Agenda item

Community Cohesion and Prevent


Fiona Gibbs, Stronger Communities Manager, addressed the Committee informing Members of the work being undertaken to build stronger communities, promote community cohesion and manage the risk relating to extremism.


Members heard that health inequalities had been highlighted by the pandemic, particularly within certain communities. The team had led on reaching out to those communities across the Borough and established an action plan in partnership with health colleagues and H4All.


Members were informed that the Council had a statutory duty to deliver against Prevent in order to safeguard and support those vulnerable to radicalisation and keep communities safe. In respect of Protect duty, there was currently no legislative requirement for organisations to consider; however, the proposed Protect duty legislation was due to be presented to Parliament imminently and would have implications for partnership working in the future. It was confirmed that Central Government would also be reviewing the whole of its Contest strategy which would include Prevent and Protect - the changes would be published next year.


In response to questions from the Committee, it was confirmed that there were no education or religious settings of particular concern in Hillingdon at present. Referrals were spread across the Borough and were increasingly of an extreme right-wing nature. The situation was becoming more complex with a mix of people vulnerable to radicalisation. Isolation during lockdown had also had a significant impact. In terms of support for referrers, a website and dedicated reporting line were available to enable people to make referrals anonymously. Referrals from professionals were treated with care and details of referees would not automatically be shared. Members were informed that training was provided to communities and professionals to raise awareness of radicalisation / extremism and how to report concerns. It was noted that not all unpalatable views constituted extremism, but views and behaviours could still be concerning; this was a complex area which needed to be managed and the team was available to assist and give advice. It was important that the response was proportionate.


In response to further questioning, the Committee heard that the Hate Crime Upstanders Programme was a training programme originally aimed at staff and volunteers within voluntary or community groups. It had since been expanded to include some Council services such as libraries. The training raised awareness of hate crime, how to report it and how to support people who needed help. The aim was to encourage local communities and groups to speak up and assist the Council in better understanding what was going on in the community. Those who had undertaken the training had an opportunity to meet on a monthly basis to share issues and give feedback. To reach into communities, it was acknowledged that it was easier to engage with known community leaders of local community groups rather than with every individual. However, the Team, in working collaboratively with those community leaders and active community members, alongside a wide range of partners, aimed to reach out as widely as possible. It was acknowledged that more could always be done. Engagement with Ward Councillors would be welcomed and encouraged in the future.


Members requested further clarification regarding the use of the term ‘radicalisation’ and enquired how the rise in right-wing extremism was being addressed. It was confirmed that radicalisation covered all aspects of extremism and was an overarching term which included different ideologies, including the extreme right wing. It was acknowledged that most people associated the concept of radicalisation to Islamist inspired ideologies and this was how people tended to view Prevent. However, this was misleading and Prevent aimed to support anyone who was vulnerable to radicalisation no matter what the ideology. Ideologies were emerging and changing and becoming more complex all the time. It was confirmed that Hillingdon was a non-priority Borough at present but had a safeguarding duty to provide support to all individuals that were vulnerable to radicalisation.


RESOLVED: That the Select Committee:


1.    Noted activity undertaken to build stronger communities and promote community cohesion particularly in light of the needs emerging from the pandemic and current cost of living challenges;

2.    Noted the activity that had been undertaken during the past year in relation to delivering against the Prevent duty; and

3.    Noted the implications of the impending Protect Duty.

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