British police officers (file photo)
More than half a million public sector workers in the UK have received counter-terror training in order to spot and report potential extremists in their workplaces.
The Home Office has confirmed that nurses, teachers, child minders and other frontline public sector workers have been put through the controversial Prevent program.
Of the 550,000 now trained, at least 150,000 are public-facing NHS staff, such as doctors and nurses, the office added.
They have all taken various online or classroom courses and completed relevant exercises as part of the program forced on a wide range of public authorities by Theresa May as home secretary last year.
It is one of the biggest counter-terror awareness programs ever undertaken by the UK government, aiming at tackling extremists and far-right white supremacists.
However, the courses, particularly those online, are being criticized as “inadequate.”
Under the Prevent strand of the government’s counter-terror strategy, Contest, extremism is characterized as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.”
Those who call for “the death of members of our armed forces” are also extremists, according to the policy.
The Prevent duty requires that college lecturers, social workers, probation officers and childcare providers be trained as well.
The trainees learn signs which could show somebody is becoming radicalized. These signs include, “unusual behavior, friendships or actions,” according to NHS documents.
Other signs could be “patients or staff accessing extremist material online,” or “artwork or literature promoting violent extremist messages or images.”
About 300,000 public sector workers received a form of training between 2011 and 2015. However, the Independent learnt that figure has now almost doubled as a result of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, which May ran through last year.
The Muslim Council of Britain has long opposed Prevent, asserting it might indiscriminately target Muslims.
“We need to be vigilant given the real threat of terrorism, and we therefore support effective measures to identify and report terrorist activity,” a spokesman said.
“However, we are not convinced about the effectiveness of a program requiring hundreds of thousands of people to look for signs of what they perceive to be behavior that potentially leads to terrorism. We are instead likely to see many false flags in an inconsistent approach that is applied in a discriminatory way.”

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