Thoughts on the challenges of the Prevent Duty
This time last year I wrote a blog for the Association of Colleges where I pondered on the trend of those travelling to Syria and Iraq to fight with Al Qaida and IS/Daesh. At that time we were concerned because over 500 people had travelled to fight and we were worried about their safety and the security consequences should they return. A year on the number that has travelled to fight exceeds 800 and our fears regarding their return have been realised in cities across the world, most recently in Paris and Brussels. In attacks in both of those cities we have witnessed individuals who have returned from Syria/Iraq carrying out lethal terrorist attacks on innocent civilians on our streets. As I write this London has been spared such an atrocity, although significant attacks have been detected and prevented by our security services. With around half of the 800 "foreign fighters" having already returned to the UK we must continue to be vigilant. An increasing fear is of individuals being persuaded to act in the name of groups like Al Qaida and IS/Daesh in their own countries without travelling to Syria, Iraq or other areas. These individuals or small self-starting groups, inspired by the larger movement are often called "Lone Wolves" or more appropriately and less glamorously "Lone Actors". Both terrorist groups are now regularly attempting to persuade individuals to act in their own countries, a sort of "call to arms" to attack anyone (we are all perceived as legitimate targets in their eyes) in the name of their cause. It is these individuals or small groups that are harder to detect and defend against and in respect of which public help is even more important in spotting worrying changes and ideas in individuals so that they can be helped. Increased awareness of why and how people are drawn to support extremist and terrorist groups has never been more important and effectively embedding the Prevent Statutory Duty in colleges is vital if we are going to protect our young people from the exploitation that we call radicalisation. This is a challenge but one that the further education sector is equal to and, from my experience, is leading the way for others across the public sector. Sam Slack is the East Midlands HE/FE Prevent Coordinator, Department for Business Innovation & Skills He will be speaking on this topic at AoC’s Health and Safety Conference on 4 May 2016. You can view the programme and book online.