Many children's services professionals lack the skills and confidence to respond effectively in cases of radicalisation, research has found.
The Department for Education-commissioned study also uncovered wide-ranging views among children's services staff about the extent to which radicalisation represented a safeguarding or child protection risk.
It found that although practitioners identified some parallels between radicalisation and other forms of harm – particularly child sexual exploitation – the greater difficulty of identifying vulnerable children in radicalisation cases "meant that this remained a distinctive and difficult issue for safeguarding professionals to grapple with".
Sensitivities involved in determining an appropriate response to radicalisation made it "an uncomfortable area of practice for some staff, particularly for frontline staff who lack direct exposure to these types of cases", the report, "Safeguarding and Radicalisation", states.
The research, conducted among 10 local authorities last year, revealed a key factor influencing staff confidence was whether there was an "internal consensus" within children's services about how to respond to the issue. "This in turn was often influenced by the prevalence of cases of radicalisation within a local authority," the report adds.
In areas with a high volume of radicalisation cases, local authorities were united in their belief that radicalisation presented either a safeguarding or child protection risk to children, and were committed to taking ownership of the issue through early help or using statutory social care powers.
Conversely, in areas of low prevalence, local authorities indicated that the response to radicalisation cases was more appropriately provided by universal services – such as education in cases of low severity, or by the police in cases of high severity.
The report's authors recommend the DfE to increase the amount of knowledge sharing between local authorities, so less-confident staff can learn from those who had dealt with more radicalisation cases.
The report also highlights concerns that the police sometimes fail to share case information about ongoing criminal investigations, and that universal services, are "deemed to be overzealous in their referrals".
By Nina Jacobs
8 August 2017