reference Group.
Anyone can join the community-led group, which meets to share ideas and have a voice on how Prevent is delivered in Calderdale.
We talk about a range of issues including radicalisation, extremism, CSE or keeping children safe online. People do not have to agree with Prevent to join, but they must be prepared to contribute constructively.
As part of our engagement programme, Ms Hussain holds regular sessions at our quarterly ward forums. They are an opportunity for people to discuss local issues with officers, councillors and partners such as the police.
People respond well and appreciate the chance to discuss the programme.
While it is important for us to engage with our local communities, it is also vital for us to work directly with some key groups.
Last summer, children from years four to seven from 11 Calderdale schools took part in the Heartstone project which uses a magical story to encourage children to think about extremism, cohesion, identity, racism, tolerance and our shared human and British values.
The children created poetry and artwork which we exhibited in Halifax Town Hall. The project was so successful we have now become a northern hub for the project.
We also work with older children, in partnership with Bradford’s Peace Museum. Over 1,000 pupils have completed the Choices Then and Now exhibition, which tells the story of two brothers from the WWI –one a soldier, the other a conscientious objector. It also explores the role of women during the conflict and the contribution of other countries, such as India.
Young people are invited to discuss modern conflicts and encouraged to analyse and challenge ideas, explore their own values and think about their choices and the consequences of their decisions.
Parents and carers are also a key part of our programme, and we have trained 20 mothers to be web guardians.
Run by the Jan Trust – a charity empowering and providing leadership for women in order to create positive and active citizens, the scheme teaches mothers how to go online, check a search history and gives useful tips on internet safety.
The Casey review into opportunity and integration identified the internet as a potential route to radicalisation and recognised the major role mothers play in countering divisive messages.
We have trained staff to spot potential signs, such as expressing extreme views towards people of a different race, religion or sexual orientation.
When a vulnerable person is identified as being at risk of radicalisation, they are referred to our multi-agency channel panel, with partners from the police, health services, schools and colleges, housing and the probation service.
The panel checks all referrals and will only work with people with their consent.
Even if someone refuses consent, we will still offer them support, if required. All referrals are recorded in a case management system and are covered by the Data Protection Act.
Each accepted case is allocated a tailored support package which may include mental health services, help into education, training or employment or help with finding appropriate accommodation.
A specialist intervention provider will challenge the individual’s extreme ideology to counter their current thinking.
Cases are monitored fortnightly and usually, with the right support, the individual will no longer want to be involved with an extremist ideology which puts them in danger and they move on with their life.
What have we learned? Since 2015 we have prioritised four key activities:
- Be open – we are always prepared to discuss and defend our programme.
- Be visible – we have made sure we are present in our communities.
- Work with partners – we regularly share knowledge and networks.
- Keep up-to-date – the internet has a huge and potentially hidden influence.
Cllr Susan Press is Calderdale MBC’s cabinet member for neighbourhoods and communities
Article Link: https://www.themj.co.uk/Keeping-communities-safe/208083