More than 500 would-be terrorists have received support through a £3 million-a-year Government scheme designed to protect people at risk from radicalisation, a report has revealed.
The multi-agency programme - known as Channel - identifies people at risk of being drawn into terrorism and develops a support plan for the vulnerable individuals concerned.
Nearly 2,500 people were referred to Channel between January 2007 and December 2012, of whom about 500 were offered support, the Government's first annual report on the UK's strategy for countering terrorism said.
The figures came as Charles Farr, director general of the Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism, warned the threat from al Qaida allies such as al Qaida in the Maghreb in North Africa has heightened in the last year.
The report also revealed that al Qaida affiliates including the Taliban have pocketed 60 million US dollars (£40 million) in kidnapping ransom payments since 2008.
But Farr also warned that counter-terrorism was not "immune" from funding cuts.
Discussing the growing threat from Syria, North Africa and the potential impact of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan next year, Farr said: "We're in a potentially key moment. The threat has dispersed and diversified to the point where it might require more resources, because we're having to spread those resources across a wider geographical area."
There were 1,274 people referred to the Channel programme between January 2011 and December 2012, of whom 243 people received support.
The people referred to Channel vary in age, but schoolchildren have been supported by the initiative, Farr said.
Among the cases covered by the programme was an Asian man convicted of burglary who expressed anti-Western views in jail and was known to have viewed extremist videos online.
After a Channel-backed intervention, the man returned to education and re-established contact with his family.
Farr said: "I really believe Channel is an essential part of our counter-terrorism."
He went on: "If you look at the cost by comparison if those people had to be put through the criminal justice system or an investigation, it's a fraction of the amount. This is quite apart from the damage it does to families and communities."
Farr warned that Syria had become "particularly challenging" with large numbers of foreign fighters, including from the UK, active in Syria. Some 600 terrorist attacks involving Syrian groups took place last year, including 60 suicide deaths.
More than 150 foreign nationals have been kidnapped by Islamist terrorist groups since 2008, at least 13 of whom were British, the report said.
In a worrying trend, numbers last year were more than double those in 2010.
Farr revealed that prime minister David Cameron will be calling for more to be done about the practice of paying ransoms at the G8 summit in June.
He said threats from terrorism were spreading across a wider area into lawless countries with no recognised government
The report said: "This poses significant challenges to our national security and to the security and intelligence agencies and departments working on counter-terrorism.
"Operating in these areas is difficult and dangerous, requires very significant resources and is complicated and at times made impossible by the breakdown of governance and law and order."
Asked whether counter-terrorism efforts faced funding cuts, Farr said: "I don't think that counter-terrorism is immune from the sort of efficiencies being found elsewhere. We're looking at every bit of counter-terrorism to identify those savings."
A total of 245 people were held on suspicion of terrorism-related offences in the latest period, compared with 153 in the previous 12 months, figures released last week by the Home Office showed.
Last week, Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Osborne said counter-terror teams are foiling a plot as big as the July 7 attacks every year.