The “Prevent Duty” is a new concept created under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015. In short, it requires certain “specified authorities” “to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”. The aim is to reduce the threat to the UK from terrorism by stopping people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism, and in particular to prevent people being exposed to extremist ideology and being radicalised in the first place. Extremism in this context is defined as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs” and radicalisation is “the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and extremist ideologies associated with terrorist groups”.

As you might expect, the Prevent Duty is aimed squarely at bodies such as schools and childcare providers, higher and further education intuitions, local authorities, NHS trusts and foundations and children’s homes. Some of these bodies are also charities and I would expect those organisations to be fully engaged and compliant with their Prevent Duty. But what of other charities which may have a role in safeguarding more generally and could have a great influence for the good over people who are at risk of radicalisation? It is slightly surprising that these charities are not expressly included – perhaps the Government did not want to throw the net of this at times controversial legislation too widely. Whatever the reason, for now, not all charities are expressly subject to the Prevent Duty.

Before you breathe a sigh of relief, ask yourself whether you might in fact be caught under another guise, perhaps as a further education institution or for performing some delegated local authority function? Or because of some other funding you receive from the Government?

For example, if you:

  1. have courses which are Government funded, perhaps via the Skills Funding Agency; and
  2. those courses are subject to Ofsted inspections

then you are almost certainly covered by the Prevent Duty. Failure to comply could lead to failure of an Ofsted inspection and withdrawing of your status. Crucially, once you are deemed to be a “specified authority” for Prevent Duty purposes, all of your organisation will be required to comply with the Prevent Duty – not just that part of it which receives government funding and is subject to Ofsted inspection.

Alternatively, if you:

  1. carry out a function of a local authority; or
  2. deliver social work services for children and young persons; or
  3. provide probation services on behalf of the Government.

and receive funding from the Government to do this then you may be covered by the Prevent duty.

If you are caught by the Prevent Duty it is key that you (and your safeguarding teams in particular) understand your obligations and take steps to become compliant. Those organisations with existing safeguarding obligations may not find the practical impact of the Prevent duty too onerous as, once a risk assessment has been carried out, it is likely that they will be able to roll up the new Prevent Duty obligations into their existing safeguarding training, processes, policies and procedures. We advise the following steps as a minimum:

  • undertake (and show that you have undertaken) a risk assessment to identify the areas within your organisation where people are most at risk of radicalisation;
  • train your staff so that they are aware of the Prevent Duty and their obligations relating to it;
  • update your safeguarding policies and procedures so that they make reference to the Prevent Duty and the Channel Program (the Government reporting mechanism);
  • update other policies, such as your IT policies and whistleblowing policies to be Prevent Duty compliant;
  • consider what steps you should take in relation to external speakers to ensure that no speaker express views which could constitute extremist views that risk drawing people into terrorism or are shared by terrorist groups.

As ever, simple “box ticking” will not be enough and you should ensure that the relevant people within your organisation fully understand the Prevent Duty and can train others and ensure compliance.