Exclusive: Childline staff receiving controversial Prevent anti-terrorism training

Campaigners express fears over confidentiality of phone service for vulnerable children

CHILDLINE STAFF are being trained under the terms of the UK Government’s prevent strategy, which teaches public servants and members of the public how to identify potential terrorists and report them to the police.

The revelation has raised fears among campaigners over the confidentiality and the quality of the Childline service, which is operated by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). The service is expected to allow children to report on household abuse and other problems in confidence.

The Prevent strategy is highly controversial due to its focus on the reporting of suspects, often on what critics claim are tenuous grounds. School teachers and university professors have protested against the strategy, which some feel requires them to spy and in some cases inform on their pupils.

Speaking to CommonSpace, Childline initially denied that it was operating under the prevent strategy.

“Childline staff have received Prevent strategy training. They receive the training before they start.” Home Office

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “Childline is an independent organisation, and is not operating under the Prevent strategy.”

The spokesperson did confirm that Childline staff were receiving training from the Home Office.

However, the Home Office confirmed to CommonSpace that Childline staff are currently receiving training under the Prevent strategy.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Childline staff have received Prevent strategy training. They receive the training before they start.”

Richard Haley of the civil rights organisation Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (Sacc) told CommonSpace that Prevent’s advice on how to detect ‘radicalised’ persons is so expansive that it includes indicators such as emotional state and physical appearance, making it unsuitable for a service such as Childline which deals with children and families in distress.

He said: “Children ringing Childline, and perhaps also their families, are very likely to be in vulnerable circumstances and to behave in ways that Prevent treats as indicative of vulnerability [to radicalisation]. If the child is Muslim, the door will be open to the policing of the family's politics.

“If trained in Prevent, NSPCC staff running Childline are likely to respond in a discriminatory and inappropriate way to children from Muslim families. Children won't receive the support they need. They and their families will be at risk of unjustified and damaging police attention.

“If trained in Prevent, NSPCC staff running Childline are likely to respond in a discriminatory and inappropriate way to children from Muslim families. Children won't receive the support they need.” Richard Haley, Sacc

“If it works with Prevent, the NSPCC will be exploiting children to assist a police intelligence-gathering exercise and to put pressure on Muslim families to align their views with the government.”

Asked by CommonSpace if the NSPCC’s new focus on protecting children from radicalisation might endanger the confidentiality of its service, an NSPCC spokesperson said: “In any situation where a child is in imminent danger we would consider contacting the appropriate authorities.”

The revelation comes after The Ferret reported in November that thousands of public sector workers were given training instructing them on how to identify members of the public who could be terrorists.

The roll-out of the Prevent strategy across Scotland has given rise to concerns over surveillance of the Muslim community, and the UK Government attempts to come to terms with the growth in the number of British Muslims traveling abroad to fight with extreme Salafist groups such as Daesh (Islamic State).

Picture courtesy of Summer Skyes 11

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