How ironic. When doing some background reading on emotional and psychological child abuse for an earlier article on PREVENT, one of the websites I visited was that of NSPCC’s. It provided definitions for signs of psychological child abuse. Those signs were based on the Home Office’s guidelines on safeguarding, which I then used to demonstrate how PREVENT was in fact resulting in children suffering from abuse.
Earlier today, it was revealed that the charity NSPCC had implemented the counter-extremism screed on “extremism”. Chief executive Peter Wanless said:
“The fact that a young person might hold extreme or radical views is not a safeguarding issue in itself. But when young people are groomed for extremist purposes and encouraged to commit acts that could hurt themselves or others, then it becomes abuse.”
Parents can now ring the charity to obtain information from “trained” counsellors to determine whether their child is becoming an extremist as adjudged through “signs”.
These reports on NSPCC raise deep concerns.
Firstly, this training has occurred through government-funding. The most obvious question this prompts is, who provided the training? This is pertinent because the variance in the approach, content and quality of the training delivered by unregulated private sector is a major problem. Moreover, ideological, state-validating organisations known to undermine Islam and Muslim communities like Quilliam Foundation and individuals like Rashad Ali are highly discredited, with known connections to pro-Israel, far-right, neoconservative groups and ideologues. Sara Khan’s Inspire is known to deliver training. Like the aforementioned groups, it openly proposes literature encouraging the deformation of Islam under the pretext of counter-extremism. It has been caught lying about its independence from the government in the context of its counter-extremism campaigns.
A Discredited Strategy
Secondly, given the government-funding, it is highly likely that the “training” has been given concordant to the government’s PREVENT counter-extremism strategy, which has been widely rejected by academics.
Thirdly, as per the general approach of counter extremism programmes, the NSPCC’s “trained” counsellors will be “spotting signs” of radicalisation. As the reports highlight,
“Among the signs a youngster shows when they are becoming radicalised are: they begin isolating themselves, they talk as if they are reading from a script, they are prone to outbursts of anger or being disrespectful, and they ask inappropriate questions.”
These signs could easily fit a young teenager.
This pre-crime approach is based on an underpinning theory which has been severely critiqued by reputable professors of psychology. As Dr. J Wesley Boyd of Harvard University and Dr. Alice LoCicero stated in a recent article for Psychology Today, such programmes seek to create a profile which would be “rough” at best and “would not have anything near perfect specificity or sensitivity.” In other words, “it would not screen out everyone who is not at risk, nor would it screen in everyone who was, leaving us with the proverbially dangerous “little bit of knowledge.” They conclude that they cannot “predict the future” based on these cursory signs. Moreover, if these professors of psychology reject the counter-extremism agenda because they cannot accurately profile behaviour, how on earth can a person sitting at a call desk who probably had a couple of days training from organisations with uncertain ability and knowledge do this?
Sowing Seeds of Mistrust in Families?
This leads onto my fourth point. Where this advice has been formulated based on a dangerous concoction of shaky empirical foundations, dubious organisations, and woefully reductionist training programmes, will the result be like that of schools (teacher-student relationships) and broader society, i.e. yet another relationship of trust breaking down, and tainted by fear? This may prove to be dangerously counter-productive as children withdraw themselves further from their parents.
Implications for Civil Society
Finally, the co-opting of a reputable charity into the government’s securitisation policy may have a damaging effect on the rest of independent civil society organisations. A charity delivering what is in essence a political project of the neoconservatives may make it difficult for other charities to campaign against draconian policies like PREVENT. This is compounded by the fact that the Charity Commission, is still headed by the former member of the hate-financed, neoconservative Henry Jackson Society, William Shawcross, who is known to serve the state’s interests as opposed to charities’, and directly interfere with charities and bully them into not funding organisations like CAGE which seek challenge the derelict War on Terror narratives.
Bringing a charity like NSPCC on board to further expedite the acceptance of a closed society programme like PREVENT is a disconcerting development. Academically refuted, intellectually defunct, and damaging to close relationships, the counter-extremism agenda is fraught with problems which have now been brought indirectly into the family sphere, dubiously through the rhetoric of safeguarding and radicalisation.
There is no doubt that where children are exploited by those with nefarious aims, then this is a significant concern for any parent. This is mitigated by good parenting within the household which would involve actively talking and listening to children; it is facilitated by a state that respects and protects the communities from which children come from, instead of subjecting them to securitisation policies and political rhetoric which inflames xenophobia; and it involves taking their concerns seriously as opposed to burying them beneath pseudo-scientific extremism theories which are the cause of state-sanctioned emotional child abuse.
The NSPCC has made a drastic error in judgement and should rethink its relationship with such a catastrophic strategy.