Prevent strategy to be strengthened despite concerns

Date: 29th November 2016
Category: Non-discrimination

After a secret review, the UK Government has determined that the 'Prevent' strategy should be strengthened, rather than overhauled or scrapped as rights campaigners have urged.

Details are expected to be released at the end of the year, but the review will apparently issue 12 recommendations for ramping up the programme, which has been labelled as "simply unworkable" by members of the opposition and relies on the monitoring of students' online activities. A spokesperson for the Home Office also admitted that as many as 80 percent of referrals to the programme had resulted in no further action from police, insisting that this represented success, rather than a culture of over-reporting.

Allegations of profiling were levelled against the programme again this month, when a police officer apparently showed up at a woman's house to interview her seven-year-old son about a brass cylinder they had mistaken for a bullet. She later told reporters she felt targeted because of her faith, and claimed police had caused "a lot of distress that could have been avoided".

Children's rights

The Prevent strategy is deeply flawed, potentially counterproductive and risks violating the rights of children and young people. This has been backed up by a nine-month examination by the Open Society Justice Initiative who have recommended a major government rethink, particularly on the use of Prevent in education and health systems.

In June 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a Concluding Observation (recommendation) to strengthen the oversight mechanism, including regular independent reviews, to assess and ensure that the implementation of the counter-terrorism and counter-extremism measures, including the Prevent Strategy (2011), will not have a discriminatory or stigmatising impact on any group of children.

Through its 2016 State of Children's Rights report, Together noted that a number of its members have raised concerns about the appropriateness of using a network of education professionals in the frontline of counter-terrorism efforts. Roshni notes that according to its own research and experience hosting live events and national conferences, there is significant concern that these strategies have the potential to alienate children from different cultural backgrounds. There is specific concern that rights to privacy, freedom of belief and freedom of movement are being infringed directly by counter-extremism policies.

Together's Scotland-specific recommendation is that Scottish Government should assess measures taken to counter terrorism in terms of their impact on children's rights. Measures should be developed in collaboration with those children most likely to be affected and be monitored, evaluated and reviewed on an ongoing basis.