Channel referrals – what does the latest data tell us?

In the sixth and final blog in a series about safeguarding, ETF Associate Selina Stewart examines the Channel referral data, asking what it tells us and how it may relate to our learners.

The previous pieces in the series can be accessed on the blogs section of the website.

The Channel data for 2019–20 was published in November. Most of us won’t get past the headline figures:

  • 10% increase in referrals from 5,737 in 2018–19 to 6,287 referrals in 2019–20
  • 1,424 people were discussed at Channel panel
  • 430 were referred for Islamicist radicalisation, and
  • 544 for extreme right-wing radicalisation.

But what does the data suggest about the people we, in FE and training, are most likely to come across who need Channel support?

It is likely that learners who you will be so concerned about that you will refer them for Channel support will be male.

This is the case for all categories of extremism but particularly so for right-wing extremism where 93% of referrals are male, and also of referrals who are confused, unstable or unclear about their ideology at 89% male. In Islamicist extremist referrals there are slightly more women with 19% of referrals being women as opposed to 81% male.

However, this does not mean you won’t come across women who are extremists, so none of us can afford to dismiss any extremist radicalisation concerns about individual women or girls.

Can I forget about learners over 20? Are all those who are vulnerable going to be under 18?

People from all age groups are being referred to Channel Panel, being discussed at Channel Panel and being adopted as Channel cases, so whether you are working with adults or young people you should still be aware that your learners could be drawn into extremism.

However, it is not surprising given the age profile of most people who get into trouble with the police, that it is 15-to-20 year olds who are most likely to be referred to the police, discussed at Channel Panel or adopted into Channel.

So what kind of extremism should we be worried about?

Surprisingly, 51% of people being referred for Channel support have a confused, unstable or unclear ideology. These people are described as being radicalised:

“where the ideology presented involves a combination of elements from multiple ideologies (mixed), shifts between different ideologies (unstable), or where the individual does not present a coherent ideology yet may still pose a terrorism risk(unclear)”.

Meanwhile 24% of referrals are for Islamicist extremism and 22% for right-wing extremism.

However, this does not tell us the whole story.

Of cases that are actually discussed at Channel panel, after the filtering process:

  • 25% have a mixed, unstable or unclear ideology candidate.
  • 30% are being radicalised into Islamicist extremism, and
  • 38% are being radicalised into right-wing extremism.
  • 3% were engaged in another form of radicalisation, this might include animal rights extremism, other forms of international radicalisation or left-wing radicalisation.

By the time an individual is accepted for support the numbers are considerably smaller: 6,287 people were referred in total and only 697 were adopted as Channel cases. Some cases will not progress because they are not thought to need support, others reject the support offered. Sadly, we are not told the number of people who reject the support. We do know that:

  • 18% who were adopted as a channel case were referred because of mixed, unstable or unclear ideology
  • 30% because of Islamicist ideology
  • 38% because of right wing ideology
  • all other forms of extremism made up 8%.

How have referrals changed since 2015?

We can see from the Home office chart below that there has been a major change since Channel data was first published.

Channel referrals graph

(From: Individuals referred to and supported through the Prevent programme)

As this chart shows, referrals for Islamicist extremism declined rapidly from 2015 to 2018 and then stabilised over the 12 months to March 2020. On the other hand, mixed, unstable and unclear ideology has increased rapidly since the definition was clarified in 2018, it is probable that the decline in the ‘Other Forms of Extremism’ category is partly caused by a transfer of some of these over to the ‘Mixed, Unstable or Unclear Ideology’ group.

What does this tell us as practitioners in the FE and Training sector?

  • Men are more likely to be groomed for extremism than women, BUT women can still be groomed. 148 were discussed at Channel Panel in 2019–20.
  • Under 20s are more likely to be radicalised than over 20-year-olds, BUT older people can still be radicalised. 97 over 50s were discussed at Channel panel in 2019–20.
  • Islamicist extremist racialisation has reduced – BUT was this caused by over-referral to start with or a decline in Islamicist radicalisation?
  • Right-wing extremist radicalisation seems to be increasing – BUT we need to ask: is this an increase or did we all fail to report concerns about right-wing extremist radicalisation in the past?
  • Confused, unclear or mixed ideology seems to be increasing BUT then many of these cases are not discussed at Channel Panel so are we referring the right people or not?

As ever the data cannot give us all the answers, but what it can do is point out where we should ask more questions.

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