JUST West Yorkshire’s request for information from West Yorkshire PCC following the article on extremism in the T & A

Following an article in the Telegraph and Argus that the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, has supported a project targeting children as young as eight at risk of extremism, JUST West Yorkshire has written to the PCC Mark Burns-Williamson with questions about the proposed scheme. JUST has also offered to do an independent evaluation of the project.

To read the article, please visit http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/11560559.Bradford_children_as_young_as_8_to_be_steered_away_from_extremism/

EMAIL SENT BY JUST WEST YORKSHIRE TO THE PCC Mark Burns-Williamson

PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE RECEIPT OF THIS EMAIL

Dear Mark-Burns Williamson,

Further to the article that appeared in the Telegraph and Argus (http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/11560559.Bradford_children_as_young_as_8_to_be_steered_away_from_extremism/) JUST West Yorkshire is extremely concerned about the article’s claims that children as young as eight are being radicalised and that your office has funded a new project aimed at re-integrating these children into mainstream society.

In the interest of openness and transparency, we would be grateful if you could respond to the questions [in red] that emerge from the article. JUST believes that the scheme has profound implications for civil liberties and human rights but critically it puts young children at risk through labeling them as potential ‘extremists’.

We will be writing separately to Telegraph and Argus to express our disappointment at the manner in which the article has been written. We will also be seeking to clarify the efficacy of the information on which the article is based.

We will also be writing to the JAMES project seeking further clarification on their experience in relation to delivering projects targeted at young ‘extremists’.

The questions that the article raises are enumerated below and we hope to get a speedy response.

First published 06:13 Monday 27 October 2014 in Newsby Paul Whitehouse

BRADFORD children as young as eight are to be steered away from radicalisation in a new project in the district.

  • How many eight year-old children have been identified as at being at risk of radicalization?
  • What were the measures that were used to assess the level of risk?

Some city schools have become so concerned about the welfare of youngsters who appear to have fallen under the spell of those trying to radicalise children that they have raised the alarm with the authorities.

  • Which schools have raised concerns about their students being at risk of radicalization?
  • Have members of staff in the schools received any training about the indicators of radicalisation?
  • If so, what training have they received and by which organization?
  • If the young people are being radicalized, have those responsible for their radicalisation been identified?
  • If so who are they and how is the Police (and Council) intending to pursue these so-called ‘radicalsiers’?

Now Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson has put aside thousands of pounds for work intended to pluck children in the eight to 14 age group from the influence of those who seek to influence them with radical religious messages.

  • What was the evidence that the PCC used before making the decision to set aside ‘thousands of pounds ‘ to keep children safe from being radicalized?
  • Who did the PCC consult about the efficacy of the project?
  • What does the PCC mean by the term ‘radical religious measures’?

The cash will allow specialist workers to deal with 36 children, including one group which will be made up of six females from Bradford’s minority communities, who are seen to be at particular risk from fanatics.

  • Please give us the breakdown in terms of age, ethnicity and geographical area that the 36 children come from?
  • How was the fitness for purpose of the ‘specialist workers’ / organization who will be carrying out this work related to ‘extremism’ assessed?
  • What was the assessment process that led to the decision that identified ‘six females from Bradford’s minority communities’ to be ‘at particular risk from fanatics’?
  • Please give us a profile of the fanatics and what is the exact risk they pose?

Some concerns have been raised about whether the tactics are the best approach to tackle extremism in the city, however.

Bradford’s JAMES charity, which works with children across a broad age range, has been commissioned to carry out the work and staff will use a range of techniques to help ensure the youngsters stay within mainstream society.

Mr Burns-Williamson said the JAMES project was granted funding partly because it helped to ensure “threats, risks and harms” were tackled.
The charity will use a grant of £4,914 to pay for the work, which involves a contract to work with a total of 36 children deemed to be at risk. Some of the sessions will take place on the charity’s canal boat, which is moored at Shipley Wharf.

  • How will the PCC be evaluating the success of the project – please share with us the measures that you intend to use?

JAMES’ operations manager, Mandy Lakes, confirmed there had already been cases reported of attempts made to radicalise children.

  • The statement from the Operations Manager that the ‘problem’ is in excess of the figure of 36 that has been cited in the article. How many additional young people has the project identified as potential ‘extremists’; what time span does this cover; what is the profile of these young people and how has the project dealt with it?

Now they will be going into schools where suspicions have been raised, “so we know we are working with the right people,” she said.
“When we have identified them, it is about creating partnerships so we know we are tackling the issues these people have.

  • We are not clear who these ‘right people’ that the project intends to work with are? Please let us know whom the project intends to work with in schools?
  • Please let us know who will be the partners that the project intends to work with?

“The whole agenda is quite new, it is about the police and crime commissioner and police having new initiatives,” she said.

Work will be tailored to different age ranges, but will focus on ensuring children are able to contribute to society, with mentoring and the use of role models to help them challenge the influence of extremists.

  • Having never heard of JAMES charity in relation to work with victims of radicalisation; please furnish us their experience in dealing with ethnic minority ‘fanatics’ and young ‘victims’ of extremism?
  • Has the project’s methodology been assessed in terms of its efficacy relating to children at risk of radicalization? Please furnish us with the evidence.

The National Union of Teachers has expressed caution over the work, however, with Bradford spokesman Ian Murch saying he believed work across whole school communities could be more effective.

“It is interesting how on earth they will target these 36. I will be interested because I know my members will be,” he said.
“Taking kids out is quite a dangerous thing. Education aimed at all children is almost certainly better than trying to find a target group.”
Bradford East MP David Ward: “My first thought is that if we are protecting these young people, who is doing the radicalising?
“The best way to protect children is to take action against those who pose a threat.”
Mr Burns-Williamson is paying for the work using cash recouped from criminals who have had their assets seized by courts.

He said “The JAMES project addresses some of the key priorities in the Police and Crime Plan which include reducing anti-social behaviour, crime and re-offending, ensuring victims and witnesses are supported and ensuring local, regional and national threats, risks and harms are tackled.

“The project was one I was happy to support as it involves improving understanding, acceptance, interaction and cohesion across the diverse communities of Bradford, and particularly a better understanding between young and older people and reducing fear, as well as improving community relationships.”

JUST West Yorkshire would like to propose that the PCC Mark Burns-Williamson accepts our offer to evaluate the project. We look forward to an early meeting to discuss how our offer can be progressed.

Thank you,

Ratna Lachman
Director
JUST West Yorkshire

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