Children victimised by discredited Prevent policy

26th Oct 2018

Hamed Chapman

Prevent practitioners have been giving guidance to courts and the Government based on flawed and unscientific assessments to determine the future risk to children, a new report has found.

The use of the so-called Extremism Risk Guidance (ERG) 22+ has resulted in officers attempting to remove children, and in some cases succeeded, despite the Government already conceding the limitations of the unverifiable methodology.

The report by Cage advocacy group documents disturbing efforts by the discredited Prevent extremism programme to separate families in what it states “amounts to a hijacking of Safeguarding principles.”

“We have found that many cases involving wardship of children in ‘extremism’ cases involve outlandish Prevent claims that have lead only to a huge waste of public resources,” said the author of the report Asim Qureshi.
“Not only this, but the relentless pursuit of families is creating a new ‘normal’ that is facilitating the extension of arbitrary state power through Prevent.”

‘Extremism’ and ‘radicalisation’ have become so widely used in a string of cases that they “scarcely need definition,” according to High Court Judge, Justice Hayden, who has recently been appointed as Vice-President of the Court of Protection.

Qureshi, who has advised legal teams involved in defending terrorism trials in the US and at Guantanamo Bay, said that while the need to protect children against real abuse was indisputable, “conflating subjective notions of ‘extremism’ with ‘sexual grooming’ and other such crimes, can result in unnecessary and deeply traumatic intrusions into homes where there is simply no concern of danger.”

“And yet, the cases in our report show an almost relentless pursuit of individuals based on politicised notions of what is correct belief and what is not. This stands to endanger not only children but also the very notion of safeguarding itself.”

For the past two years, Cage has expressed concern and alarm about the use of ERG 22+ that has been echoed by over 150 professionals and academics. Despite having little basis in fact, it has become institutionalised “with devastating results on families and children in particular.”

The report spotlights the voices of parents who have fought to retain their children and been vindicated by the courts but only after up to three-year ordeals involving house visits, interrogation and privacy violation and the employment of secret evidence, which it says has had “traumatic effects” on the children. In a separate development, the Psychotherapy and Counselling Union has warned that “duties undertaken as part of Prevent fall outside the remit of clinical mental health care and wellbeing treatment.”

The implementation of Government policy is “likely to be detrimental to mental health care, creating mistrust between service users and professionals,” it said.“As a union, we are deeply concerned that Prevent is likely to erode the employment rights of counsellors and psychotherapists working within the National Health Service and state settings, since individual practitioners may be sanctioned for their non-clinical actions or inactions associated with this controversial programme,” the Psychotherapy and Counselling Union.

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