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New study from Cafcass explores the impact of radicalisation on front-line practice

Date:10 AUG 2016
A new study by Cafcass, published in June 2016, investigates the impact radicalisation in its many forms is having on front-line family law practitioners, and the crucial nature of safeguarding skills when dealing with cases involving radicalisation.

The data within Cafcass’ study is collated from 54 cases flagged by practitioners between July and December 2015 as involving evidence or the risk of, or alleging, radicalisation. The report includes case examples to highlight the broad variety of proceedings which refer to radicalisation in some form: be it a genuine and serious risk of children and/or family members intending to travel to countries such as Turkey or Syria, or an unsubstantiated allegation of radicalisation made by one party about the other during private law proceedings such as divorce or separation hearings.

From the data used, the most common type of application featuring a form of radicalisation were s 31, Children Act 1989 care proceedings (20 cases), followed closely by applications made by local authorities for wardship (15 cases).

The cases sampled were then sorted into three categories depending on who the radicalisation concern focused upon: adult radicalisation was featured in 21 cases, radicalisation of children was referenced in 10 cases, and other forms of radicalisation concern appeared in 23 cases. Included in the ‘other forms’ category were allegations of radicalisation made by adults; where radicalisation was a concern but not serious or confirmed; and where radicalisation was flagged by a practitioner but was not apparent in the case file. This categorisation demonstrates the vast array of issues relating to radicalisation which occurred within cases received by Cafcass.

As well as factual data, the report also includes a discussion based on questions raised at a Cafcass staff meeting regarding Cafcass’ child exploitation strategy. One of the discussion’s recurring themes is the threshold for intervention: the balance between the risks of extremism posed to children against religious and cultural practices which hold no risk of radicalisation whatsoever.

The increase of radicalisation concerns throughout the public domain are being reflected in court proceedings, with some form of radicalisation involvement appearing across all manner of case types within the field of family law. National Child Care Policy Manager Richard Green stressed the significance of front-line practitioners exercising crucial safeguarding abilities when faced with a case featuring radicalisation:

‘While [Cafcass’] study shouldn’t be taken as representative of all radicalisation cases, we do have a unique national data set that gives us interesting information about the different manifestations of “radicalisation” within family law proceedings across different case types. It’s important that we continue to use our data to consider what we can learn from any emerging trends.

‘Although the type of radicalisation concerns we are now seeing might appear to be a new phenomenon, especially with references to the so-called IS, judgments have highlighted the importance of practitioners making use of the core safeguarding skills. These are the most crucial tools in assessing these cases.’
The full study is available to view and download here.