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Law could see kids labelled as “toddler terrorists”

This news post is about 9 years old

​Charity concerned with duty to report on terrorist activities

New laws which could brand kids as young as two as "toddler terrosists" have been slammed by a major charity.

The counter terrorism and security bill, currently before the UK parliament, will place a duty on authorities to report children who are at risk of becoming radicalised and possibly embroiled in terror groups and plots.

A consultation on the bill refers to the threat from radicalisation, extremism from Islamist groups and from white supremacist groups.

Among a wide range of organisations, such as local authorities, the NHS, police, prison and young offenders services, the bill would apply to staff working in early years settings, including nurseries, and require them to report on children in their care.

But Children in Scotland chief executive Jackie Brock (pictured) is demanding to know what evidence is that children in Scottish early years settings and early years specialist provision pose any threat of becoming radicalised.

She has written to the UK government saying if this evidence doesn’t exist, the proposed nature and scope of the new duty seems excessive and completely unjustified for application in Scotland.

“We suspect that the proposed duty is, in reality, aimed at parents and carers of children and young people, thus placing staff in services to be covered by the duty in the invidious position of being asked to observe and assess adults as well as children and young people.”

She added: “Knowing how hard staff in childcare settings work to build strong relationships with children and families, we view these proposals as being extremely divisive.

"They will only serve to alienate certain families and communities from service providers and have a seriously adverse effect on our priorities around inclusiveness and equality in Scotland – for negligible gain in terms of protecting us from terrorism.”

Brock pointed out that a child and family-centred approach, which underpins child protection laws is already in place in Scotland.

The intention of this policy approach is to help recognise behavioural changes or signs of stress in children and young people – and secure appropriate support.

The consultation on the bill flags up the type of constitutional issues that Children in Scotland highlighted in its recent comments on the Smith Commission recommendations.

Crucially, it risks confusion and tensions between reserved and devolved functions, in this case specifically counter terrorism (reserved to UK government) and education and child protection (devolved to Scottish Government), Brock said.

“We have today written to the UK government to outline our concerns and we will be working with members and sector organisations to highlight this issue,” she said.

The consultation document states that the UK government intends the new duty to apply to Scotland and Wales but that the guidance will have to be adapted to meet Scottish circumstances.

The Home Office is currently undertaking a separate, formal consultation with the Scottish and Welsh governments.

The deadline for responses to the UK Government’s consultation is 30 January.