Front-line staff made to report on prisoners and schoolkids
UNDER-PRESSURE front-line workers will be made to identify those who are likely to succumb to “extremist” ideology under new laws introduced yesterday.
Staff at councils, prisons, NHS trusts and schools will be required to report children and adults to the police if they suspect that anyone among them has been “radicalised.”
The Prevent scheme — part of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act — was launched earlier this year as part of the Con-Dem government’s “one nation” agenda.
Security Minister John Hayes said: “Protecting those who are vulnerable and at risk of radicalisation is a job for all of us.”
But cash-strapped and under-staffed institutions are worried that they will not be able to cope with extra responsibility on top of existing heavy workloads. They are also concerned about the societal repercussions of increased surveillance.
Prison governors will be told to order officers — who already experience high amounts of job-related stress and violence — to carry out cell-sharing risk assessments for inmates who are suspected to be capable of unduly of influencing others.
Prison Officers’ Association (POA) general secretary Steve Gillan told the Star that “the role of a prison officer is difficult enough” and staff would be “swimming against the tide,” especially as Tory spending cuts have slashed the number of guards by 6,000 since 2010.
Prisons can become “hotbeds of radicalisation for whatever reason” — such as bullying and inmates wanting to belong to gangs for protection — and pinpointing causes would be difficult, Mr Gillan continued, especially if they have already been partly radicalised or are serving time for terrorism-related crimes.
He added: “I don’t think the resources are going to be there to meet these requirements and I hope that no-one would be penalised if any prisoners slipped through the net.”
All schools and universities will also be required to carry out assessments and intervene if a pupil is suspected of having extreme political or religious views.
Higher education institutions will also be made to show where and how students may be at risk of being drawn into terrorism.
NUT general secretary Christine Blower said the scheme was already “causing significant nervousness and confusion among teachers.”
She added: “If pupil well-being and safety is the aim, the Prevent strategy is felt by many teachers to be counter-productive and wide of the mark.
“It risks closing down the very opportunities where the classroom can be used to develop democracy and explore human rights.”