The Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP) has launched a new initiative to provide advice, guidance and support for young people against potential online radicalisation.
The ACT Early website (www.actearly.uk) and advice line provide specialist support to parents, friends and families to stop their loved ones being drawn into harmful activities or groups.
Head of CPT, assistant commissioner Neil Basu said: “In the last 18 months, 17 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.
“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.
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.”
Basu urged parents to talk to their children about what they view online and sought support if they fear someone they know is in danger of being radicalised.
The UK government has already launched the Prevent programme to give protection around people vulnerable to radicalisation, stopping them from being drawn into terrorism. It is delivered locally by teachers, healthcare practitioners, social workers, the police, charities, and religious leaders.
Between 1 January 2019 and 30 June 2020, more than 1500 children under the age of 15 were referred to the Prevent programme to help them choose a different path, away from hatred and violence.
But the referrals into this programme by family and friends is just 2 per cent, an official statement said. Hence the officials are asking people to use the new ACT Early resources to understand what might be happening to their loved one, and what support Prevent can provide.
“My son is now trying to rebuild his life in prison after being drawn down a path by extremists. But his story could have been so different if I had had advice and support like this available to me,” said Kath, whose son was convicted of being a member of the proscribed Right Wing Terrorism group National Action, after being radicalised online.
“So I would encourage any other mums, dads or wider friends and families to Act Early and seek help and support. The police and other services can help turn lives around if you tell them what’s going on early enough.”
For more details- www.Actearly.uk