Prevent: Frequently asked questions and answers


What is extremism? Click to get info

The government’s 2011 Prevent strategy describes extremism as vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the law, individual freedom and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. Also included in the definition of extremism are calls for the death of members of the armed forces, whether in this country or overseas.

What is terrorism? Click to get info

The Terrorism Act 2000 defines terrorism as an action that endangers or causes serious violence to a person/people; causes serious damage to property; or seriously interferes or disrupts an electronic system. To be classed as terrorism, the action must be designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public and has to be something being done to advance a political, religious, or ideological cause.

What is radicalisation? Click to get info

The government’s 2011 Prevent strategy defines radicalisation as the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and forms of extremism leading to terrorism.

Issues happening in a person’s life can make them more vulnerable to supporting violent, criminal or terrorist acts. Anything from a family breakdown to losing a job, a change in routine to peer pressure, or a loss in someone’s life can sometimes lead to them feeling isolated and make them more likely to be persuaded into supporting beliefs or activity of this nature.

The fact that information on the internet is so accessible also means that it is often easier for people spreading extremist messaging to reach people who are vulnerable. By no means does having one or all of these issues drive someone to terrorism, but they can combine with other factors around radicalisation to make someone more susceptible and requiring support.

Our aim is to identify people who could be vulnerable and ensure they get the right support.

Why is Prevent needed? Click to get info

The threat to the UK from Islamist and far right radicalisation is real. Around 850 people from the UK have travelled to support or fight for jihadist organisations in Syria and Iraq, and about half have returned to the UK. The BBC lists details of some of the cases of Britons who have died, been convicted of offences, or remain in the region here.

Far right extremists also pose a threat. For example, in 2014, Nazi sympathiser Ian Forman was convicted for planning to blow up mosques and Islamic centres in England (more here).

Not only do individuals like this threaten public safety, they have the potential to draw vulnerable people, like children and young people, into thinking negative and harmful extremist views, spreading messages of hate.

Prevent is not about catching terrorists. It is about identifying people who may be at risk of radicalisation and supporting them to change direction in a way that will help them.

No. Councils are not allowed to carry out any covert activity or spy on anyone in the community.

Prevent is about supporting people who may be vulnerable to radicalisation and extremist ideology before they act on those ideas or carry out any criminal acts. Anyone who is already acting illegally or is suspected of doing so will be managed through the criminal justice system as with any crime.   

There are only a very small number of people who support terrorist activity, or are likely to.

The vast majority of people, in all communities, want to see terrorism prevented, and want to play their part as good citizens in helping to make that happen. 

No. Prevent covers all forms of potential terrorism, such as Al Qaeda, Daesh inspired, far right, Irish republican, animal rights, faith-based extremism and other types of terrorism. However, the government considers the threat posed by individuals and groups inspired by Al Qaeda and Daesh to be the biggest risk to national security at the moment, so it is appropriate that currently most of the focus is on this work. 

There is also growing national concern about the risk of far right violence, especially since the killings in Norway in 2011, the murder of Mohammed Saleem in Birmingham in 2013, neo-Nazi activity elsewhere in Europe and the growth of ‘Defence League’ groups and their associated splinter groups that have formed in the UK and Europe.  

Under the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary can ban or proscribe an organisation if she believes it is involved in or linked to terrorism.

Proscribing an organisation means placing it on a list which makes it illegal for people to support it or to be a member of it. Under the Act this means if an organisation: commits or participates in acts of terrorism; prepares for terrorism; promotes or encourages terrorism (including the unlawful glorification of terrorism); or is otherwise concerned in terrorism.

The channel panel is chaired by the council as the council is the lead organisation for Prevent. But the panel is supported in its work by a representative from the police who has channel responsibility. The police, as with other statutory bodies, such as the health and probation services, have an officer who acts as the single point of contact for any Prevent related work in the borough.

The council has access to national census data and results of local focus groups and surveys, which are used to inform the development of all council services based on local need.

Prevent work relies on strong partnership work, which means that on occasion we may share information with other organisations like the police, where it is appropriate to do so and in accordance with the law, for example, if we are aware of an issue that could threaten public safety.

It doesn’t allow the council to carry out any undercover activity or spy on anyone in the community.

Schools also now have a legal duty to have due regard for Prevent in their safeguarding work.

This is no different to any other aspect of children’s safeguarding. In Waltham Forest, we also offer secondary schools and colleges our Digital Resilience package, which they can access on a voluntary basis. Please contact your child’s school or college for more information, or visit the Education HUB online.

A full list of the organisations that now have a legal Prevent duty can be found in Schedule 6 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015.

This includes all councils/local authorities across England and Wales and each one will have their own programmes of work designed to meet their local needs. For more details on what an organisation is doing, their website should provide the relevant information.

Please contact either the council’s community safety Prevent team or the police.

Community Safety 0208 496 3000


  • emergency 999 
  • non-emergency 101 
  • anti-terrorism hotline 0800 789 321

Anyone can make a referral to Channel. 

If you work for a statutory organisation (i.e. legally regulated bodies such as schools, the police and health providers) and have any concerns about an individual please speak with your organisation’s safeguarding lead. They will be able to advise and guide you about making a referral.

If you don’t work for a statutory organisation and you have concerns about a young person, please contact the MASH (Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub) team who will advise you on next steps.

If your concern relates to an adult, or if you would like to speak to a Prevent officer about a possible referral, please contact community safety on 020 8496 3000.

Yes, individuals of any age can be referred to the Channel programme if there are concerns that they might be vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism. 

Data protection and human rights principles are very important parts of the Channel programme, and information will only be shared with other organisations where it is necessary, proportionate and legal, for example, when there is a threat to public safety. To report information anonymously you can contact the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


Yes. The Channel programme is voluntary and the individual referred has to agree to take up the support offered by the programme.

If they are 17 or under, their parent or guardian has to give their consent.

If your child is aged 17 or under and they are referred to the Channel programme, you will be made aware if they are referred and asked for your consent for them to be involved.

The council has a Freedom of Information process which can be accessed through the website.

More information about requests for information can be found at the Information Commissioner’s Office website