Radicalisation and Violent Extremism


In August 2022, a link to the Prevent Duty Self-assessment Tool was added in Further Information.

1. Definition

Extremism is defined in the government's Counter Extremism Strategy (CONTEST) as the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. This also includes calling for the death of members of the armed forces.

Radicalisation refers to the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and extremist ideologies associated with terrorist groups.

Radicalisation can be a gradual process, so young people who are being radicalised may not at first realise what is happening.

There is no single way of identifying whether a child is likely to be susceptible to an extremist ideology. Background factors combined with specific / contextual influences in their lives such as family and friends may contribute to a child's vulnerability. Radicalisation can occur through many different methods (such as the use of social media and online content.

Keeping children safe from radicalisation and extremism a safeguarding matter and should be approached in the same way as safeguarding children from other risks. Children should be protected from messages of all violent extremism.

2. Risks

Children and young people can be drawn into violence or they can be exposed to the messages of extremist groups by many means. These can include through the influence of family members or friends and/or direct contact with extremist groups and organisations or, increasingly, through the internet via social media or other websites. This can put a young person at risk of being drawn into criminal activity and has the potential to lead to the child or young person suffering significant harm'.

This may take the form of a "grooming" process where the vulnerabilities of a young person are exploited to form an exclusive friendship which draws the young person away from other influences that might challenge the radical ideology. The risk of radicalisation can develop over time and may relate to a number of factors in the child's life. Identifying the risks require practitioners to exercise their professional judgement and to seek further advice as necessary. The risk may be combined with other vulnerabilities or may be the only risk identified.

On-line content in particular social media may pose a specific risk in normalising radical views and promoting content that is shocking and extreme; children can be trusting and may not necessarily appreciate bias, which can lead to being drawn into such groups and to adopt their extremist views.

Recent case evidence indicates that specific groups such as young Muslim women have been targeted for radicalisation and grooming, which has led to attempts to travel to the Middle East placing them at risk. Any information about a young person or child that raises concerns should be discussed with their parents, schools, Children's Services and the police as part of the risk assessment.

3. Indicators

With regard to issues that may make an individual vulnerable to radicalisation, these can include:

  • Identity Crisis - Distance from cultural / religious heritage and uncomfortable with their place in the society around them;
  • Personal Crisis - Family tensions; sense of isolation; adolescence; low self-esteem; disassociating from existing friendship group and becoming involved with a new and different group of friends; searching for answers to questions about identity, faith and belonging;
  • Personal Circumstances - Migration; local community tensions; events affecting country or region of origin; alienation from UK values; having a sense of grievance that is triggered by personal experience of racism or discrimination or aspects of Government policy;
  • Unmet aspirations - Perceptions of injustice; feeling of failure; rejection of community values;
  • Criminality - Experiences of imprisonment; previous involvement with criminal groups.

However those closest to the individual may first notice the following changes of behaviour:

  • General changes of mood, patterns of behaviour, secrecy;
  • Changes of friends and mode of dress;
  • Use of inappropriate language;
  • Possession of violent extremist literature;
  • The expression of extremist views;
  • Advocating violent actions and means;
  • Association with known extremists;
  • Seeking to recruit others to an extremist ideology.

There an obvious difference between espousing radical and extreme views and acting on them and practitioners should ensure that assessments place behaviour in the family and social context of the young person and include information about the young person's peer group and conduct and behaviour at school. Holding radical or extreme views is not illegal, but inciting a person to commit an act in the name of any belief is in itself an offence.

4. Protection and Action to be Taken

Any practitioner identifying concerns about the child or young person should report them to the designated safeguarding lead in their organisation, who will use their professional judgment before discussing these concerns with the police. The Contacts and Referrals Procedure should be followed. A multi-agency assessment meeting will determine the appropriate response and level of support to the family. Consideration of referrals to the Channel programme may be appropriate in some cases. Response should be proportionate, with the emphasis on supporting vulnerable children and young people, unless there is evidence of more active involvement in extremist activities.

Consideration should be given to the possibility that sharing information with parents may increase the risk to the child and therefore may not be appropriate. However, experience has shown that parents are key in challenging radical views and extremist behaviour and should be included in interventions unless there are clear reasons why not.

Wherever possible the response should be appropriately and proportionately provided from within the normal range of universal provision of the organisation working with other local agencies and partners. Responses could include curriculum provision, additional tutoring or mentoring, additional activities within and out of school and family support.

Where a higher level of targeted and multi-agency response is indicated a formal multi-agency assessment should be conducted. The assessment process may lead to a Strategy discussion, Section 47 Enquiry and an Initial Child Protection Conference, if there are concerns about the child or young person suffering significant harm.

Where concerns are identified in respect of potential signs of radicalisation which indicate the child young person is vulnerable, the person raising the concerns should discuss their concerns with the Channel police lead who will decide, if a referral to Channel is required or if services at tier 2 are sufficient to manage concerns

Where there is an identified risk/potential risk that a child young person may be involved/potentially involved in supporting or following extremism, further investigation by the police will be required, prior to other assessments and interventions.

5. Issues

Protecting children and young people from radicalisation and extremism requires careful assessment and working collaboratively across agencies as initially concerns may be inconclusive and protecting child or young person against a potential risk can be dependent on a wider range of factors. Sharing information effectively and keeping the child and young person in focus should be the main aim of any interventions and services.

Reporting online material, which promotes extremism such as illegal or harmful pictures or videos, can be done through the government website. Although professionals should follow the Referral Procedures (see Contacts and Referrals Procedure), non professionals may make a report anonymously.