Child aged THREE identified as extremism risk by counter-terror project which now refers children every day
- 121 under-18s were referred to the Channel project in April-June 2014
- Suggests the annual figure will be 66% higher than in 2012-13
- Scheme was set up in the wake of 7/7 attacks to identify youngsters at risk
A child aged just three is among hundreds identified as being at risk of radicalisation, it emerged today.
With fears growing about children and teenagers being drawn into terrorism, a project set up by the Home Office in the wake of the 7/7 bombings has reported a sharp rise in the number of youngsters being referred including dozens under the age of 12.
Since it was rolled out nationwide in 2012, the youngest person involved has been a child aged three whose whole family was referred.
Ministers vowed to challenge the ‘twisted narrative that has corrupted some of our vulnerable young people’.
Officers from the Channel project have previously revealed how a child drawing bombs and guns or writing about wanting to be a suicide bomber can lead to a referral.
Between April 2012 and June 2014 a total of 834 under 18-year-olds were reported to Channel.
Around one in ten – 84 – were under 12, data from the National Police Chiefs Council ( NPCC) obtained by the Press Association shows.
Security Minister John Hayes said: ‘As a country, we have a duty to challenge, at every turn, the twisted narrative that has corrupted some of our vulnerable young people.
‘Since Channel was rolled out nationally in April 2012, there have been over 4,000 referrals and hundreds of people at risk of being drawn into violent extremism have been provided with support.
‘Referrals to Channel have increased since 2014 but we have dedicated sufficient resources to the programme to cope with demand. We will keep this position under close review.’
The data shows that the problem is growing, with a sharp rise in the number of children referred.
In 2012-13 a total of 290 youths and children were reported to Channel, but the figure increased by almost 50 per cent to 423 the following year.
In the three months from April last year, 121 under 18s were referred. If that rate continued throughout the year, it would result in an annual total of 484.
The Home Office said that since the Channel programme was rolled out nationally in April 2012 there have been more than 4,000 referrals and confirmed that the number has increased since last year.
Separate figures reported by the London Evening Standard suggest 1,069 people have been referred in London alone since 2012.
The three-year-old, from Tower Hamlets, was part of ‘an entire family unit’ referred as a ‘very rare occurrence’.
Referrals could be made by a range of organisations such as schools, social services and health bodies.
The NPCC has said when releasing previous data that many of the referrals of youngsters will not have been suitable for Channel and will have been passed to other more appropriate services.
Overall around one in five cases require ‘supportive interventions’, the organisation said.
Channel, which was first piloted in 2007, is part of the Prevent strategy.
Prevent is one of four strands of Contest, the acronym given to the Government’s multi-pronged counter-terrorism programme.
Government guidance says Channel ‘may be appropriate for anyone who is vulnerable to being drawn into any form of terrorism’ and is ‘about ensuring that vulnerable children and adults of any faith, ethnicity or background receive support before their vulnerabilities are exploited by those that would want them to embrace terrorism’.
Hannah Stuart, research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society think-tank, said: ‘Channel referrals have continued to rise since the programme was introduced nationally.
‘This is in part because of the growing appeal and clever marketing of jihadist ideas among young people by groups like Islamic State.
‘But it’s also because public bodies, particularly schools, have become increasingly aware of their safeguarding duties in terms of preventing radicalisation.
‘While the threat from terrorism is a significant concern right now, a clearer indication of the scale of extremism and possible radicalisation is not the numbers of referrals but actually the numbers deemed at risk and referred on for specialist intervention.’
Prevent has come under close scrutiny in recent months.
Earlier this year, Dal Babu, a Muslim former chief superintendent, said the strategy has become a ‘toxic brand’.
Mizanur Rahman, who was sent on a programme aimed at turning him away from extreme views, claimed he spent most of his time playing pool.
It also emerged that Brusthom Ziamani, who was jailed for 22 years for hatching a plot to behead a British soldier, had been spoken to by Prevent officers while on bail but he refused to engage with the programme.
Under laws passed earlier this year, public bodies including councils, prisons, NHS trusts and schools were placed under a statutory duty to identify and report those vulnerable to radicalisation.