Prevent Initiated in 2006 as part of the wider ‘CONTEST’ anti-terrorism policy agenda ‘Winning hearts and minds will take significant efforts by Muslim communities… Our aim is to support them through targeted capacity building’(DCLG, 2007:5) An education and community engagement-focussed policy involving both DCLG and the Home Office Direct work with Muslim young people via local authorities and YOTS, and with adult prisoners Work with HE/FE Sector Over 300 new, dedicated Police posts, including ‘Prevent Engagement Officers’ and new regional Counter Terrorism Units
Prevent’s journey Britain did not see a domestic terror threat coming The ‘Pathfinder’ year of Prevent in 2007/8 was rapidly operationalised and imposed on LA’s Major expansion 2008/11 across a number of sectors and over 70 LA’s Persistent allegations of spying within Prevent led to CLG Select Committee Inquiry in 2009/10 – this criticised Police/Security Service role, and damage to DCLG’s work on community cohesion 2011 Prevent Review removed DCLG from the Prevent programme and reduced its scale to 28 LA’s Woolwich murder threw spotlight back onto what Prevent is for and what it has actually achieved
Prevent and Youth Work Youth Work has been central to LA and community –based Prevent work because of its ability to contact and build relationships with marginalised young people on their terms (Absence of School-based work?!) (Mizen, 2004; Smith, 2002) Inevitably some positives from a programme costing over £200m to date! It has brought external funding to LA Youth Work and to Muslim community organisations for work with young people at a time of significant cuts It has enabled contact and relationship building with significant numbers of new Muslim young people (Lowndes and Thorp, 2010) It has enabled stronger focus on faith in work with young people (Iacopini et al, 2011) Enabled development of good practice in local third sector organisations, and facilitated development of better data about young people’s identities (Thomas and Sanderson, 2011) and citizenship-based work generally (Thomas, 2008)
Prevent and Youth Work – A poisoned chalice? Prevent title has been consistently avoided in work, so young people and communities have been unaware of the true purpose/funding of work Prevent has been a on a large-scale but aimed at Muslims only – interested only in their ‘Muslimness’, leading to resentment from Muslims targeted and ‘virulent envy’ (Birt, 2009) from other communities – replicates mistakes of previous attempts at ‘anti- racist’ work with white young people (Hewitt, 2005) and ignores evidence around the 2001 northern riots Prevent has worked with over-simplistic notions of both youth identity and of the drivers of ‘radicalisation’ (Kundnani, 2012) and extremism, but has actually involved very little work directly addressing these concepts (Thomas, 2009) Here, Prevent has therefore been in start contradiction to the analysis and practice of ‘community cohesion’, which youth work has been in the vanguard of developing progressive practice around (Thomas, 2011) but has also side-tracked (Monro et al, 2010) and taken-over (O’Toole et al, 2012) community cohesion structures and practice, both locally and nationally. Clear evidence of Police/CTU gaining control of Prevent locally and nationally, pressing youth workers for intelligence (Kundnani, 2009) and even getting involved in direct delivery (Knight, 2010)
Prevent: The securitisation of Youth Work practice Youth Work has played a strong role throughout Prevent – this highlights Youth Work’s strengths but also the modern dilemmas over the price of continued state funding (Mizen, 2004) This has put Youth Work in the vanguard of a highly questionable and securitised ‘internal penetration’ (Stuart Hall, 2011) of Muslim communities It has also demanded that Youth Work must work in contradiction to emerging good professional practice around cohesion, cross-community contact and more intersectional understandings of youth identity and experience Any local autonomy has been progressively squeezed by OSCT/CTUs, with the 2011 Prevent Review making this more explicit – its now overtly a programme run by the spooks in London but still delivered by local youth workers
Contact details Paul Thomas School of Education and Professional Development, University of Huddersfield firstname.lastname@example.org
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