Thomas, Paul (2013) Prevent- the securitisation of Youth Work practice? In: British Educational Research Association Annual Conference 2013, 3-5 September 2013, Brighton, UK. (Unpublished)

Since 2006, the UK’s Prevent programme has proven highly controversial. Designed as a ‘hearts and minds’ programme of community-based education against violent extremism and ideologies that support and justify it, the large-scale ‘Prevent’ programme was quickly identified as problematic by a range of critics. Having a monocultural focus on entire Muslim communities has been seen as directly counter to wider policy goals of integration and cohesion (Thomas, 2009; 2011), with this overt intervention into British Muslim communities driven explicitly by a ‘values-based’ agenda (Birt, 2009) that sees Muslim religious and community values themselves as responsible for an increased terrorist threat. Above all, Prevent has been portrayed as a large-scale surveillance programme on British Muslims (Kundnani, 2009), something arguably only accentuated by the 2011 Prevent Review (HMG, 2011). Nevertheless, Prevent has continued to develop, and Britain’s programme has proven highly influential on parallel developments in other western countries. Youth Work and youth workers have been central to the operationalization of Prevent in the UK, with informal education seen as the perfect vehicle to ‘reach’ the marginalised and disaffected young Muslim men portrayed as the pool from which terrorist will and do seek to recruit. This paper draws on previous empirical research to examine this youth work involvement in Prevent and to address the issue of whether Prevent has contributed to the further ‘securitisation’ of publicly-funded youth work practice. In doing so, it will make links to previous situations where youth work has been required to engage with ‘extremism’ to pose difficult question about what youth workers and their agencies can or should do in such situations.

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