Thousands of children referred to Prevent anti-extremism scheme

Thousands of children and teenagers have been flagged up to the Government's anti-terror programme.

The first detailed Home Office analysis of Prevent reveals that 2,127 of those referred to the scheme in 2015/16 were under 15, including more than 500 girls.

In one case a nine-year-old boy from west London was helped by the programme after standing up in class at school and declaring that he supported Islamic State. He had found and watched IS execution videos online.

Another 2,147 individuals reported for potential intervention over extremism concerns were aged between 15 and 20, meaning more than half of the 7,631 people referred in the 12 months to March 2016 were aged 20 or under.

Prevent aims to reduce the threat to the UK by stopping people being drawn into terrorism.

It has an annual budget of around £40 million and forms part of the Government's overarching counter-terror strategy known as Contest, which was drawn up in 2003.

  • ITV News Security Editor offers his analysis on Prevent's figures. Rohit Kachroo says he believes the figures could rise and tells of one nine-year-old who was flagged to the programme.

Anyone who is concerned about a person they think may be at risk of radicalisation can refer them to Prevent, but only a very small percentage of referrals are ultimately deemed to require intervention in the anti-extremism sphere.

When authorities conclude there is a risk the person could be drawn into terrorism, they can be supported through a scheme known as Channel.

Engagement with Channel is voluntary and it is not a criminal sanction.The new Home Office report on the 7,631 referrals to Prevent in 2015/16 show:

  • 2,766 (36%) left the process requiring no further action

  • 3,793 (50%) were "signposted" to alternative services

  • 1,072 (14%) were assessed as suitable to be discussed at a multi-agency Channel panel

Of the cases examined by Channel, 381 subsequently received support through the programme, including 108 who were under 15.

The Home Office said that of those who have left the Channel process, more than four in five were judged to have had their vulnerability to being drawn into terrorism reduced.

However, 63, or one in six, withdrew from the process - although officials stressed that any ongoing terrorism risk is managed by police.

Security minister Ben Wallace said Channel "has seen real results in helping divert people away from terrorism and violence", adding: "The programme is helping to save lives and keep us safe."

Prevent is aimed at all forms of extremism, including far-right and Islamist.