Thousands of children and teenagers have been referred to authorities over terrorism concerns, official figures reveal.
In the year to March, 2,009 under-15s were flagged to the government’s Prevent anti-radicalisation programme, including 297 girls.
The number in the youngest age group increased by a fifth on the previous year, while over half of those reported for possible de-radicalisation interventions in 2017/18 were 20 or under.
In total there were 7,318 referrals to Prevent in 2017/18 - up by 20% on 2016/17.
The Home Office statistics revealed a jump of more than a third in the number of referrals sparked by concerns about right-wing extremism, rising from 968 in 2016/17 to 1,312 in the latest year.
While incidences of people reporting concerns relating to Islamist terror accounted for a larger proportion of referrals, the number in this category fell by 14% year-on-year.
The latest figures show that, of those referred to Prevent in 2017/18:
- 3,096 (42%) left the process requiring no further action
- 2,902 (40%) left the process and were signposted to alternative services
- 1,314 (18%) were deemed suitable, through preliminary assessment, to be discussed at a Channel panel
With an annual budget of around £40 million, the controversial Prevent policy aims to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.
Anyone concerned that someone they know might be at risk can refer them.
When authorities conclude there is a risk that the person could be drawn into terrorism, they are put onto a scheme known as Channel. Engagement is voluntary and it is not a criminal sanction.
Of the cases examined by Channel, 394 subsequently accepted support through the scheme, including 114 aged under 15.
The Home Office said that, of those who have left the Channel process, more than four in five did so with “no further terrorism-related concerns”.
Six referrals were “open” at the time the information was gathered.
Prevent has been criticised in the past for a “heavy-handed” approach
Security minister Ben Wallace said: “Prevent plays a vital role in stopping vulnerable people being drawn into all forms of terrorism and safeguarding is at the heart of it.
“The figures released today show Prevent is tackling the threat from radicalisation wherever it is found, including from the rise in the right-wing extremism.”