The Prevent Team
L-R: Birmingham City Council Chief Executive, Dawn Baxendale; the Prevent Team; Mark Gelder, Director of Operations for sponsors Fortem (second from right); and Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council
With all the dangers our city and country face, the Prevent Team works tirelessly to help stop disasters from happening. They won this award for all their hard work that has contributed to community improvement in Birmingham – plus their positive contribution to community cohesion. They have successfully put in place a strong Prevent programme for our city.
Here, the Prevent team manager, Waqar Ahmed, answers questions which bring out the breadth of the team’s work – plus, importantly, Waqar shares some top tips for making a positive difference every day, whatever your team does:
Give two or three examples of the kinds of threats we face?
The threat from Terrorism to the UK is assessed by the security services as being Severe, which means an attack is highly likely. These threats include all forms of terrorism whether it be from the extreme far right as in the case with the attack vehicle borne attack on Finsbury Park Mosque in London a couple of years ago or the Manchester Arena suicide bombing claimed by the So called Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, also known as Daesh.
Whilst the Manchester Arena bombing would have required some technical skill and planning given the nature of the attack many attacks are now less sophisticated and can require little planning or technical skill and can be as simple as a knife attack as we saw with the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby or Birmingham pensioner Mohammed Saleem a few years ago or the use of a car to run down pedestrians as we saw with the London Bridge Attack.
Give two or three examples of the kind of practical things the team does?
The Prevent Team helps to raise awareness of terrorism risks amongst statutory and non-statutory partners through a range of training and awareness sessions, just last year alone over 16,000 individuals in Birmingham had taken part in a training or workshop event in the city. The team also works closely with communities and partners to help divert individuals who may be vulnerable to, or engaged with, extremism away from being drawn into terrorism through supportive and consensual preventative work.
Give two or three examples of the kind of ways the team practically improves communities?
By raising awareness of the risks and threats posed by extremist ideas and groups the team helps to build community resilience to extremism, whether this be through working with parents to understand the risks posed by the internet on online radicalisation or through the multi-agency working via the Channel Panel to ensure vulnerable individuals and their families have the right wraparound support services and interventions available to them.
The team also helps to support early intervention work and a great example is the work that Birmingham Schools do through the UNICEF Rights Respecting Schools programme that helps build resilience in children through children’s rights. And it is fantastic that we have over 240 schools in the city taking part in the programme ensuring that our children grow up to be strong, confident and resilient individuals respecting the rights of all people regardless of their backgrounds.
Give two or three examples of the ways the team practically improves community cohesion?
Community Cohesion is such a vast concept and broad area of work that even everyday interactions between people can either help positively improve or negatively impact on community cohesion. And – whilst terrorist attacks have a huge negative impact on community cohesion, and, it can be argued, in recent times have had one of the largest impact on cohesion in this country and beyond – it is important to recognise that extremism can come in all forms and from all sections of society and that we don’t simply look at cohesion through the prism of national security.
Our team therefore always approaches the difficult subject of terrorism and extremism with utmost care and sensitivity when working with vulnerable individuals or communities. We do this through having open and honest dialogue with communities and ensuring no section of our communities feel they are being singled out for targeting or criticism simply because an individual who may have carried out an attack claims to be doing so in the name of a particular faith or section of the community.
The team therefore plays an important but supportive role in improving cohesion by not allowing any section of the community to feel isolated or targeted, and ensuring everyday interactions between the Prevent Team or our partners – including commissioned community groups are respectful and non-judgemental, thus hopefully leading to a positive impact to help improve community cohesion overall.
NB What simple tips do you have for any team so that they can make a difference?
Always work with a smile on your face. Sometimes, this can be tough. So it is important for managers with multi-disciplinary teams to help cultivate an environment where each member – regardless of rank or grade – can feel an equal and valued member with their ideas and views heard and explored. We all have busy and difficult jobs to do, but it doesn’t take much to utilise a few moments in the day to just talk freely and use these small moments, ten or 15 minutes, as teambuilding and bonding moments. This can help build trust between team members and support and utilise each other’s strengths.
Also, don’t rely just on formal interactions with partners or other teams as the only method of contact, but utilise informal non-meeting type opportunities to help build and develop relationships. Often, more of the difficult situations are resolved through the time spent developing and maintaining informal channels of communication consistently.
And finally, be brave and bold: not afraid to ask questions or put forward ideas and suggestions.
NB What are the big reasons colleagues should nominate other colleagues for awards or recognition?
Being recognised for the work that you do is always great and helps give you a boost, but it is always more rewarding to be recognised by your colleagues and peers. This not only helps provide a great boost in confidence and endorsement of the work you do, but can also help identify those teams and individuals that do vital work exceptionally well on a regular and consistent basis but may not always have the visibility across the council to have a light shone on their work.