The Home Office is sinking around £44m a year into Prevent – where’s it all going?

The Home Office is sinking around £44m a year into Prevent – where’s it all going?


As part of our #FollowTheMoney series, The Canary has been monitoring Prevent funding from the Home Office. We submitted a freedom of information (FOI) request which asked to see the details of Prevent programme funding between 2015 and 2020.

What we got was a breakdown of the numbers – and nothing more.

The details

We asked for:

  • An annual breakdown of Home Office funding of the Prevent programme between 2015 and 2020.
  • A breakdown of Prevent funding as allocated to local councils between 2015 and 2020.
  • Details of any other Prevent projects funded by the Home Office between 2015 and 2020.

The Home Office gave us this breakdown of funding from 2015 to 2020:

Financial Year Total Budget (£)
2015/2016 42,800,000
2016/2017 37,700,000
2017/2018 45,500,000
2018/2019 47,300,000
2019/2020 45,100,000

Over the past 5 years, this is an average of over £43.6m per year in funding for the Prevent programme.

This is a significant amount of money. And that’s before we even get on to the widespread criticism of the Prevent strategy.

Security concerns

The Home Office declined to answer our two other questions, citing security reasons and commercial interests.

It admitted that:

Sharing information on Prevent priority areas, projects, and the level of funding they each receive, could enhance the openness of government and help the public understand, in greater depth, how the resources are used to most efficiently safeguard vulnerable individuals from being radicalised.

However, according to the Home Office, this openness is overtaken by the national security risk. Its response states:

Such a breakdown could allow an individual to build a threat map of the country, potentially identifying local authorities where people are most at risk of being radicalised. This could increase the risk of individuals being drawn into terrorism, undermining the national security of the UK.

It also continues, interestingly, to say that it can’t disclose which projects have got Prevent funding because:

some charities may be concerned about reputational damage both generally and within the vulnerable communities they are engaging with, if they are publicly linked with Prevent. Therefore, there is a significant risk that fear of having their identity unilaterally disclosed via FOI would make some charities less willing to work with Prevent, increasing the risk of individuals being drawn into terrorism.

What damage could association with Prevent do?

Currently, Prevent funding is under the spotlight with the upcoming William Shawcross-led review of Prevent. Part of the criticism of Shawcross is outlined in this investigation from the Guardian:

In the past Shawcross has been a critic of Islam. In 2012, as a director at the conservative Henry Jackson Society, he claimed: “Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future.

Advocacy organisations and activists have criticised the move, including Amnesty International, CAGE, Inclusive Mosque Group, and the Network for Police Monitoring.

However, a policy document from the Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE) is more cause for concern for activists.

The CCE, led by Sara Khan, has set out to find gaps in legal frameworks in relation to counter-terror strategies. While this is separate from Prevent, both policies do tackle extremism and counter-extremism strategies at length.

“Nothing of real weight to counter extremism”

In the CCE report, it’s stated that:

The extremist threat is a serious challenge, which Government has grappled with for many years. Previous efforts to counter extremism, such as the 2013 Government Extremism Taskforce and the 2015 Counter-Extremism Strategy, have been well- intentioned but had only limited success.

Mark Rowley, who led the review, said:

Whilst we have a well-established counter terrorism machinery across police, intelligence agencies, government and others, we have nothing of real weight to counter extremism.

Now it’s worth mentioning that Prevent is one of the most prominent counter-terror strategies from the Home Office. So the question is this: if Prevent has had over £35m in funding every single year since 2015 (to say nothing of pre-2015), why is that money producing “nothing of real weight to counter extremism”?

Where is that money going?

When we reached out to the Home Office for comment, a spokesperson told us:

Prevent saves lives and turns them around.

Since 2012, almost 3,000 people have been adopted onto Prevent’s voluntary and confidential Channel programme, helping them to move away from terrorism and enabling them to live more stable and fulfilling lives.

Last year, 82% of those that exited the process did so with no further radicalisation concerns.

However, Prevent itself has long been decried as racist, Islamophobic, and ineffective.

Of course, the CCE is discussing legal stopgaps in relation to counter-extremism strategies. But one striking arm of the government’s counter-extremism strategy has been Prevent. And the same criticisms that can be levelled at Prevent can be levelled at the CCE’s approach.

Culture of violence 

Indeed, one of the major recommendations of the policy review from the CCE focuses on closing an apparent gap in the law while claiming it will:

steer well clear of treading on fundamental principles of freedom of speech

As part of our #FactOfTheMatter series, the investigations unit has covered how the government has weaponised free speech debates to quash dissent.

The CCE’s policy document, however, does the same thing. Prevent has already been criticised for being a restriction on freedom of speech. Yet here the CCE expresses concern at the need to give greater powers to police and the criminal justice system:

Too often those within the criminal justice system are unable to discern the difference between robust theological arguments and carefully constructed campaigns of threats, hatred and intimidation by extremist actors.

Here, the CCE admits counter-terrorism is creating freedom of speech issues – even as it seeks to give these programmes greater powers.

Prevent has already laid the groundwork to breed suspicion of Muslims. The involvement of free speech debates add fuel to this fire.

Clarity

The Canary spoke to CAGE, which the CCE mentions by name in the policy document. The CCE says:

As we have seen first-hand, CAGE has labelled counter extremism efforts as ‘Islamophobic’. In our view this is highly misleading and inflammatory

CAGE spokesperson Anas Mustapha said:

The role of the CCE is to find ways to expand the scope of repression powers, specifically, the CCE has been making moves to suffocate Muslim civil society.

This would fly in the face of the CCE’s claim to preserve freedom of speech.

Mustapha continued:

Counter Terrorism laws already prosecute offences which are far and away from violence in any meaningful sense of the word; there is no need to expand such powers further. However, these laws have created a market niche where forever expansion of laws, powers and funding is essential to sustain its growth even at the cost of our freedoms

This is a stark warning. And one that characterises the CCE’s policy recommendations as more interested in preserving regressive Prevent strategies than in protecting freedoms.

Vigilance

The current stream of policy documents from the government shows sustained attempts to curb the freedoms of immigrants, Muslims, and other communities of colour in Britain.

As we await the Shawcross review of the Prevent strategy, there’s much to be wary of when it comes to whose freedoms are protected.

Featured image via Flickr/Elliott Brown

By Maryam Jameela



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