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Study of data held by Cafcass in cases featuring radicalisation concerns

The Home Office defines radicalisation as “the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and forms of extremism leading to terrorism”, with Prevent defining extremism as “the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”.1 While what is meant by ‘radicalisation’ and ‘extremism’ in a child protection context can, as discussed later, be unclear; a useful definition for child protection professionals, from M (Children) [2014], is “negatively influencing [a child] with radical fundamentalist thought, which is associated with terrorism”.

In December 2015, Community Care reported the results of a survey which found that just over half of social workers surveyed were either ‘slightly’ or ‘extremely’ unconfident in their knowledge of the correct intervention in a case featuring radicalisation concerns. Judges have emphasised that the interest of the individual child remains the paramount concern within proceedings, reminding social workers that their core safeguarding skills are the most valuable tools. Hayden J said in London Borough of Tower Hamlets and M & Ors [2015] that “the type of harm I have been asked to evaluate is a different facet of vulnerability for children than that which the courts have had to deal with in the past. What, however is clear is that the conventional safeguarding principles will still afford the best protection”.

Cafcass developed a child exploitation strategy in 2015, to support practitioners in cases featuring radicalisation concerns, child sexual exploitation or child trafficking. Work has included the creation of a network of child exploitation ambassadors who work with service managers to disseminate local and national information. Resources have been made available to staff and a system has been put in place to collect data on cases where radicalisation has been flagged as a risk.