Critics of the programme "should listen to community groups, rather than the ill-informed gossip on the Islington omnibus"by Ben Wallace / November 4, 2016 / Leave a comment
Last month, Alistair Carmichael criticised the Prevent Strategy on the Prospect website. Here, Security Minister Ben Wallace mounts a defence of it.
There is something very “echo chamber” about recent criticism of the government’s counter-extremism Prevent Strategy. Without any credible evidence being presented, a number of so-called commentators have taken to the media to denounce the policy. They have ignored the facts, ignored the successes to date and, worst of all, ignored the voices of the people within communities delivering the programme itself. They have chosen to listen to the few and not the many.
One recent critic admitted to me she hadn’t actually spoken to anyone involved in delivering Prevent nor met any individuals who have been channeled through the scheme. She heard criticism from someone who had heard it from someone else. I represent a seat in Lancashire; a county with many challenges ranging from severe deprivation to intercommunity friction. We have seen too many young men and women exploited by those that prey on their vulnerabilities, whether that exploitation is of a sexual, criminal or extremist nature. My constituents are pleased we have Prevent. The threat from exploitation and radicalisation isn’t far away. For us it is real. Young people today, who live their lives more and more online, are particularly at risk. The programme is just one of the strands that feeds into safeguarding vulnerable people from such exploitation.
Contrary to the myths, Prevent is not delivered by white middle class men in Whitehall; it is delivered by local groups from within communities. Take, for example, Kikit Pathwayz in Birmingham, whose outreach team succeeded in stopping two young men from travelling to Syria—even though they had tickets booked for the following week. A simple conversation at the right time saved these two, who spoke of their relief that they’d come across the Kikit stall when they did, fully aware of what may have happened. Or take Luton, where the Luton Mothers’ School plays a vital role in preventing extremism by bringing mothers together to lead by example, combat intolerance and hate, and keep people safe. And it is not the Home Office but local authorities who appoint Prevent officers to work hand in hand with people on the ground. This government and the last Labour government recognised that safeguarding people requires a…