Welfare and equality and diversity in the Prevent duty

In September 2016 HEFCE published the Updated framework for the monitoring of the Prevent duty in HE in England (HEFCE 2016/24). This stated our commitment to working with Government, providers and sector stakeholders to develop the Prevent agenda further.

To inform this work in Spring 2017, we ran workshops in London and Manchester, with about 140 attendees from across the higher education sector.

The aim was to support effective implementation of Prevent and foster continuous improvement. Because we expect universities and colleges to carry out their Prevent duty in proportion to their own context, the workshops did not dictate ‘best practice’. Instead, they gave providers an opportunity to network with colleagues with similar responsibilities, to share effective practice, and identify areas where further support and/or guidance would be beneficial.

The workshops focused on two areas where further support and guidance would be beneficial: IT and web filtering and welfare and equality and diversity. We have already published a separate blog on IT and web filtering.  The workshops also considered the issue of welfare and equality and diversity.

Topics raised ranged from policies and procedures to training, and from linking with legislation to student engagement.

Discussing ‘what works’

The Prevent Duty Guidance refers to welfare in several contexts, specifically:

  • risk assessments which look at institutions’ policies on equality and diversity and the safety and welfare of students and staff
  • training to help staff identify when students may be vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism and know what to do in response
  • appropriate information-sharing mechanisms
  • partnership working and pastoral care and chaplaincy.

While the workshops covered all these areas, they were also an opportunity for providers to share their experiences of embedding Prevent activity into broader student welfare policies and processes.

The workshops also provided insight into the value of working with key Prevent partners to foster positive, effective relationships. They included presentations on:

  • Prevent implementation in HE – presented by the Home Office and Department for Education (DfE)
  • experiences, future plans and communication work – by three different higher education bodies who have adopted different approaches to welfare and safeguarding according to context
  • using equality and human rights law to deliver the Prevent duty in a proportionate and fair way – by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Each workshop also included a roundtable discussion and ended with a Q&A session with an expert panel.

In the presentations, providers outlined their experiences including some of the decisions made and the impacts on their learning communities. We asked them to explain their rationale and what if any alternatives were explored; to illustrate involvement in decision-making across the organisation; and to outline how providers were working with staff and students to implement the duty and how they were reviewing the effectiveness of what they had done.

The roundtable discussion was a chance to discuss further, share practice and talk about the barriers to doing this well. Themes raised included:

  • ensuring policies and procedures are updated when building Prevent into existing welfare and safeguarding mechanisms
  • a tiered approach to training, with detailed, specialist training for key staff and broader awareness-raising for the wider staff community
  • the value of existing support and training packages including materials from the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education and ‘on the ground support’ from the DfE Regional Prevent Coordinators
  • how involving student representatives on Prevent working groups and policy reviews had enabled the student body to positively shape implementation of the duty
  • the benefit of explicitly considering how the Prevent duty interacts with equality legislation.

Challenges were also highlighted. One was the difficulty of managing the annual turnover of student union officers; many providers addressed this by induction training. Another was that inter-campus tensions can sometimes hinder successful implementation. Also mentioned were difficulties in establishing formal information-sharing agreements with external agencies and getting feedback on the outcome of welfare referral processes; and the need to address negative connotations and media narrative about Prevent.

We asked what more HEFCE, DfE and Home Office could do to support the sector. Suggestions included strengthening the DfE’s Regional Prevent Coordinator resource, creating more case studies of positive practice, formal networks to help share experiences, and doing more to counter the negative narrative in the media.

In response, over the summer we will develop a repository of case studies on our website and collate and/or signpost to other resources and support for providers.

HEFCE will continue to work with DfE, Home Office and other sector bodies to support effective implementation of the duty.  We will follow up on the workshop discussion points with Prevent partners and use the workshop feedback to refine future Prevent-related support.

We are keen to share effective practice where possible – while emphasising again that the duty must be implemented proportionately and in a way that reflects local context.

Look out for further ‘what works’ workshops as part of the next cycle of annual report assessments; more information will follow in the next academic year. In the meantime, if you wish to contact the Prevent team, please do so via prevent@hefce.ac.uk