The Standard claimed this week that thousands of British children have identified as ISIS supporters, or potential extremists, as radicalisation of young people becomes more prevalent. Extremism has become more common in the last few years, with Al Qaeda affiliated groups and the So-Called Islamic State claiming responsibility for terrorist attacks across Great Britain. The far right has also been emerging as hate crime increases in the wake of Brexit. What, therefore, is the Government doing to stop this and what should it be doing? 

The current anti-radicalisation strategy is called “Prevent”, and since 2015 has been written into our legislation. This means that all public bodies have to be aware of the signs of radicalisation in young people and if necessary report it to the local authority. Prevent is a risk-based strategy; identifying young people who appear at risk of radicalisation and putting in place interventions to prevent this escalating into violence. 

There are many flaws with the strategy, with experts citing a range of positives and negatives of the scheme overall. Risk-based interventions echo back to a time of similar strategies employed during the Northern Irish “Troubles”. Communities, such as the Irish Catholics, were considered high risk and more likely to foster terrorist ideology. The original Prevent strategy specifically referenced Asian and Muslim communities of being at risk, and the current guidance has expanded to include white nationalists, too. As a result, certain communities are tarnished and hate crime appears, to a certain extent, justified. 

Young people are being targeted via social media, and despite Home Secretary Amber Rudd meeting with tech giants to raise her concerns about how they identify and remove extremist material, the Government cannot regulate the whole internet to guarantee this kind of content is not accessible. So what is the alternative?

A proposed alternative to Prevent is a strategy based on the “Good Lives Matter” model. This model takes a more proactive, positive approach; identifying core human needs and acknowledging that when these are absent, young people are more susceptible to extremist propaganda. A scheme based on this would not identify groups of young people or certain communities, but aim to establish a support system to allow each individual to achieve a good life. The elements may include focusing on community, where a young person is isolated, or helping a young person to partake in pleasurable activities where perhaps they are under pressure to focus on work. 

All we know is that our models are not working and not preventing these young people identifying with extremist values. As a society we have a duty to work towards giving young people an alternative, a positive alternative; to help them feel accepted, valued and appreciated in a society that currently, they do not.

Read more about our Youth Innovation and Empowerment Project, which is working towards solving this problem, here: yeip.org