Prevent is one part of the United Kingdom’s counter terrorism strategy (CONTEST) and aims to stop people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.

Prevent utilises a multiagency approach, similar to the one that has already been proved to be highly successful in dealing with other safeguarding issues such as Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). It is local authority led and the multi-agency approach allows Prevent to achieve its purpose of safeguarding vulnerable individuals who are at risk of radicalisation.

The Prevent strategy will specifically:

  • Respond to the ideological challenge of terrorism and the threat we face from those who promote it;
  • Prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and ensure that they are given appropriate advice and support; and
  • Work with sectors and institutions where there are risks of radicalisation which we need to address.

Prevent does not aim to criminalise people for holding extreme views; it operates in the pre-criminal space. Instead it aims to stop the encouragement or commission of violent activity.

Reporting concerns will not automatically cause the person to have a criminal record. Prevent is not an alternative to the criminal justice system.  Only if an actual crime has been committed then normal criminal justice procedures will apply.

The vocabulary of Prevent explained

There are many terms that are associated with the topic of terrorism and it is important that for the purposes of promoting understanding of the aims of Prevent, that they are clearly explained:

Radicalisation is the process by which a person comes to adopt increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals. This can eventually result in condonation or support of terrorism.

Extremism is the holding of political, religious, ideological ideas or actions that are outside the parameters of the moderate mainstream and not normal, reasonable or acceptable to most people. It is important to understand that extremism in itself is not illegal but it can act as a pathway to terrorism.

Violent Extremism is where people seek to justify or promote terrorism or encourage others to commit such acts.

Terrorism is the use or threat of action where the use or threat is designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause.

Please note: these explanations are given for the purpose of clarifying the use of terms in this text. They are not legal definitions and their meaning may differ when used in other publications.


There are numerous factors that can make an individual vulnerable to radicalisation and reduce their resilience to accepting extremist messages. These can include:

Could be vulnerabe to radicalisation
Grievance/injustice (perceived or real) e.g. bullying. Group influence or control Desire for status
Mental ill-health Transitional life events (bereavement, divorce, relocation etc) Lack of identity, meaning or belonging
Need for dominance and control Political/moral motivation Desire for excitement, comradeship and adventure

This is not an exhaustive list and it may be the case that despite having some of these vulnerabilities, an individual may not be engaged with an extreme narrative. Involvement in terrorism is not the only safeguarding concern that can be facilitated by some of these vulnerabilities. Individuals that are affected by Sexual exploitation, drug/alcohol abuse, involvement with gangs and other crime types can also share similar vulnerabilities to those at risk of being drawn into terrorism. Involvement in other criminal activities may also increase an individual’s vulnerability to accepting a radical ideology and the experience could potentially make them more capable of participating in violent extremist activity.

If there is a safeguarding concern then it important that these concerns are shared with the appropriate services so an assessment can be made and suitable support measures provided. Please see section: If you have concerns for details on how to make a referral.


Prevent works by developing a more in-depth understanding of how an individual can become radicalised to the point where they can either become directly involved in terrorist activity or support terrorism. Involvement in terrorist activity is not limited to committing acts of violence; it can also be fund raising activity or actively promoting an extreme message to recruit others, to give just two examples.

By developing a deeper comprehension of the radicalisation process it is possible to identify ways of preventing people from being drawn towards terrorism or supporting what is known as violent extremism.

Radicalisation is a process and can vary greatly between individuals as the progression is highly dependent on a wide range of personal characteristics. However, it typically involves the exposure of an individual to extremist viewpoints and interpretations that could in due course influence someone to perpetrate an act of terrorism or pledge their support. This process can take as little as a few hours or as much as several years but every individual is unique and there is no specific timeframe within which the radicalisation process progresses.

Exposure to a radical ideology can occur through any delivery method but may commonly involve viewing of extreme content on the internet, the reading of associated written publications and attendance of events orated by an extremist speaker. The use of the internet is perhaps the most likely and most prominent delivery method exploited by extreme ideologues seeking to radicalise vulnerable individuals into pledging support. For advice on how you can improve your safety online visit get safe online.

You can report any suspected online extremist content via the site.

The radicalisation process may lead to a number of observable behaviours being displayed by a vulnerable individual:

Changes in behaviour
Depressed Withdrawn Change of routine
Social isolation Inappropriate questions Absenteeism
New found arrogance Change in language Short tempered
Angry Tattoos New circle of friends
Intolerance Closed to new ideas Fixation on a subject

As with the vulnerability factors, this is not an exhaustive list and any number of these behaviours being observed may be indicative of another safeguarding concern, not only terrorism.

If the behaviours and vulnerabilities detailed above are observed then serious consideration should be given to seeking further advice and making a referral to Prevent. Referrals can be made anonymously and any information provided will remain confidential.


It is possible to intervene during the radicalisation process and stop someone becoming drawn towards terrorism or supporting violent extremist activity. This is achieved by Prevent using the Channel Process.

Channel is a process developed to support people at risk of being drawn towards terrorism or violent extremism. A multiagency panel, chaired by the local authority, is convened and partners work collaboratively to establish a bespoke support package for vulnerable individuals. Channel partners include local authority, healthcare providers, probation, housing, police and can extend to members of the community, if considered appropriate.

A range of support options are available and can include (but are not limited to) mentoring, welfare support and access to key social care services.

The primary purpose

Safeguarding is the primary purpose of the Prevent strategy and it can be used to support the people in your community. You may have concerns that an individual is susceptible to radicalisation or recruitment by terrorists or violent extremists. The earlier the referral is made, the earlier Channel intervention can take place and therefore the more likely it is to be effective.

We all have a role to play in Prevent within our organisations and communities by helping people understand what the strategy aims to achieve.

To make a referral please visit the Who to contact page, thank you.

Non Emergency Directory (NED)

Current location: Change

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