Confidence impeding work with children at risk of radicalisation

A new report has found that most social workers lack confidence in working with children at risk of radicalisation because of their lack of experience.

Commissioned by the Department for Education, the report finds that there is a greater consensus than four years ago, when similar research was undertaken, that radicalisation required a safeguarding response.

While radicalisation cases had increased or stayed static in the past few years in the 11 areas studied, they were still a relatively rare occurrence on social workers’ caseloads, meaning that approaches to direct work with children and young people at risk varied considerably.

The study found that social workers struggled to spot indicators of radicalisation in children due to its relatively low prevalence compared to other forms of harm and the fact that they were constantly changing. Additionally, social workers felt they lacked the tools to address radicalisation, with many unaware of the local and national resources available to them.

Some social workers lacked confidence in tackling Islamist extremism, due to their lack of knowledge of Islam, concerns about perpetrating faith-based discrimination and a historic mistrust of the government’s Prevent agenda to counter radicalisation as anti-Islam. Conversely, social workers with experience in tackling Islamist extremism felt less confident in dealing with the increasing number of cases of right-wing extremism.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, and resulting lockdowns, practitioners reported that they had insufficient time to spend with a young person to counteract the influence of the perpetrator.

The report calls for improved uptake of Prevent training by social workers, which they argue should be tiered, with introductory training for all social workers and enhanced provision for a selection of practitioners and managers, who would then disseminate the knowledge. It also said there was a consensus that more regional and national sharing of expertise by authorities with greater experience of radicalisation would be helpful, building on existing initiatives.


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