Charity, Medact has concluded in a report that so-called “vulnerability support hubs”, which were introduced in 2016 by counter-terrorism to identify people who might display extremist behaviour, are psychiatrically assessing people in unethical means as a result of their working alongside counter-terrorism police.
These “vulnerability support hubs” have been established in three regions across the country since their introduction in 2016, having multiple hubs in the north, midlands and the south.
A counter-terrorism programme, Prevent have been referred onto these hubs due to suspected potential extremism. In these hubs, people are assessed by consultant psychiatrists, consultant psychologists and mental health nurses, all of whom work closely and alongside counter-terror police.
The main concern of Medact, is that police officers had been present for mental health assessments which could compromise the medical ethics that psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health nurses are required to work under.
The worry of Medact, is that these hubs might be prioritising aims and goals of the counter-terrorism policing rather than honouring the duty of care that anyone, displaying extremist behaviour, thinking or not, should receive by mental health professionals.
The report covers many areas for concern, one study within the report stated that there is evidence of police escalating patient risk in order to “secure admission and prevent discharge”, actions which haven’t been backed up by documented information.
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On the whole, the report suggests possible behaviour within the hubs that encourages the mental health professionals to work outside of their code of ethics.
There is also the issue of possible racist profiling where the Medact report found that a Muslim is 23 times more likely to be referred to these hubs for pathologized extreme Islam, than a white British individual for displaying nationalist, or far-right extremist behaviour.
The initiative by Prevent, was originally set up as a response to the possible links between mental health conditions and “vulnerability to radicalisation”. The development of the hubs were equally funded by counter-terrorism police, the NHS and the Home Office.
Talking to The Guardian, a government spokesperson said “A key part of Prevent is to enable frontline staff to recognise and safeguard individuals at risk from all types of radicalisation, referring them to pathways for the appropriate support”
Although these intentions appear informed and the view on mental health, especially for young people who are vulnerable to radicalisation, is important and deserves more attention, this report by Medact sheds light on how elements such as institutional racism within the anti-terrorism police force, compromising mental health and medical professionals ethical code of conduct, casts serious doubt on the effectiveness of these hubs.
Officially, Medact concluded that the “vulnerability support hubs” should be shut down. As of this year police are currently rolling out this vulnerability support service nationwide via Project Cicero.