Radicalisation and extremism

Everyone in the United Kingdom has the right to express their beliefs and interests openly. As a democratic society, the UK protects the rights of all law-abiding people, including those who belong to minority political, religious and ethnic groups. However, it becomes a concern if a person begins to advocate or use violence to achieve a political, religious or ideological goal.

What is radicalisation?

Radicalisation or extremism is where someone holds views that are intolerant of people who are of a different ethnicity, culture, religion, gender or sexual identity. Extremists may try to force their views on others and, in some cases, may believe that these views can justify the use of violence in order to achieve certain aims.

Examples of violent extremist causes that have used violence to achieve their ends include white extremists from the far-right or Islamist fundamentalists and  animal rights activists. These usually attract people to their cause through a persuasive, sometimes violent narrative. The narratives often provide people with answers democracy doesn’t give to the various grievances they may have either towards their school, family, missed opportunities in life or other. They then justify violence or criminal actions with the need to impose radical changes or avenge any suffering they themselves or others may have been subjected to.

Radicalisation process

There is no single distinct  pathway of radicalisation towards violent extremism as the process is unique to each individual.  However, there are some common elements in the experiences of most people who have become radicalised in the UK, regardless of their beliefs or motivations.  Radicalisation happens when a person’s thinking and behaviour become significantly different from how most  members of their society and community view social issues and participate politically.

Only small numbers of people become radicalised and they can be from a diverse range of ethnic, national, political and religious groups. As a person is radicalised they may begin to seek to significantly change the nature of society and government. However, if someone decides that using fear, terror or violence is justified to achieve ideological, political or social change – this is violent extremism. Exactly what influences individuals to go down a path of using or supporting violence to seek change can be difficult to determine, but there can be a number of factors.

The radicalisation process is unique to each person who undergoes it, and in most cases, will not cause serious harm. In exceptional circumstances, however, the decisions made by a radicalised person can result in a serious and lethal act of violent extremism. Those who are radicalised and display threatening behaviour, incite hatred or promote the use of violence for their cause require some form of intervention. This may come from family, religious or community leaders, or law enforcement. Communities play a vital role in assisting people to move away from violent extremism and intervening to stop acts of violence before they are committed.

Families for Life is a counselling and support service for those or their families of those who have been effected by radicalisation. They have advice on Combating Radicalisation, What radicalisation is and possible signs of a person at risk


Prevent is part of the UK counter-terrorism strategy, CONTEST. Its aim is to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. 

Read more about our Prevent strategy


Channel is a national project that has been put in place to safeguard individuals who may be vulnerable to recruitment by violent extremists.

The aim of the process is:

  • To support and protect people who might be susceptible to radicalisation at a very early stage so that they are not drawn into criminal activity which may affect their prospects in later life.
  • To ensure that individuals and communities have the resilience to resist all forms of violent extremism.

Channel is not about prosecuting or stigmatising individuals who have been referred.

What can put people at risk?

There is no single profile of a terrorist or violent extremist. Factors which may make people more vulnerable include:

  • Substance and alcohol misuse
  • Peer pressure
  • Influence from older people or via the Internet
  • Bullying
  • Crime and anti-social behaviour
  • Domestic violence
  • Family tensions
  • Race/hate crime
  • Lack of self-esteem or identity
  • Grievances (personal or political)
  • Migration

How does it work?

Channel assesses the nature and extent of the potential risk to an individual and, where necessary, provides an appropriate support package tailored to their needs. This decision is made by a multi-agency panel and may include diversionary activities and/or support from services such as education, housing, employment and mentoring designed to help them resist those who may be seeking to harm them or others.

Local community issues and tensions can sometimes contribute to an individual’s behaviour. The context of a situation is always taken into account.


Please see this page to refer into Adult Social Care.