We saw the need for a project that could safeguard the diverse Bradford community from the ever-growing threat of extremism and radicalisation. That need saw the establishment of Bradford Community Support Team (BCST) back in September 2016. I’ve been involved with BCST as a Community Support Worker since 2021 and work closely with a variety of people deemed to be vulnerable.
Typically, referrals have tended to be young males between the ages of 10 and 17, with a varied bag of beliefs. Some have been considered ‘far-right’, while others would be categorised as ‘Religiously motivated’, but we are finding there are more and more falling under the sizable umbrella of having a ‘mixed, unstable or unclear ideology’. Although, we have also engaged with females and those considerably younger or older.
Every individual we work with brings a different, unique experience and we tailor our approach to this. We don’t have a formula or approach where one size fits all. We are often given a negative troubling overview of a young person, someone who is displaying concerning behaviours, but when we meet, we quickly realise that they are just your everyday, ordinary person. Anybody can be vulnerable to being radicalised, with the right conditions.
Here at BCST we never march in there looking to punish or discipline, we will never tell somebody they are downright wrong; what we will do is try to tackle worrying beliefs by providing an individual with a non-judgemental space for open discussion. Our hope is that this will lead to our helping of the individual to gradually widen their knowledge base and flourish their learning, becoming more open-minded and less one dimensional. We offer them the opportunity to increase resilience and to be able to think critically when the world continues to present them with negative and confusing influences.
We often use the example of extremism attracting its prey, like a fox waiting for them as they dive into the rabbit hole, a dark, restricted, one-way system. We aim to give them the knowledge to jump out, before they are caught.
After several success stories, we are often asked what our secret is, and we find it difficult to truly answer. What we really believe makes a difference is time. That is our greatest asset. Our service is unique in that way, as we don’t allow time to dictate how much support one should receive. In an area of work like ours that’s what really counts because the journey into radicalisation and extremism is often long and winding meaning the journey out can be too!