Impact of Covid-19 is creating ‘perfect storm’ for radicalisation risk, terrorism police warn
Sarah Lucy Brown
The impact of Covid-19, social isolation and a rise in hateful extremism online is creating a “perfect storm” which is making more young people vulnerable to radicalisation, it has been warned.
Last year, 12 children under the age of 18 were arrested in relation to terrorism offences, with some as young as 14 years old, Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP) has revealed.
But now a new safeguarding website and advice line from CTP – called ACT Early – is providing specialist support to parents, friends and families to stop loved ones being drawn into harmful activities or groups.
Specialists at CTP have highlighted the importance of the new website given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on some of the preventative programmes delivered locally by teachers, healthcare practitioners, social workers, the police, charities, and religious leaders.
Neil Basu, head of Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP), said: “We are seeing more young people being drawn towards terrorist activity.
“Last year, 12 children under the age of 18 were arrested in relation to terrorism offences, some as young as 14-years-old. That is a relatively new and worrying trend in the UK, because just a few years ago we were not seeing anyone that young amongst our casework.
“What concerns me most is this – there has been a sharp increase in extremist material online in the last few years, and Covid-19 has meant that vulnerable people are spending a lot more time isolated and online, and with fewer of the protective factors that schooling, employment, friends and family can provide.
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“In my opinion that is a perfect storm, one which we cannot predict and that we might be feeling the effects of for many years to come.”
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Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore highlighted the importance of people being able to recognise if someone is heading on a path towards terrorism.
“I really welcome the introduction of this new website. It is so important that people recognise the signs and have somewhere to go to get advice if they are worried about the risk of radicalisation,” he said.
“Sadly we all know how serious the terrorist threat continues to be and we need to be aware of what is going on around us in order to keep our young people safe.
“Terrorism has potentially devastating and tragic consequences, as we have seen in the UK and abroad, so anything that can be done to prevent these atrocities occurring has my complete support.”
Mr Basu added that parents must act early to share concerns and seek support if it is needed.
“But I remain hopeful, because there is something we can do right now to try and stop this. It requires parents, friends and family to help us by acting early, by talking to their children about what they view online, and sharing their concerns and seeking support if they fear someone they know is in danger of being radicalised,” he said.
“Asking for help is a difficult and emotional step, but we must see it for what it is – action which won’t ruin their lives but may well save them.”
For help and advice visit www.actearly.uk, or call the national police Prevent advice line on 0800 011 3764, in confidence, and specially trained Prevent officers will listen carefully to any concerns.
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