CAGE Briefing: Places of Worship Security Funding
- What is the Places of Worship (POW) Protective Security Funding scheme, and how does it work?
- Is it connected to Counter-Extremism policies like PREVENT?
- What are the risks involved in the scheme?
- Soft power for counter-extremism organisations and programmes
- Use of data
- Paving the way for the Protect duty
- What are CAGE advising?
- This Places of Worship (POW) Protective Security Funding scheme has been running since 2016. It is a Home Office fund to subsidise security equipment by Esotech Ltd to places of worship in order to protect them from hate crimes.
- The scheme was initially founded as part of efforts to counter extremism.
Though these links do not appear as explicitly now, there is a risk that it will be used to expand the soft power of policing and private security companies within mosques.
- Despite concerns, CAGE does not oppose Mosques applying for this funding scheme to get security equipment.
However we call for mosques and Muslim organisations to be assertive in demanding the complete decoupling of this funding from any strings, including any attempts to demand collaboration with counter-extremism policies in particular.
- We urge that any mosques applying to the scheme agree upon the terms of usage and strict privacy agreements before work commences with Esotech Ltd, to ensure that audiovisual information produced by their services are not disseminated to any other agency or company.
What is the Places of Worship (POW) Protective Security Funding scheme, and how does it work?
- The POW scheme is a Home Office fund that mosques and other places of worship can apply to in order to subsidise the installation of safety/protective security measures, including CCTV, locks and security guards.
It is designed to protect these institutions from hate crimes.
- Security measures provided through the scheme come from a private security company, Esotec Ltd, whose Independent Advisory Panel also has to approve funding.Esotec is owned by ADT Fire and Security PLC, a well-established name in the field.
- The scheme was first established in 2016, with two funding streams available: one for Jewish institutions, and one for all other religious institutions.With this current application cycle, mosques/Islamic institutions have been allotted a separate stream, and the criteria for eligibility have been slightly relaxed – an Islamophobic attack in the local area can justify an application, whereas before it was only if an attack had already happened on the applying institution.
- The current application cycle is due to close on 14th July 2022.
Is it connected to Counter-Extremism policies like PREVENT?
- Upon its introduction the scheme was categorised under the Home Office’s programme for countering extremism, though not PREVENT per se.The Home Office’s annual report 2017-18 lists the scheme under a section titled ‘Countering Extremism’ while its 2019-20 annual reports lists it under the section ‘Reduce extremism and the harm that it causes’.This angle does not appear to be made explicitly in the current application cycle.
- This connection to extremism formed part of an attempt to define ‘hate crime’ as a form/expression of extremism, which CAGE have criticised elsewhere.
- There is a connected scheme where select groups provide security training to places of worship too.In the context of mosques these include groups embedded in counter-extremist work such as Faith Associates and Tell MAMA.Tell MAMA are a project of Faith Matters, which have received extensive funding under PREVENT and other counter-extremism funding streams
Faith Associates have previously been listed as a Home Office-approved provider in a project guide on Local Delivery Best Practice Catalogue – Prevent Strategy produced by the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism Home Office.
The project they worked on was described as delivering ‘an improved governance structure and madrassah system and enabled the mosque leadership to become more resilient to the threat from extremists as well as being able to manage their services (for young people and women) more effectively’.
- While the scheme may not strictly serve PREVENT purposes, it should be understood as a means for building ‘soft power’ for counter-extremism among mosques and places of worship, as well as being a means to ingratiate police forces among mosques.What we mean by this is that the scheme is a mechanism for the police and other counter-extremism agencies to bolster their legitimacy with the local Muslim community, in order to expand and grow support for counter-extremism programmes like PREVENT.
What are the risks involved in the scheme?
Soft power for counter-extremism organisations and programmes
- As mentioned above, there is a risk that the scheme will help facilitate the growth of counter-extremism soft power among mosques and Muslim communities, as well as giving policing and private security a foot in the door of mosques and normalising their presence.It also risks further legitimising organisations like Faith Associates and Tell MAMA, which are advisors for the scheme.Mosques who apply should be vigilant as to who they are engaging with as part of the scheme, and how their participation may be used or portrayed by the Home Office.
Use of data
- The private security company Esotech Ltd are the designated processor of data provided for the scheme, meaning that application data goes through them, and then on to the Home Office.Esotech also provide the security equipment subsidised by the scheme.
Given the quality of digital security today, the involvement of a private security company raises important questions regarding confidentiality – it is not clear where CCTV images are stored or may end up, or whether they may be used to refine facial recognition software, for examples.
Similarly, it is not clear where images and video produced by video intercom systems may be stored.
For any mosques applying to the scheme, the terms of usage and strict privacy agreements should all be guaranteed before work commences with such companies.
- Personal data (i.e. contact details, name and address of the place of worship) provided through applications will also be shared with other agencies and 3rd party organisations, including:
- Police Designing Out Crime Officers (DOCO)
- Independent Advisory Panel
- Charity Commission Community Coordinators
- Welsh Government (where applicable)
- M&C Saatchi
The Home Office have also stated that they ‘may share your information with other organisations in the course of carrying out our functions, or to enable others to perform theirs.’
- While this data will be shared for purposes related to the application, we have concerns about the use of this information by 3rd party organisations.M&C Saatchi, for example, are involved in processing applications for the scheme, but are also contracted regularly by the Home Office for advertising and outreach purposes.They are embedded in PREVENT, as described in our report, “We are Completely Independent”, contracted as part of partnerships to commmunicate government counter-narratives surrounding ‘extremism’ and ‘terrorism’.
Therefore there is a possibility that data from the scheme may be used towards refining such messages.
Paving the way for the Protect duty
- The government is set to introduce a law for implementing a ‘Protect duty’, placing a legal obligation on publicly accessible venues to implement clear anti-terror security measures.The exact terms of implementation and enforcement of the duty have not yet been confirmed.
- There is therefore a risk of the POW scheme being used as something of a standard for the implementation of the Protect duty within places of worship in future – that is to say, demanding that mosques all follow the example of security measures used by mosques funded by the scheme.
- Similarly, mosques engaging with the scheme also undermine resistance to the Protect duty when it arrives, effectively allowing counter-terror police into our mosques by the back door.
What are CAGE advising?
- Despite our concerns, CAGE do not at this stage oppose Mosques applying for this funding scheme to get security equipment. However we call for mosques and Muslim organisations to be assertive in demanding the complete decoupling of this funding from any strings, including any attempts to demand collaboration with counter-extremism policies in particular.
- For any mosques applying to the scheme, the terms of usage and strict privacy agreements should all be guaranteed before work commences with Esotech Ltd, to ensure that audiovisual information produced by their services are not used by any other agency or company.
- We encourage mosques to not work with the organisations Tell MAMA or Faith Associates as part of mosque protection training due to their clear, long-term collaboration with counter-extremism.
- For Mosques and other institutions considering applying, we call for vigilance against any interactions with the police and advise against creating additional partnerships with them.Attempts to embed or get police forces to engage with mosque congregants through such partnerships should be understood as a means of expanding soft power, beyond the scope of this scheme.Police have an obligation to protect us from hate crimes, as that is their job, but such police investigations are not conditional upon cooperation in the securitisation of our places of worship.
- Furthermore, we do not want to facilitate the creep of the security state into Muslim spaces. As such, we want to find ways to protect our community without forfeiting our independence and safety over to forces of surveillance and securitisation.Indeed, according to the MEND and Muslim Census report, mosques have even reported it to be cheaper to use a company of their own choosing, even with government funding, due to the high costs of the government’s chosen contractor.
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