Safeguarding or Surveillance

Social Work, PREVENT and Fundamentalist Violence


  • Stephen Cowden Senior Lecturer in Social Work Coventry Univeristy
  • Jonathan Picken, Mr University of Bedfordshire



This paper seeks to critically explore the construction of the PREVENT Counter-Terrorism initiative within Social Work in the UK, and to consider the implications this has for Social Work.  We begin by discussing the conceptualisation of ‘radicalisation’ in the work of Arun Kundnani, one of the leading critics of PREVENT, pointing to the limitations of this as a means of grasping the nature of Salafi-Jihadi groupings. We then move to a discussion of the development of Counter-terrorism policy in the UK looking at the way the 2015 legislative guidance has re-situated radicalisation from a ‘security’ issue to a ‘safeguarding’ issue.  We see this as significant for the way it has facilitated Social Work being directly drawn into the orbit of PREVENT and CHANNEL, with radicalisation being re-constructed as part of Social Work’s concern with the vulnerability of children and young people involved in wider forms of exploitation, including CSE.  We consider the reception of this shift within Social Work as well as looking at evidence into how this working in practice.  We then consider challenges to this ‘safeguarding’ paradigm, which argue that this has involved Social Work being drawn into the ideological monitoring of Muslim communities; a ‘surveillance’ paradigm.  We conclude by arguing for a critical defence of a safeguarding approach based on the harms which fundamentalist violence clearly represents to children and young people.


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Author Biography

Jonathan Picken, Mr, University of Bedfordshire

Jonathon Picken is undertaking a Phd in ‘Children’s Rights and Counter-Terrorism’ at the University of Bedfordshire.  He is a Social Work practitioner and manager with extensive experience of safeguarding.  He is presently a Local Children’s Safeguarding Board manager and the Director of the Shire Safeguarding Consultancy.






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