By Ibrahim, CAGE Caseworker
On the International day of innocent children victims of aggression, our Caseworker Ibrahim shares his reflections on our clients’ reports on how Prevent is harming and hindering children’s development.
Recently, there has been a large influx of cases related to social workers implementing Prevent. As a caseworker, it’s disturbing to witness first-hand the effects that Prevent is having on both children and families.
Whilst living in a country which promotes freedom of speech, it saddens me and many Muslims to witness how words spoken innocently by children are being manipulated and taken out of context.
Children are being criminalised, which can have devastating effects on them and society in the long term.
Muslim parents and children are under constant surveillance
Schools consist of children from different religions, cultures and backgrounds – so why is there such a disproportionate focus on Muslim children?
Why are eyebrows so quickly raised when they speak about Islam?
This feeling of being criminalised – since this is what a Prevent intervention does – can affect the mindset of the child and their confidence levels; they quickly become afraid to speak up, to express their thoughts, and even to identify with their religion.
Imagine having to grow up with suspicious, watchful eyes constantly upon you.
Parents increasingly express their worry about the scrutiny being directed at their children, and their psychological and religious wellbeing at school.
Many are afraid that whatever their child says in relation to Islam or current events, will be misconstrued and used against them and their families.
This is not something a parent and especially a child wants to have in mind when going about their day-to-day lives.
Reported to Prevent for wanting to be a doctor and help the poor in Afghanistan
One client reached out to us regarding their 12-year-old nephew. The young boy had been asked by his career advisor what he would like to be when he grew up.
The young boy had replied by saying he wanted to be a doctor and help the ill and poor in Afghanistan, and other countries.
The sad reality is that as soon as a 12-year-old Muslim boy mentioned Afghanistan, his school jumped to conclusions, and approached social workers and Prevent.
This is a perfect example of how this programme can affect the vision of a child, of himself, his community and other people in the world.
Because he is Muslim and because he articulated wanting to help other Muslims who are struggling, Prevent jumps in, to even criminalise a child’s dream.
Prevent causes suspicion in the home, which impacts children the most
We have also seen how Prevent’s family interventions may well be causing a negative effect on the development of children.
Prevent tends to cause disruption within the home, and suspicion and anxiety in families, because parents are continuously worrying about their child being a target at school.
People react differently to the stress of a Prevent intervention. Some families begin to feel isolated when others in the community hear that they have been contacted by Prevent, and this stigma filters down to children even if it is not spoken out loud.
A child can begin to feel that all of this is “their fault”. It is a heavy burden, and one a young person should not carry.
The greatest casualty of Prevent is a child’s natural trust and self expression
In addition, we’ve noted that post-Prevent children often withdraw; they do not feel they can socialise and interact with others due to the judgement they may face.
This is a devastating side effect of having to operate in a constant context of surveillance and fear; they become afraid to verbalise things or articulate their thoughts.
All of this can only combine to have a negative impact on their development, especially when the children involved are young.
Effective expression and healthy, trust-based social interaction is fundamental to a child’s healthy growth.
The key is to talk about Prevent and seek support from those who know
Prevent is often difficult to counter, because parents have little support from the wider community.
This is because an intervention carries a stigma; many individuals do not wish to be associated with the idea of them or their children being “radicalised”.
But we do need to talk about Prevent, so that changes can be made – especially for the sake of our children.
The best way to tackle Prevent is for us to come forward and unite as a community whilst campaigning against the programme.
We also need to ensure that as parents we continue bringing up our children with the values and Islamic lessons that we deem necessary for their betterment and the betterment of society.
We cannot let this policy stop us from expressing our faith – the sole purpose of which is betterment – and imparting that upon our children too.
As more clients come forward, we will continue exposing its flaws and documenting the effects it is having.
This we do in the hope that one day there will be no Prevent, and children will be free to be themselves without judgment.
We at CAGE are always here to assist any families who have been contacted by Prevent – we are here to offer you advice and guidance. Please contact our casework helpline on 0300 030 2243.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)