News and Comment

Reaching the most vulnerable – challenges and tips for local authorities

Monday 13 June 2011

The new Prevent Strategy has made it clear that all new interventions must reach those that are most vulnerable to recruitment and radicalisation by terrorist organisations. Our experience of working with local authorities shows this is no easy task. Local authorities face multiple challenges.


Poor processes inhibit interventions

Firstly, reaching the most vulnerable requires good, established community links. Many of the organisations that have these grass roots links are small informal outfits with no governance structures, weak financial management skills and few monitoring procedures or accountability structures. They have little experience of applying for funding or writing formal bids. Most importantly, our review of funding applications and project proposals has indicated that such organisations have little experience of designing interventions based on clearly identified outcomes and objectives – a clear requirement of all future interventions.

It is not unusual for these organisations not to have completed records on those they have worked with. These organisations will need considerable support if they are to play a role in supporting vulnerable people. There is thus an urgent need for local authorities to start building the capacity of these organisations and to adopt a co-production approach towards securing funding.

Interventions first need commitment

Our research and evaluation work has indicated yet another challenge. Even where the most vulnerable young people have been reached, interventions often fail to achieve their intended outcomes as a result of a lack of commitment from participants. This often translates into patchy attendance and ultimately little impact.

Successful recruitment of vulnerable participants is thus only the first step. Programme deliverers need to dedicate time and effort to establishing a positive working relationship with participants before intervention delivery actually starts. In the past, this phase of project delivery has often been skipped in efforts to meet tight timescales. Local authorities will need to ensure that any future applications for funding clearly outline how organisations will go about getting and sustaining buy-in from participants.

Recognising vulnerability

Finally, working with vulnerable people can only be successful if they themselves are able to recognise their vulnerability. All too often young people involved in Prevent activities have had little understanding of why they, in particular, have been recruited to participate and what makes them vulnerable to radicalisation. Often this has been a result of a lack of confidence on the part of intervention deliverers to talk about radicalisation and terrorist organisations. Local authorities will need to ensure that there is much greater transparency and openness on the part of intervention deliverers in the future. This may involve working with deliverers to agree a narrative for delivering Prevent in the local area.

Thankfully, there are now more resources to help. OPM, for example, developed a tool with the Government Office for the South East that can be used to train Prevent partnerships to identify robust indicators to measure the impact of interventions. Please contact Sanah Sheikh on or Ewan King on to find out more.