Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
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Preventing violent extremisn: learning and development exercise

Preventing violent extremisn: learning and development exercise

COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT News Release (267) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 11 November 2008

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has today published a report from the Audit Commission and Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary which assesses the progress that has been made on Preventing Violent Extremism to date.

The report, "Preventing Violent Extremism: Learning and Development Exercise" commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government highlights some of the excellent work underway across the country. It suggests that initial problems with Prevent are being addressed, that local areas are growing in confidence, fostering real expertise, creating the right links into communities, already overcoming challenges and developing responses to tackling extremism. But it also highlights areas for improvement, suggests that progress needs to become more uniform across the country and that information sharing between different bodies needs to be increased.

Hazel Blears said:

"We have seen real progress, some excellent work and a wealth of experience being developed. This was always intended to be a year we would learn from and we commissioned this report to give us the opportunity to take stock, understand what has worked and how we can better support that. But I do want to be clear that tackling extremism is about much more than community cohesion, and trust and partnership is key, shying away from an agenda that we all know presents challenges and difficulties is simply not an option."

"I am confident that local responses alongside tough security measures remain the best way to tackle this issue and work will continue. There are lessons for all of us, central and local government, police and security services and community groups and this report will help us learn them.

Researchers were looking to learn from those sites with experience of violent extremism and identified key learning points for central and local government, police, security services and community groups about how work in a number of areas could be improved. These include:

* Continuing to improve Information Sharing practices between different organisations who are involved in preventing violent extremism in local areas.

* Gaining a better understanding the risks and increasing effective partnership working. The report signals some key success factors including the importance of involving faith and community leaders, empowering communities to lead this agenda, ensuring that Prevent is not seen as an add on but core business on the radar of people at all levels and understanding the way that international and national events might play out in communities.

* Looking at how better local authorities and central government can assess success of their projects.

The Department of Communities will now consider the report in further detail. However, many steps have already been taken to address several of the issues raised in the report including:

* Issuing guidance to local authorities in the summer setting out clear expectations and priorities for this work

* Establishing a Local Delivery Advisory Group comprising council leaders, chief executives, education advisers, community cohesion advisors and housing association representatives to provide leadership across their sectors and to advise the Secretary of State on how things are going at local level.

* The Association of Chief Police Officers are developing a process and guidance for effective information sharing between the police and partners which can be tailored to local circumstances to improve the quality and flow of information and are clear that Sharing information about the vulnerability of individuals or communities with trusted partners is essential to effective partnership activity to tackle violent extremism

* We will hold a national conference in December, with up to 1,000 attendees, which will seek to share best practice within the UK and learn from other international programmes.

* Established a peer support system, with more experienced councillors and local authority officers reviewing and providing advice to areas who ask for help.

* Established a website for sharing best practice and distributing key documents which has over 160 members.

* Guidance on appropriate use of language has been issued to local authorities and RICU have set up a new local unit seeking to provide more active support to LAs.

* Established a beacon scheme for 'cohesive and resilient communities', which will support high performing local authorities to spread best practice across the sector and internationally

Notes to editors

1. The United Kingdom (UK), like many other countries, faces a severe and continuing threat from international terrorism. Preventing violent extremism (Prevent) and the terrorist acts that may follow is a long term challenge to be addressed at international, national and local levels. The government aims to prevent people becoming terrorists or supporting violent extremism through the Prevent component of the UK counter terrorism strategy.

2. Councils, police, youth offending teams, schools, further and higher education, local health services, probation, prison services and fire and rescue services are all key players in delivering Prevent locally. This is a new and evolving demand on local public service partners.

3. In April 2007, 70 councils in England received a total of £6 million from the Preventing Violent Extremism Pathfinder Fund (PVEPF) for partnership work with the police and other local services. A further £45 million will be provided to councils by the government between 2008 and 2011.

4. Earlier this year the Department for Communities and Local Government commissioned the Audit Commission and Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary to look at the Pathfinder programme and undertake a learning and development exercise (LDE) to draw out the learning from the first year of the programme. They visited 15 sites to ascertain how local partnerships were responding to the challenge of preventing people becoming involved in or supporting violent extremism. They looked at what worked well and identified barriers to progress.

5. The report Preventing Violent Extremism: Learning and Development Exercise will be available shortly on our website but in the mean time is available from the DCLG press office - please call 0207 944 3372 to request a copy.

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