It finds that although practitioners identify some parallels between radicalisation and other forms of harm, such as child sexual exploitation, there is a greater degree of difficulty in identifying children and young people at risk of radicalisation. This meant, says the report, ‘that this remained a distinctive and difficult issue for safeguarding professionals to grapple with’.
Sensitivities involved in determining an appropriate response to radicalisation made it “an uncomfortable area of practice for some staff, particularly for frontline staff who lack direct exposure to these types of cases”, the report states. The research, conducted among ten different local authorities last year, reveals that a key factor influencing staff confidence is whether there was an “internal consensus” within children’s services about how to respond to the issue. “This in turn was often influenced by the prevalence of cases of radicalisation within a local authority (area)” the report adds.
In areas with a high incidence of radicalisation, local authorities were united in their belief that it represented either a safeguarding or child protection risk to children, and were committed to responding proactively to the problem, either through early help or using statutory social care powers. In contrast, in areas of low prevalence, local authorities indicated that the response to radicalisation cases was more appropriately provided by universal services – such as schools in cases of low severity, or by the police in cases of high severity.
The report’s authors recommend that the government should increase the amount of knowledge sharing between local authorities, so that less-confident services can learn from those with more experience of radicalisation. It also highlights concerns that the police sometimes fail to share case information about ongoing criminal investigations, and that universal services are “deemed to be overzealous in their referrals”.