Parents worried about their children being radicalised and the impact of terrorism will now be able to call the NSPCC helpline for advice.
The launch of the free, 24-hour service comes after a spate of recent terrorist attacks which have highlighted the growing problem of individuals being influenced by extremism.
The service will provide the first national point of support to parents who might be concerned that their children are being radicalised or who need advice on how to talk to them about wider concerns related to the impact of terrorism.
Previously, the only route for adults to raise their worries about radicalisation and terrorism was through Government agencies including MI5 and police anti-terror hotlines. Now they will be able to call an independent helpline to talk about wide-ranging worries their children might have about terrorist groups and radicalisation.
The NSPCC has already started receiving calls from adults worried about the problem, which prompted the children’s charity to offer advice and help.
Its counsellors have been trained to spot the warning signs of radicalisation so they can advise adults who are worried about a child being groomed.
Part of the training, which detailed how recruiters befriend vulnerable targets, feed them ideologies and –in the worst case scenario - persuade them to commit terrorist attacks, was provided by Home Office experts.
Adults calling the helpline will be advised about the signs which may hint at a child being radicalised. These include: Isolating themselves from family and friends, Talking as if from a scripted speech, Increased levels of anger and Becoming disrespectful and asking inappropriate questions.
Children who are potential targets often have low self-esteem, are members of gangs, or may be victims of bullying or discrimination. Radicals target them and tell them they can be part of something special, and brainwash them into cutting themselves off from their friends and family.
The techniques used to groom children for radicalisation bears parallels to sexual abuse grooming, and is a form of emotional abuse.
One woman told our counsellors: “I’m worried about a child I know. I fear that they may start holding extremist beliefs because I’ve heard her saying some worrying things.
“She’s also showing changes in behaviour and appears to be more aggressive towards her parents. I’m not sure how to approach this as I know the family well however, I don’t think staying silent is an option in the current climate.”
Another caller said: “I’m concerned that someone is trying to force a young boy into having extreme beliefs. He has started acting differently recently and has become more withdrawn.”
Counsellors will also advise parents on how to talk and reassure a child who is anxious about terrorism or upset by the recent spate of attacks.
Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO, said: “We have seen a wave of terrorist attacks in recent weeks and months and both parents and children tell us how frightened they are by what is happening. So it is vital that we are here for parents when they need our support and are able to provide them with non-judgemental advice on issues ranging from the wider terrorist threat to the dangers of radicalisation.”
“Of course, the fact that a young person might hold extreme or radical views is not a safeguarding issue in itself. But when young people are groomed for extremist purposes and encouraged to commit acts that could hurt themselves or others, then it becomes abuse. That’s why we’ve trained our counsellors to cope with this fresh danger to young people.”
Adults can ring the helpline on 0808 800 5000 24 hours a day, seven days a week.