Workers in Tower Hamlets are being trained to spot signs of radicalisation

Shamima Begum fled to Syria to become a Jihadi bride at the age of 15. Pic: Met Police

Shamima Begum fled to Syria to become a Jihadi bride at the age of 15. Pic: Met Police - Credit: MPS

Doctor receptionists and housing officers are among hundreds of workers being trained to spot signs of radicalisation as Tower hamlets Council embarks on a major roll-out of anti-terror training.

Simon Smith is Tower Hamleets Prevent programme manager. Pic: Rachael Burford

Simon Smith is Tower Hamleets Prevent programme manager. Pic: Rachael Burford - Credit: Archant

The council has tutored its first round of ‘Prevent Champions’ in how to identify potential threats.

The first 37 who embarked on the course last month also included council staff and social workers.

The scheme aims to teach those in ordinary jobs about Prevent — the government’s anti-terror programme.

They will then be able to go on and train others in their workplaces about how to spot signs of radicalisation.

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It is expected to be the widest-reaching local authority training of its kind in the UK and aims to dispel a perception of secrecy about it.

Tower Hamlets Prevent staff are also training police and local authorities across Europe in their anti-radicalisation methods.

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Delegations from Italy and Germany are expected in the coming months and officers have already travelled to ¬Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Bosnia and Serbia.

Tower Hamlets Prevent programme manager Simon Smith said: “The reason there is mystery surrounding Prevent is because people don’t talk about it.

“We don’t have that communication. We don’t engage with the public and we need to. This is a step in achieving that to a far greater degree.”

The Prevent programme aims to stop people being drawn into terrorism.

Of the 7,318 ¬people across the UK who were referred to the initiative in 2017-18, almost a quarter were from London. About 60 per cent of referrals were young people aged 20 or under.

Figures for each individual borough were not released by the government but “east London sees a large amount of casework”, Mr Smith said.

Since Shamima Begum and two other schoolgirls left Bethnal Green in 2015 to become Islamic State brides in Syria, Tower Hamlets has more than doubled the size of its Prevent team.

Mr Smith added: “We were the first in the country to appoint an education officer, whose sole job it is to provide [anti-radicalisation] training in schools. All schools also have a designated safeguarding lead. There has been a huge investment in resources over the last four years, providing curricular material, training, support, guidance.

“Schools in Tower Hamlets are now very, very familiar with Prevent, what risk and threat looks like, and are able to assess it effectively and either deal with it or seek support.”

About 44 per cent of referrals to ¬Prevent are in relation to Islamic radicalisation, while almost a quarter are over concerns about Right-wing extremism, according to government figures.

A recent Home Office review of Tower Hamlets’ Prevent strategy found “management was strong” but there were “challenges in public perception” which was reflected in the “attitudes of a significant proportion of council staff”.

Mr Smith said: “I think it is fair to say everyone recognises the threat from Right-wing terrorism has always been there and we can easily say it is rising. We often have the challenge of, ‘Oh, you only focus on Muslims’ … no we don’t. We focus on those who want to engage in extremism, engage in terrorism.”

Security Minister, Ben Wallace, added: “Front line professionals have a role to play in safeguarding people who may be vulnerable to exploitation by terrorist recruiters, and we welcome any efforts to increase awareness of the signs of radicalisation.”

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