Between June and August this year, 796 individuals – including more than 300 aged under 18 – were reported to the Government’s Channel programme for possible intervention, new statistics obtained by the Press Association reveal.
Eight people are being referred to deradicalisation schemes every day as authorities identify a rising number of potential extremists.
It comes after new measures were introduced placing a legal requirement on public bodies including schools and councils to stop people being drawn into terrorism, as part of efforts to counter the capacity of groups such as Islamic State (IS) to recruit young Britons.
In July, when the law came into force, there were 349 referrals – a rate of more than 10 every day.
This was a slight increase on the previous month, when there were 327, while the number fell to 120 in August when schools were broken up for the summer.
Some 312 of those referred over the three months were aged under 18 – more than a third of the total.
Channel, which was first piloted in 2007, came under fresh scrutiny last week when it emerged that a 14-year-old boy believed to be Britain’s youngest terrorist was referred to the voluntary initiative before he plotted a terror attack in Australia, which was ultimately thwarted.
The new data, provided by the National Police Chiefs’ Council following a Freedom of Information request, suggest authorities are identifying potential extremists at a rapidly rising rate.
There were more referrals between June and August than for the whole of 2012/13 – the first year the scheme was rolled out across England and Wales.
The number is more than double the level of referrals recorded in the first three months of 2014/15, while if the current rate were replicated over 12 months, it would mean the annual total has increased by four-fold in three years to surpass 3,000.
Specific details of Channel projects are not made public, but they are aimed at all forms of terrorism, including far-right extremism.
Government guidance states that the programme 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”.
Haras Rafiq, managing director at security think tank Quilliam, said the latest scale of referrals comes after “t he lure of extremism has increased over the last year both from an Islamist and far-right perspective”.
He added: “There is a symbiotic relationship between the two.
“More effort needs to come from civil society so that we build resilience in our communities so that these numbers come down.”
Not all of those referred are subsequently judged as being vulnerable to radicalisation.
Previous estimates suggested that one in five cases were assessed as needing support from Channel programmes, with the rest passed to other more appropriate services.
Hannah Stuart, a terrorism expert at The Henry Jackson Society, said that if the quarterly rate continues for a year it would mean a record annual rise in referrals.
However, she added that it was not clear what proportion of those referred are currently being deemed as requiring intervention.
Ms Stuart said: “Is this public sector workers who have been properly trained but actually these referrals are being judged as needing a different form of support? Or is this over-zealous staff, badly trained and making unnecessary referrals?
“However, if the previous referral to intervention rate of 20% rate continues then in real terms we have a problem.”
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 terrorism have been provided with support.
“Referrals to Channel have increased, but only a small percentage of these go on to require specialist intervention support.
“We have dedicated sufficient resources to the programme to cope with demand and we will keep this position under close review.
Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.newsletter.co.uk