A few days after the Westminster Bridge terrorist attack on 22nd March 2017, a Midlands-based youth worker arrived at work to find a group of teens gathered around a tablet, engrossed by a video. This was a group that had hitherto displayed no regard for politics or current affairs. To that point, they were largely disengaged, disinterested and disenfranchised.
Since the infamous retweeting of Britain First, the extreme far-right is dominating the news once again and we are now marking the anniversary that neo-Nazi organisation National Action was banned in the UK. Inevitably, they tried to circumvent the ban by rebranding themselves, so in last 12 months another two white supremacist groups have followed suit, Scottish Dawn and NS131.
Through the Channel programme we can offer a range of support, including mentoring, but often the responses involve broader programmes around critical thinking, anger management, conflict resolution, positive social narratives and resilience building through shared values.
Parity between the sexes remains one of the most vital challenges of our society and one which has the power to resolve so many inequalities and social harms. Tackling extremism is yet one more area where this holds true, as it becomes increasingly clear that the push for – and protection of – gender equality is arguably the most significant counter-narrative to extremist ideology.
In my view, this focus on Britishness facilitates lazy interpretations of values. Some lists suggest that children should be encouraged to listen to British music like Freddy Mercury or they should eat roast dinners at school! By all means, schools are welcome to display union flags and celebrate the Queen’s birthday but this merely pays lip service to what British values are trying to achieve.
It would be ridiculous for those of us who work in Prevent to be complacent, this area of safeguarding is too sensitive and too important. We need open dialogue and debate, but constructive critics are drowned out by the cacophony of detractors who demand to be heard but offer nothing but noise.