Memorandum from the London Borough of Waltham Forest (PVE 46)

 

 

Summary

The London Borough of Waltham Forest welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Communities and Local Government select committee inquiry into the effectiveness of 'Prevent' - the Government's programme for Preventing Violent Extremism

 

As a borough that has received national and international attention following the Operation Overt arrests and subsequent trials we have first hand experience of the importance of the successful delivery of the National Prevent Strategy.

 

Developing locally tailored solutions through partnerships between local partners, led by local authorities and the Police, are in our view the most effective way of achieving success. We fully support the Government's approach in allowing local authorities to lead on the delivery of this agenda.

 

We would welcome additional guidance on the weighting of factors which can lead to radicalisation as well as clear information sharing protocols across SO15 and the Crown Prosecution service following critical incidents, particularly terror-related arrests, to allow us to effectively monitor and respond to local tensions. We would also welcome guidance on how to effectively monitor and identify new sources of tension and radicalisation from within different communities or groups.

 

In our view the delivery of the Prevent agenda has allowed us to substantially improve our engagement and understanding of our local Muslim communities and begin the process of developing their resilience to extremist messages.

 

1. How robust is the Government's analysis of the factors which lead people to become involved in violent extremism? Is the 'Prevent' programme appropriately targeted to address the most important of those factors?

 

1.1 Although government have provided some basic information regarding the factors that could lead to radicalisation (ANNEX I of the National Prevent Strategy) this remains relatively simplistic and there is a greater need for more nuanced information. At present the Government have not indicated the weighting of each factor and neither have they provided clear guidance on how to identify those who are vulnerable to being targeted by those promoting violent extremist ideology.

 

1.2 There is significant material available in the academic sector including some academics that have developed models that allow for the weighting of factors (Pressman) and whilst Government has provided information and access to such research there has been no indication of an agreed position in relation to this.

 

1.3 We appreciate that developing a definitive list of radicalisation risk factors is never going to be an exact science however we feel more clarity is needed in this area.

 

2. How appropriate, and how effective, is the Government's strategy for engaging with communities? Has the Government been speaking to the right people? Has its programme reached those at whom it is-or should be-aimed?

 

2.1 It is our view that the Government is absolutely correct to approach engagement of local Muslim communities through locally based partnerships managed by local authorities. Local authorities are best placed to understand their local communities and engage on this agenda in line with their local leadership role under the Local Government Act 2000.

 

2.2 This flexible approach is essential as each area has a unique set of circumstances to adapt to. For example whilst current evidence indicates that in Waltham Forest the most significant threat relates to violent extremism within sections of our Muslim communities we need also to be vigilant against other forms of extremism should they arise. The recent conviction of Neil Lewington (a white supremacist planning a bombing campaign against 'non British' people) of terror related offences demonstrates the threat of the extreme far-right cannot be ignored and local areas need to be free to respond accordingly. We would welcome additional guidance from Government on how to adequately monitor and identify any new sources of tension or radicalisation from within different communities or groups. It is our view that being clear that we aim to combat all forms of extremism provides much needed reassurance to Muslim communities who may otherwise feel that they are being unfairly targeted.

 

2.3 All of our current prevent priorities are providing unique opportunities to engage across a wide breadth of Muslim communities. In particular we have including a number of projects that work specifically with young Muslims as in our view helping young people develop a counter-extremist narrative provides the greatest opportunity to build long-term resilience and capacity within Waltham Forest.

 

Case Study - Waltham Forest Young Muslim Leaders Programme

 

Summary:

As part of our Prevent work, the London Borough of Waltham Forest has developed a pathfinder Young Muslim Leaders Programme aimed at preventing violent extremism amongst young Muslims ages 17-24. The programme intends to address Objective 4 of the Prevent strategy, Increasing the Capacity of Communities to Resist Violent Extremism, and is aimed at young individuals potentially at risk. The programme builds the capacity, leadership and skills of young Muslims in the borough, allowing them to take these skills into the community and schools, where they can mentor and act as role models for their peers.

 

Key learning:

The leadership programme has fostered a range of leadership skills, knowledge and capacity amongst Young Muslims

The programme has brought about a repositioning of the roles Young Muslims want to play in civic society, and provided a forum for discussion around issues such as identify and faith

The programme has provided a forum for open discussions around violent extremism and the role Young Muslims play

The programme has helped develop Young Muslims as 'peer mentors', providing role models for young people in the borough

 

Background:

The specific purpose of the programme was to:

Give young Muslims an opportunity to identify themselves as a welcome part of wider British Society and be accepted as such within a local context

To communicate the rejection of violent extremist ideology and actively condemn violent extremism to their peers

An opportunity to develop a sustainable framework for the Council and Partners to engage with our diverse communities

An opportunity to develop the capacity for young Muslim's to deal with problems in a positive manner when they arise

The creation of a support structure around diversionary activity for those at risk

 

Who was involved?

Young Muslims:

23 male and female Young Muslims participated in the Leadership Programme

 

London Borough of Waltham Forest:

This project was commissioned and project managed by the Community Cohesion Unit

 

Leytonstone Muslim Community Centre and Active Change Foundation:

The programme was open to tender to local third sector organisations already engaged with young Muslims and was successfully awarded to two local voluntary sector groups. This allowed the organisations flexibility to work with the young people to their own designed curriculum, but also have the endorsement and backing of high profile public sector institutions.

 

The challenges and how we tackled them:

To promote dialogue and prevent violent extremism amongst the borough's youth, the programme aimed to train a group of twenty young people into young leaders for the Muslim community and was based around six key objectives:

 

1. The creation of a support structure around diversionary activity for those at risk

 

2. Development of a sustainable framework for the Council and its partners to engage with their diverse communities

 

3. Development of the capacity of young Muslims to deal with problems where

they arise in a positive manner

 

4. Young Muslims to identify themselves as a welcome part of wider British

Society and to be accepted as such within a local context

 

5. The rejection of violent extremist ideology and active condemnation of violent extremism

 

6. Identified Young Muslim Leaders to be shown as being good role models for other youths in the Muslim community

 

Two methods of teaching were used. These ranged from interaction with military organisations and politicians, to presentations and facilitating debates in schools. Both approaches proved successful at providing the young people with public speaking skills, confidence and knowledge that they could share with their peers.

 

"I've changed my ways and have come off the streets. I now feel I have a good role

in the community and I want to become a leader" (ACF Beneficiary)

 

It also empowered the beneficiaries to make an informed choice about extremism and extremist behaviour.

 

'My knowledge of religion between groups helps me to diffuse situations. I want to

be more aware of politics though I can see what's happening now I can question

things more and question myself more' (ACF Beneficiary)

 

"It tackled some issues that I was interested but in a different and innovative way."

(LMCC Beneficiary)

 

Our Young Muslim Leaders are now active community leaders and mentors, peer educators and public speakers dispelling myths about Islam and the Islamic way of life and actively promoting cohesion and citizenship. They have appeared at a number of public media events and have taken part in radio debates and interviews. As well as speaking at school assemblies and other events, they have produced DVDs about their experiences and are regular participants at conferences, seminars and training events across the country.

 

The Young Muslim Leaders work closely with the Police to talk with officers about issues that concern young Muslim people and how situations could be better managed, including dialogue about dealing with cultural differences, myths, protocols and difficult situations such as drugs, bullying, sexual or gender issues. In addition, six Young Women Leaders advise the Police about Muslim protocols when dealing with women and girls, particularly female relatives and older people.

 

Outcomes and impacts

The Young Muslim Leaders project was shortlisted for a Preventing Extremism Award by the Government Office for London (GOL), and was commended by the Prime Minister in a speech on counter-terrorism in December 2007. The project has been independently evaluated and is being developed into a 'train to train' project which will see our young Muslim leaders work to develop a new cohort of young Muslims in the borough.

 

Next steps

We would want to encourage the young people to continue with leadership training with a view to becoming more active citizens.

 

We are continuing to engage with some of the young women on the courses who are keen to develop their civic participation skills. This is to be developed as part of our overall commitment to actively engaging women and girls to tackle extremism.

 

'We need to spread the project continuously and continue it year to year. We need to

keep the project open and be able to go and promote it readily' ( LMCC Beneficiary)

 

 

3. Is the necessary advice and expertise available to local authorities on how to implement and evaluate the programme?

 

3.1 It is our view that Government has produced very robust guidance in the

form of the National Prevent Strategy & a guide to its delivery. The subsequent publication of an updated guide, specific action planning and best practice guidance has also proved helpful. In addition the regular Prevent newsletters & RICU updates provide a useful tool for keeping abreast of the most recent policy developments and good practice in the Prevent area. The London Prevent regional network, facilitated by Government Office for London, has also proved helpful and provides an essential opportunity to share good practice and problem solve.

 

3.2 We would welcome additional guidance/information in the following

areas:

Weighting of factors that determine risk to radicalisation

Suggested approved providers with capability to deliver targeted interventions to those identified as vulnerable to radicalisation

Regular updates at Leader/CEX level on level of threat and a steer on where interventions need to be targeted

Regular updates of the names being used by proscribed organisations to access public space

Clear information sharing protocols between SO15, the CPS and local Prevent Boards following any critical incidents (such as terror related arrests) to allow local response to any resulting tensions

 

3.3 The Government has very recently produced detailed and helpful guidance on best practice for the evaluation of Prevent programmes in local areas. However it is important to note that in order to establish formal independent evaluation of local Prevent programmes there is significant cost to local Prevent partnerships resulting in funds being drawn away from frontline service delivery; as such we are proposing building in peer-evaluation where possible.

 

3.4 It is also important to recognise that whilst it is always going to be challenging to demonstrate the effectiveness of individual projects and how they contribute towards reducing the number of individuals attracted to or targeted by those who advocate violent extremist ideology, it is essential that Prevent practitioners have a tool that can act as a sufficiently robust proxy measure. As such we have held initial discussions with DCLG in relation to commissioning an independent attitudinal survey of Muslims in East London. The survey would cover a range of topics including attitudes towards violent extremism and its causes, feelings of belonging, experience of hate crime and Islamophobia, commitment to British values, trust of local institutions and understanding of the Prevent agenda amongst others. The survey would be conducted annually over a period of three years. This will provide a crucial tool allowing East London boroughs to develop evidence-based initiatives and monitor changing attitudes of Muslim communities over time. The cost of such an initiative is fairly substantial and would require additional funding from Government if it is to be undertaken. However our view is that it would provide a useful empirical tool to measure the impact of interventions.

 

3.5 Currently performance in relation to Prevent delivery is measured through the self-assessment framework for NI 35 (Building resilience to violent extremism). Although the framework provides a useful tool for local authorities to assess overall performance we have some concern that it is not more clearly linked to objectives of the Prevent strategy.

 

4. Are the objectives of the 'Prevent' agenda being communicated effectively to those at whom it is aimed?

 

4.1 Communicating the Prevent Agenda remains a difficult task as there

remains a perception amongst Muslim communities that Prevent is stigmatising all Muslims as potential terrorists, acting as back-door intelligence gathering and concerns that it is stifling genuine and legitimate objections to British foreign policy. Our experience in Waltham Forest has been that an up-front and clear policy position is essential to ensure communities can maintain trust with statutory agencies delivering on this agenda. We have been clear that our approach has been embedded within our wider work on community cohesion and have developed a tiered intervention model to clearly demonstrate when targeted interventions are needed.

Case Study - Waltham Forest Tiered Intervention Model

 

 

 

4.2 As a relatively new policy agenda there is also substantial work to be done

to communicate Prevent objectives across key stakeholders such as school, colleges & universities amongst others. In Waltham Forest we have rolled out a series of training sessions and presentations to key stakeholders and are about to begin work with local partners to identify how best to mainstream the Prevent agenda.

 

5. Is the Government seeking, and obtaining, appropriate advice on how to achieve the goals of the 'Prevent' programme?

 

5.1 We welcome the Government's decision to include local authority

representatives on both regional and national prevent and channel boards and feel that this is essential if the goals of the 'Prevent' programme are to be realistic and deliverable.

 

6. How effectively has the Government evaluated the effectiveness of the programme and the value for money which is being obtained from it? Have reactions to the programme been adequately gauged?

 

6.1 Prevent remains a very new policy agenda and as such it is our view that

it too early to make a robust assessment of the effectiveness of the programme. We believe that there has been substantial improvement in our ability to engage with Muslim communities since the inception of Prevent which directly contributes to our ability to work in partnership to develop resilience to extremist messages. Local authorities should be using their established commissioning and procurement guidelines to achieve value for money. However it is important to recognise that some of the outcomes we are trying to achieve (e.g. building capacity of local Muslim organisations to combat extremism) are difficult to empirically quantify.

 

7. Is there adequate differentiation between what should be achieved through the Prevent programme and the priorities that concern related, but distinct, policy frameworks such as cohesion and integration?

 

7.1 Yes. Waltham Forest, like many other local authorities, has embedded its

approach to Prevent within our wider cohesion framework. We have developed the tiered model of intervention which allows clear differentiation between universal and targeted services on the basis of need.

 

September 2009