The head of Counter Terrorism Policing has advised parents and carers to Act Early and keep a close eye on signs of extremist grooming as young people spend more time out of school and online.
Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said that the new national lockdown period was likely to bring increased risks of radicalisation due to groomers seeking to exploit isolation and more time being spent on the internet.
The call came as Counter Terrorism Policing released two new animated films to its ACT Early website, designed for friends and families who may be concerned that someone they know is being radicalised.
Since its launch in November, the site has already received more than 25,000 individual visits and as a result the new national police Prevent advice line has been receiving multiple calls every week from concerned family and friends, with specialist support being put in place where appropriate.
The two new films are aimed at the same general public, concerned friends and family audience. The first provides an introduction to policing’s role in the multi-agency Prevent programme, and how this helps divert thousands of people away from a path of radicalisation every year. The second is focussed on the life-changing work of Prevent officers and how they support families through the Prevent process.
“The year ahead will continue to be a challenging one for everyone as we deal with the ongoing impact of Covid-19. With most children and students now learning from home again, and conspiracy theories continuing to circulate, we know that there are increased risks of online radicalisation and an unavoidable lack of some of the protective safeguarding that contact with schools, colleges and other services can provide.
“We saw during the first lockdown period last year that referrals to the Prevent programme were lower than expected, all while the risk of radicalisation was actually increasing. So I am calling on parents and carers to be extra vigilant about who their children are talking to online; to keep a close eye out for the signs of extremist grooming; and to seek specialist advice if they do have a concern.
“We do now have a great resource in the ACT Early website and these two new films provide that advice to friends or families who may be worried about someone they know. By improving understanding of Prevent and explaining the way we work with partners through our voluntary and safeguarding-led approach that deals with all forms of radicalisation, we hope more people will be encouraged and assured to seek help at an earlier stage, wherever appropriate.”