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Safeguarding Children and Young People Vulnerable to Violent Extremism

Scope of this chapter

The DfE has launched a helpline for anyone concerned about a child who may be at risk of extremism, or about extremism within an organisation working with children and young people.
Telephone: 020 7340 7264

However, it is advised that the LA safeguarding lead is also contacted for local advice and support in such circumstances.

Briefing Note For Schools - How Social Media is Used to Encourage Travel to Syria and Iraq

Educate Against Hate website - This website gives parents, teachers and school leaders practical advice on protecting children from extremism and radicalisation.

Guidance - Prevent Duty Self-assessment Tool: Further Education - a self-assessment tool to assist colleges and providers in the further education and skills (FE) sector in England to review their Prevent responsibilitiesn.

From 1 July 2015 all schools and child care providers must have regard to the statutory guidance issued under Section 29 of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015. Paragraphs 57-76 of the guidance are concerned specifically with schools and childcare providers; registered early years childcare providers and registered later years childcare providers are subject to a duty under Section 26 of the counter Terrorism and Security Action 2015, in the exercise of their functions to have 'due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism'. This duty is known as the Prevent duty. It applies to a wide range of public-facing bodies which are listed in schedule 6 of the Act as specified authorities in England, Wales and Scotland. The specified authorities are those judged to have a role of protection vulnerable children, young people and adults and/or the national security. The Prevent Strategy, published by the Government in 2011, is part of an overall counter terrorism strategy called CONTEST. The aim of the Prevent Strategy is to reduce the threat to the UK from terrorism by stopping people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. In addition, the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 Sections 36 to 41 sets out the duty on local authorities and partners to establish and cooperate with a local Channel programme of 'Channel Panels' to provide support for people vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism. It is essential that Channel Panel members and their partners ensure that children and young people are protected from harm.

The current threat from terrorism in the United Kingdom can involve the exploitation of vulnerable people, including children, young people and vulnerable adults to involve them in terrorism or activity in support of terrorism.

The 10 Greater Manchester local authorities and Greater Manchester Police, agree that this exploitation should be viewed as a safeguarding concern and should be approached in the same way as safeguarding children from other risks.

This guidance is intended to provide a clear framework for all professionals working with children for whom there are concerns that they are at risk of becoming involved in violent extremist activity.

It includes the link between safeguarding procedures and the Channel programme, and provides a mechanism for supporting those who may be vulnerable to violent extremism by assessing the nature and the extent of the potential risk and, where necessary, providing an appropriate support package.

Radicalisation is defined as the process by which people come to support terrorism and extremism and, in some cases, to then participate in terrorist groups.

‘Extremism is vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. We also include in our definition of extremism calls for the death of members of our armed forces, whether in this country or overseas’ (HM Government Prevent Strategy 2011).

The Terrorism Act 2000 defines terrorism, both in and outside of the UK, as the use or threat of one or more of the actions listed below, and where they are designed to influence the government, or an international governmental organisation or to intimidate the public. The use or threat must also be for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause.

The specific actions included are:

  • Serious violence against a person;
  • Serious damage to property;
  • Endangering a person's life (other than that of the person committing the action);
  • Creating a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public; and
  • Action designed to seriously interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.

The use or threat of action, as set out above, which involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism regardless of whether or not the action is designed to influence the government or an international governmental organisation or to intimidate the public or a section of the public.

Action includes action outside the United Kingdom.

It is important to note that in order to be convicted of a terrorism offence a person doesn't actually have to commit what could be considered a terrorist attack. Planning, assisting and even collecting information on how to commit terrorist acts are all crimes under British terrorism legislation.
(CPS – Terrorism).

There is not one type of terrorist or terrorism. It originates from a variety of countries and terrorists have multiple ethnic, racial, religious and or political identities and have different views, aims and purposes.

Examples include international terrorism and extreme right-wing terrorism.

There is a statutory duty for workers to share information where there are concerns about the safety or well being of a child or vulnerable adult. Protecting children and young people from radicalisation and extremism requires careful assessment and working collaboratively across agencies as initially concerns may be inconclusive. Sharing information effectively and keeping the child and young person in focus should be the main aim of any interventions and services.

  • The Data Protection Act 2018, and the UK General Data Protection Regulation;
  • The Human Rights Act 1998;
  • The Common Law Duty of Confidence;
  • The Crime and Disorder Act 1998;
  • The Children Act 2004 Sections 10 and 11;
  • The Caldicott Principles.

All information sharing must be conducted in accordance with a relevant legal power of duty, and be proportionate and relevant to the circumstances presented.

For further detailed guidance see Data Protection, Information Sharing and Confidentiality Policy.

There is no such thing as a 'typical extremist' and those involved in extremism come from a range of backgrounds and experiences.

Most individuals, even those who hold radical views, do not become involved in violent extremism. Holding extreme views is not illegal, but inciting a person to commit an act in the name of any belief is in itself an offence.

Numerous factors can contribute to and influence the range of behaviours that are defined as violent extremism. It is important to consider these factors in order to develop an understanding of the issue. It is also necessary to understand those factors that build resilience and protect individuals from engaging in violent extremist activity.

It is important to be cautious in assessing these factors to avoid inappropriately labelling or stigmatising individuals because they possess a characteristic or fit a specific profile.

Children and young people can be drawn into violence or they can be exposed to the messages of extremist groups by many means. These can include through the influence of family members or friends and/or direct contact with extremist groups and organisations. Online content in particular social media may pose a specific risk in normalising radical views and promoting content that is shocking and extreme; children can be trusting and may not necessarily appreciate bias.

This can put a young person at risk of being drawn into criminal activity and has the potential to lead to the child or young person suffering significant harm.

This may take the form of a grooming process where the vulnerabilities of a young person are exploited to form an exclusive friendship which draws the young person away from other influences that might challenge the radical ideology. The risk of radicalisation can develop over time and may relate to a number of factors in the child's life. Identifying the risks require practitioners to exercise their professional judgement and to seek further advice as necessary. The risk may be combined with other vulnerabilities or may be the only risk identified.

It is vital that all professionals who have contact with vulnerable individuals are able to recognise those vulnerabilities and help to increase safe choices and remember that violent behaviour operates on many levels in the absence of protective factors and that individuals largely act within the context of their environment and experiences.

Research shows that indicators that may make an individual vulnerable to radicalisation can include:

  • Identity Crisis - Distance from cultural / religious heritage and uncomfortable with their place in the society around them;
  • Personal Crisis - Family tensions; sense of isolation; adolescence; low self-esteem; disassociating from existing friendship group and becoming involved with a new and different group of friends; searching for answers to questions about identity, faith and belonging;
  • Personal Circumstances - Migration; local community tensions; events affecting country or region of origin; alienation from UK values; having a sense of grievance that is triggered by personal experience of racism or discrimination or aspects of Government policy;
  • Unmet Aspirations - Perceptions of injustice; feeling of failure; rejection of civic life;
  • Criminality - Experiences of imprisonment; poor resettlement/reintegration; previous involvement with criminal groups.

However, this list is not exhaustive, nor does it mean that all young people experiencing the above are at risk of exploitation for the purposes of violent extremism.

More critical risk factors could include:

  • Being in contact with known extremists or extremist recruiters;
  • Articulating support for violent extremist causes or leaders;
  • Accessing violent extremist websites, especially those with a social networking element;
  • Possessing or accessing violent extremist literature;
  • Using inappropriate language, extremist narratives and a global ideology to explain personal disadvantage;
  • Justifying the use of violence to solve societal issues;
  • Joining or seeking to join extremist organisations;
  • Seeking to recruit others into extremist ideology;
  • Significant changes to appearance and/or behaviour;
  • Changes in friends and mode of dress.

Each agency will have been asked to identify a Prevent Single Point of Contact (SPOC) who will be the lead within the organisation for safeguarding in relation to protecting individuals from radicalisation and involvement in terrorism. Appendix 1: Roles and Responsibilities of the Single Point of Contact (SPOC) sets out the responsibilities of the SPOC.

As with other safeguarding issues, where a professional has any concerns that a person or their family may be at risk of radicalisation or involvement in terrorism, they should speak with the organisation's safeguarding lead and the SPOC if this is not the same person. The SPOC should offer advice and guidance about the appropriateness of making a Prevent referral.

If, at any stage, it is felt that the individual poses an immediate danger to themselves or any other person, the police should be called immediately.

If the Safeguarding Lead / Prevent SPOC consider that the concerns relating to an individual are more significant, a Prevent Referral should be made using the National Prevent Referral form for the area in which the individual resides (see Appendix 4: National Prevent Referral Forms).

All prevent referrals should be sent to:

Suspected online terrorist material can be reported through Reports can be made anonymously, although practitioners should not do so as they must follow the procedures for professionals. Content of concern can also be reported directly to social media platforms – see Social media help (UK Safer Internet Centre).

Once the Prevent referral form has been completed, it will carry an Official Sensitive protective marking, which means that the information will need to be handled with risk appropriate security measures. Once a Prevent referral has been received by the three agencies set out on the top of the referral form, the Local Authority will assess if there are any immediate safeguarding concerns for the individual whilst Counter Terrorism Policing North West will assess whether there is any concerns of radicalisation. There are three potential outcomes for a referral they are:

  • Closed no further action – referrer will be informed and the case will be signposted if necessary;
  • Counter Terrorism Policing North West (CTPNW) will manage the concerns raised;
  • Referral to Channel – for consideration of multi-agency support. The referrer will be contacted as part of the assessment process by the Channel Coordinator.

If a case has been assessed as needing further support, CTPNW will refer the case to the Greater Manchester Channel Team who will gather information from a number of agencies and undertake an initial Vulnerability Assessment to assess the vulnerability to radicalisation. The Vulnerability Assessment Framework (VAF) guides the decision about whether an individual needs support to safeguard them from the risk of being targeted by terrorists and radicalisers and to address their vulnerability to radicalisation by assessing the kind of support that they need. The framework covers 22 factors that may cause someone to engage with a terrorist group, cause or ideology, develop the intent to cause harm or develop the capability to cause harm.

An initial VAF is completed by the Channel Coordinator within 20 days of the referral to the Greater Manchester Channel Team which will be shared with the Channel Panel. The VAF assists the Channel Supervisor in conjunction with the Channel Coordinator to make the Section 36 decision to confirm whether it is appropriate to proceed with the referral to the Channel Panel.

Once a case is open to Channel the VAF is reviewed at least every three months and updated to record any changes until it is agreed that the case will close by the Channel Panel.

See Appendix 2: Channel for information about the Channel Process.

Most children and young people do not become involved in violent extremism. Numerous factors can contribute to and influence the range of behaviours that are defined as violent extremism. Therefore, in many cases interventions identified through the Channel process may not appear to be specific to the threat of radicalisation. For example, they might relate to other needs of the individual such as in respect of mental health support, housing, relationships, offending behaviour or drug and alcohol issues. There may however sometimes be a need for specialist interventions in relation to de-radicalisation and disengagement. These will be commissioned as required. See Appendix 3: Additional Assessment Considerations.

Legislation, Statutory Guidance and Government Non-Statutory Guidance

Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015

The Children Act 198 as revised by the Children Act 2004

Working Together to Safeguard Children

Prevent Strategy

Prevent Duty Guidance: for England and Wales

Channel Duty Guidance: Protection vulnerable people from being drawn into terrorism

Guidance: Protecting Children from Radicalisation: the Prevent Duty for Schools and Childcare Providers

The Prevent Duty: Safeguarding Learners Vulnerable to Radicalisation

Prevent Duty Self-Assessment Tool for Schools

Guidance - Prevent Duty Self-assessment Tool: Further Education - self-assessment tool to assist colleges and providers in the further education and skills (FE) sector in England to review their Prevent responsibilities

CPS – Terrorism

Good Practice Guidance

ADCS resources Radicalisation and Extremism

Useful Websites

Educate Against Hate

Act Early for Signs of Radicalisation - What to Look For

Helpline - Preventing Extremism in Education Settings

Telephone: 020 7340 7264
Contact form

Opening times
Monday to Friday from 11am to 3pm (excluding bank holidays)

You can report concerns about extremism related to education settings in England, including allegations about institutions, staff and external people or organisations trying to influence settings.

NOTE: It is advised that the LA safeguarding lead is also contacted for local advice and support in such circumstances.

As the SPOC for your organisation you will be responsible for:

  • Ensuring that other staff in the organisation are aware that you are the SPOC in relation to protecting individuals from radicalisation and involvement in terrorism;
  • Maintaining and applying a good understanding of the relevant guidance in relation to preventing individuals from becoming involved in terrorism, and protecting them from radicalisation by those who support terrorism or forms of extremism which lead to terrorism;
  • Raising awareness about the role and responsibilities of the organisation in relation to protecting individuals from radicalisation and involvement in terrorism;
  • Raising awareness within the organisation about the safeguarding processes relating to protecting individuals from radicalisation and involvement in terrorism;
  • Acting as the first point of contact within the organisation for case discussions relating to individuals who may be at risk of radicalisation or involved in terrorism;
  • Making Prevent referrals for individuals at risk using the National Prevent Referral form for the relevant Local Authority area (see Appendix 4: National Prevent Referral Forms);
  • Collating relevant information from your organisation in relation to referrals of vulnerable children and young people or adults into the Channel process;
  • Attending Channel meetings as necessary and carrying out any actions as agreed;
  • Reporting progress on actions to the local authority Channel Co-ordinator; and
  • Sharing any relevant additional information in a timely manner.

'Channel' is a voluntary, confidential programme which provides support to people who are vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism. It operates across the country through Local Authority-chaired multi-agency panels, and is not any form of criminal or civil sanction. The aim of the programme is to safeguard people from the harm which radicalisation can cause, before they come to harm or become involved in any criminal behaviour or activity.

It works to support vulnerable people from being drawn into terrorism and provides a bespoke support plan for them. Channel is about early action to protect vulnerable people from being drawn into committing terrorist-related activity and addresses all types of extremism.

Participation in Channel is voluntary and consent is sought from every person before support is offered. It is up to an individual, or their parents for children, to decide whether to take up the support it offers. Channel does not lead to a criminal record.

The Channel Panel

Each Channel Panel is chaired by a Local Authority and brings together a range of multi-agency partners to collectively assess the risk and decide whether a support package is needed. The group may include statutory and non-statutory partners, as well as lead safeguarding professionals who have signed up to an information sharing protocol and attend a monthly panel meeting.

If the group feels the person would be suitable for Channel, it will look to develop a package of support that is bespoke to the person. The partnership approach ensures those with specific knowledge and expertise around the vulnerabilities of those at risk are able to work together to provide the best support which could range from diversionary activities through to providing access to specific statutory services.

The Greater Manchester Channel Team operates across 10 Greater Manchester Local Authorities and each LA area holds the statutory duty to run a Channel panel.

The panels are chaired by an appropriately senior member of the LA who have authority to make decisions on behalf of their authority.

Further Channel guidance can be found on the GOV.UK website and Let's Talk about It.

It is known that violent extremists exploit vulnerabilities in individuals to drive a wedge between them, their families and their communities. Refer to the Considerations below in Appendix 3: Additional Assessment Considerations when deciding whether to refer to Channel.

As a minimum there must be information evidencing a concern that the individual is either moving towards support for terrorism, or an attraction to terrorism or a vulnerability to radicalisation.

For advice and guidance on making a referral please contact the Counter Terrorism Policing Team North West (CTPNW).

CTPNW is based at GMP Headquarters within the North West Counter-Terrorism Unit.

The telephone contact number for the Channel Team is 0161 856 6362.

The e-mail address for CTPNW is

For information relating to cases open to Channel, please contact the Greater Manchester Channel Team.

The Greater Manchester Channel Team are hosted by Manchester City Council.

The telephone contact number is 0161 227 3545.

The e-mail address is

(To be considered against unique personal circumstances of referred individual).

The list is not exhaustive and all or none may be present in individual cases of concern. Nor does it mean that vulnerable people experiencing these factors are automatically at risk of exploitation for the purposes of violent extremism.

Section 1 - Access to Extremism / Extremist Influences

  • Is there reason to believe that the subject associates with those known to be involved in extremism - either because they associate directly with known individuals or because they frequent key locations where these individuals are known to operate? (e.g. the subject is the partner, spouse, friend or family member of someone believed to be linked with extremist activity);
  • Does the subject frequent internet access locations for the purpose of extremist activity? (E.g. Use of closed network groups, access to or distribution of extremist material, contact associates covertly e.g. Skype/email);
  • Is there reason to believe that the subject has been or is likely to be involved with extremist/ military training camps/ locations?
  • Is the subject known to have possessed or is actively seeking to possess and/ or distribute extremist literature / other media material likely to incite racial/religious hatred or acts of violence?
  • Does the subject sympathise with or support proscribed groups e.g. propaganda distribution, fundraising and attendance at meetings?
  • Does the subject support groups with links to extremist activity but not proscribed e.g. propaganda distribution, fundraising and attendance at meetings?

Section 2 - Experiences, Behaviours and Influences

  • Has the subject encountered peer, social, family or faith group rejection?
  • Is there evidence of ideological, political or religious influence on the subject from within or outside UK?
  • Have international events in areas of conflict and civil unrest had a personal impact on the subject resulting in a noticeable change in behaviour? Note it is important to recognise that many people may be emotionally affected by the plight of what is happening in areas of conflict (i.e. images of children dying) it is important to differentiate them from subjects that sympathise with or support extremist activity;
  • Has there been a significant shift in the subject's behaviour or outward appearance that suggests a new social / political or religious influence?
  • Has the subject come into conflict with family over religious beliefs/lifestyle choices?
  • Does the subject vocally support terrorist attacks?
  • Has the subject witnessed or been the perpetrator/victim of racial or religious hate crime or sectarianism?

Section 3 - Travel

  • Has the subject travelled for extended periods of time to international locations known to be associated with extremism?
  • Is there a pattern of regular or extended travel within the UK, with other evidence to suggest this is for purposes of extremist training or activity?
  • Has the subject employed any methods to disguise their true identity? Has the subject used documents or cover to support this?

Section 4 - Social Factors

  • Does the subject have experience of poverty, disadvantage, discrimination or social exclusion?
  • Does the subject suffer a lack of meaningful employment appropriate to their skills?
  • Does the subject display a lack of affinity or understanding for others, or social isolation from peer groups?
  • Does the subject demonstrate identity conflict and confusion normally associated with youth development?
  • Does the subject have any learning difficulties/ mental health support needs?
  • Does the subject demonstrate a simplistic or erroneous understanding of religion or politics?
  • Does the subject have a history of crime, including episodes in prison?
  • Is the subject a foreign national, refugee or awaiting a decision on their immigration/national status?
  • Does the subject have insecure, conflicted or absent family relationships?
  • Has the subject experienced any trauma in their lives, particularly any trauma associated with war or sectarian conflict?

Last Updated: January 8, 2024