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Last updated: 05 Jul 2024

Radicalisation is the process through which a person comes to support or be involved in extremist ideologies. It is in itself a form of harm.

Extremism was defined by the Home Office in 2011 as a vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs (HM Government, 2011).

In 2024, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities published a new definition of extremism for England (DLHC, 2024). Extremism is defined as the support or promotion of an ideology based on violence, hatred or intolerance that aims to:

  • deny or destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of others
  • undermine or overturn the UK’s system of democracy and democratic rights
  • intentionally create an environment that permits or enables others to achieve either of the above.

The new definition also set out types of behaviour which could constitute extremism, including:

  • using or excusing violence towards a group of people to stop them from using their legally defined rights and freedoms
  • seeking to overthrow or change the political system outside of lawful means
  • using or excusing violence towards public officials, including British armed forces and police forces, to stop them carrying out their duties
  • attempting to radicalise and recruit others, including young people, to an extremist ideology.

Challenging and tackling extremism needs to be a shared effort (HM Government, 2013). For this reason, the Government has given some types of organisations in England, Scotland and Wales a duty to identify vulnerable children and young people and prevent them from being drawn into terrorism. 

> Find out more about the Prevent duty

Most extremist materials and activities do not meet a terrorism threshold. All organisations that work with children and young people have a responsibility to protect children from being harmed by radicalisation and exposure to extremist views.

On this page we’re sharing best practice about recognising, responding to and preventing radicalisation and extremism.

Recognising and responding

Recognising and responding

How does radicalisation happen?

The process of radicalisation may involve: 

  • being groomed online or in person 
  • exploitation, including sexual exploitation
  • psychological manipulation
  • exposure to violent material and other inappropriate information
  • the risk of physical harm or death through extremist acts.

It happens gradually so children and young people who are affected may not realise what it is that they are being drawn into. 

> Find out more about grooming

Vulnerability factors

Anyone can be radicalised but there are some factors which may make a young person more vulnerable. These include:

  • being easily influenced or impressionable
  • having low self-esteem or being isolated
  • feeling that rejection, discrimination or injustice is taking place in society
  • experiencing community tension amongst different groups
  • being disrespectful or angry towards family and peers
  • having a strong need for acceptance or belonging
  • experiencing grief such as loss of a loved one.

These factors will not always lead to radicalisation.

Indicators of radicalisation

If a child or young person is being radicalised their day-to-day behaviour may become increasingly centred around an extremist ideology, group or cause. For example, they may: 

  • spend increasing amounts of time talking to people with extreme views (this includes online and offline communication)
  • change their style of dress or personal appearance
  • lose interest in friends and activities that are not associated with the extremist ideology, group or cause
  • have material or symbols associated with an extreme cause
  • try to recruit others to join the cause

(Home Office, 2020).

What to do if you think a child is being radicalised

If you think a child or the people around them are involved in radicalisation and there is an immediate risk of harm, call 999 straight away.

If it isn’t an emergency, follow your organisation’s procedures. This might include:

The Department for Education has a dedicated telephone helpline for schools in England who have non-emergency concerns about extremism: 020 7340 7264.

Protecting children from radicalisation

Protecting children from radicalisation

What can organisations do?

Your organisation should:

  • include radicalisation in your safeguarding policies and procedures
  • identify those at risk and make sure everyone in your organisation knows when to report a concern
  • work in partnership with other organisations across the community
  • promote positive messages of tolerance and community cohesion
  • help parents and children get support.

> Find out more about safeguarding in faith communities

Policies and procedures

Protecting children and young people from being drawn into radicalisation and extremism should be part of your safeguarding policies and procedures. This should include information about how to recognise and respond to radicalisation, both online and offline.

The Prevent duty guidance for England, Wales and Scotland specifies the need for schools to have appropriate web filtering systems in place to protect children from terrorist and extremist content online (Home Office, 2021a; 2021b). This is also good practice for other organisations.

> Learn more about writing a safeguarding policy and procedures

> Find out more about writing an online safety policy statement

Risk assessment

The risk of children and young people becoming radicalised may vary from area to area. It is important that you understand the risks that are most relevant to the young people you work with so you can respond in an appropriate way.

The Home Office has provided a vulnerability framework as part of its Channel duty guidance (PDF), which can be used to identify those who may be at risk of becoming radicalised (Home Office, 2020).


Staff and volunteers should be fully trained to understand how children can become radicalised, recognise the signs that a child may be at risk and know what action to take.

> Browse our introductory child protection training

> Take a look at our online safety training

Working in partnership 

It’s important that agencies across the community work together to tackle the threat of radicalisation and extremism. One way to do this is to think about spaces where radicalisation may take place and work together to make them safer.

> Find out more about contextual safeguarding

Positive messages

You can build young people’s resilience to radicalisation and extremism by:

  • helping improve their self-esteem and self-confidence
  • promoting inclusivity and community cohesion
  • providing a safe environment for debating a range of issues such as British values, recognising and managing risk, making safer choices and the impact of pressure from others
  • helping young people understand how they can influence and participate in decision making.

Supporting vulnerable children and families

Getting early help to those at risk is vital. Work with other groups and agencies in the local community to provide children and families with appropriate support, welfare and pastoral care. 

> Get more information about early help


The Prevent duty

The Prevent duty

Some organisations in England, Scotland and Wales have a duty, as a specified authority under section 26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, to identify vulnerable children and young people and prevent them from being drawn into terrorism. This is known as the Prevent duty.

These organisations include:

  • schools 
  • registered childcare providers
  • local authorities
  • the police
  • prisons and probation services
  • NHS trusts and foundations.

Other organisations may also have Prevent duties if they perform delegated local authority functions.

Even if your organisation doesn’t have a legal Prevent duty, you should still work to prevent radicalisation and extremism as part of your overall safeguarding responsibilities.

What are my responsibilities under the Prevent duty?

There is Prevent duty guidance for specified authorities in England and Wales and separate guidance for Scotland (Home Office, 2021a; 2021b). This details the responsibilities of organisations in different sectors.

There is no specific Prevent guidance for Northern Ireland. This is explained in sections 11.59-11.6 of the Prevent strategy (PDF) (HM Government, 2011).

The Department for Education (DfE) has guidance on how to report any concerns about a child or young person in England who may be vulnerable to radicalisation (DfE, 2022b).

The DfE has produced advice on the Prevent duty for schools and childcare providers in England (DfE, 2015). This gives more detailed guidance about the actions schools and childcare providers should take to prevent and respond to concerns about radicalisation. 

The DfE has also produced guidance for further education (FE) and skills providers in England on work based learning and the Prevent statutory duty (DfE, 2021a). This includes advice on how FE colleges and skills providers can work together to ensure safeguards are put in place to protect vulnerable young people from radicalisation and extremism.

The DfE has provided a self-assessment tool to help FE providers in England to review their Prevent responsibilities (DfE, 2021b).

There is also specific DfE guidance for designated safeguarding leads (DSLs) and those working in education settings who have safeguarding responsibilities (DfE, 2022a). It provides advice on understanding and identifying learners vulnerable to radicalisation and managing the risk of radicalisation.

References and resources

References and resources

Department for Education (DfE) (2015) The Prevent duty: departmental advice for schools and childcare providers. London: Department for Education.

Department for Education (DfE) (2021a) Work based learners and the Prevent statutory duty. London: Department for Education.

Department for Education (DfE) (2021b) Prevent duty self-assessment tool: further education. [Accessed 18/10/2021].

Department for Education (DfE) (2022a) The Prevent duty: safeguarding learners vulnerable to radicalisation. [Accessed 01/11/2022].

Department for Education (DfE) (2022b) Making a referral to Prevent. [Accessed 01/11/2022].

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (2024) New definition of extremism (2024). [Accessed 19/06/2024].

HM Government (2011) Prevent Strategy (PDF). [London]: HM Government.

HM Government (2013) Tackling extremism in the UK: report from the Prime Minister’s task force on tackling radicalisation and extremism (PDF). London: HM Government.

Home Office (2020) Channel duty guidance: protecting vulnerable people from being drawn into terrorism (PDF).  London: Home Office.

Home Office (2021a) Revised Prevent duty guidance for England and Wales: guidance for specified authorities in England and Wales on the duty in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. [London]: Home Office.

Home Office (2021b) Revised Prevent duty guidance for Scotland: guidance for specified Scottish authorities on the duty in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. [Accessed 18/10/2021].

Home Office and Department for Education (DfE) (2015) How social media is used to encourage travel to Syria and Iraq: briefing note for schools. [Accessed 18/10/2021].