Although Wokingham Borough is a relatively safe place to live, we all have a part to play in preventing vulnerable people being exposed to radicalisation.
Wokingham Borough Council is therefore keen to remind residents of what to look out for and how to act if you do have concerns.
Underpinning the UK’s efforts to reduce the threat of terrorism is the Prevent Strategy, a government programme designed to safeguard adults and children who may be at risk.
A decline in Prevent referrals may appear to be a good sign, but the impact of Covid-19 is likely to be responsible for more recent trends. In the year ending 31 March 2021, there were 4,915 national referrals, a drop of 22% compared to the previous year and the lowest number since comparable data was first available in 2016.
The Home Office works with local authorities and community organisations to deliver the Prevent strategy. The police also play a significant role and have specially trained Prevent officers.
Protecting those closest to you
Cllr Bill Soane, executive member for neighbourhood and communities, said: “As with many other aspects of life, Covid-19 appears to have had a significant impact on the number of Prevent referrals being made. Everyone has a duty to help those closest to them becoming vulnerable to those who try to spread their ideology, hatred and conspiracy theories.
“We are fortunate to live in an area that is relatively safe, but we cannot be complacent. The events at Forbury Gardens in Reading nearly two years ago should serve as a reminder of the pain and suffering terrorism can cause closer to home.”
The council works with the police, along with partners in health, probation services, schools and colleges, to help reduce the threat of radicalisation. It also chairs a multi-agency partnership of professionals called a Channel Panel, which provides support to vulnerable individuals who are at risk of being influenced by extremist ideologies.
The aim is to act early by spotting the warning signs of an individual at risk of being drawn into extremist and terrorist ideologies and to provide early intervention and support.
Staying safe online
The internet, social media sites and online gaming are methods being used to groom and radicalise people and the pandemic has seen us spending more time online than before.
In the year ending March 2021, individuals aged 15 to 20 accounted for the largest proportion (29%) of national referrals to Prevent. Those aged 21 to 30 represented 20% of referrals and so did people aged under 15.
It is a good idea to think about installing parental controls on devices and agree to the amount of time children spend online, as well as the sites they visit.
What to look out for and how to act
It is important to remember that there is no single profile of person likely to become drawn into extremist and terrorist ideologies and behaviours. However, the warning signs may include:
- Being at a transitional phase in life
- Having a need to find an identity, belonging, status or excitement
- Being susceptible to being influenced or controlled – or wanting to dominate others
- Feeling a sense of grievance, injustice or being under threat
- Having an emotional desire for political or moral change
- Having mental health related issues
- Being secretive about social networking contacts
There is a simple and easy to remember process for dealing with Prevent referrals:
- Notice – If you see a change in behaviour where a person becomes withdrawn, acts differently or becomes vulnerable.
- Check – Trust your instinct and don’t ignore what you saw. Ask relevant questions to help validate your concerns and check with others who may also have noticed the change.
- ·Share – If your concern is valid and you feel there is immediate danger, you must call 999. If you have a concern, call the non-emergency number (101) to speak to a Prevent officer.
You can also contact the following:
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