In response to the Cage Report: “We are completely independent”

We have recently been notified that the organisation Cage have recently released a report titled “We are Completely Independent” and have taken the trouble to cite our work in a misleading way.

In the report, Cage have sought to undermine, question and malign a number of civil society groups working to counter extremism with a suggestion that such organisations are somehow misleading the public through campaigns orchestrated by the government as part of wider government propaganda.

In their questioning of Birmingham based organisation Upstanding Neighbourhoods they have cited the role of KIKIT Pathways to Recovery and one of our Directors Mohammed Ashfaq who took part in a promotional video for Upstanding Neighbourhoods.  It is disappointing that Cage have chosen to question the integrity of our work and have even taken the trouble to include screenshots of our website.  For an organisation who made a public appeal to the communities to raise £15,000 so that they could complete an extensive piece of investigative research, it is surprising that whilst they had time to take screenshots of our website and even checked our accounts they failed to pick up the phone and call us, something surely researchers do if they want to check and clarify facts.

Had Cage picked up the phone and taken the time to call us they would have saved the public money as we would have been happy to clarify our role and engagement with not only Upstanding Neighbourhoods but the government’s Prevent agenda too.  As an organisation we provide a range of services to support individuals vulnerable to substance misuse and alcohol addiction.  Through engagement with our service users KIKIT staff do come across individuals vulnerable to extremism, a vulnerability increased because of their addictions.  We do not hide the fact that we provide community based support to individuals vulnerable to extremism who also have issues of substance misuse and alcoholism as well individuals linked to gangs.

KIKIT has been working in Birmingham for over a decade and is a specialist service well-established with many partnerships that include civil society groups, the police, health services and the local authority.  Having come across vulnerabilities linked to extremism, and with very little counter work being undertaken in the city, engaging with the local authority and other local groups working to challenge extremism (such as Upstanding Neighbourhoods) or the Prevent agenda is something we consider our duty and not something that we would pause for and question when our workers are being directly challenged.

Prior to our knowledge of the support available under Prevent, we have had service users who received support through our work supporting them for their addiction to drugs and alcohol go on and plead guilty for offences linked to extremism.  Since our engagement with the Prevent agenda we have been able to develop in-house support to challenge extreme views and ensure the support we offer is holistic and part of a wider package including work with families.

We have been able to support a number of individuals with vulnerability without the need to refer to other agencies and the community safeguarding Panel mentioned in the report enables us to ensure an appropriate community and family centred intervention based on the individuals need is identified.

Our engagement with, and knowledge of Upstanding Neighbourhoods goes back a number of years based on the community challenges to extremism taking place in Birmingham that has been largely ignored by mainstream media.  When approached by the Upstanding Neighbourhoods team to assist in their campaigns we have not hesitated to take part and extend our services to their work.

We work extensively with local imams and mosques in Birmingham and have an open and honest relationship with them on our work around Prevent and challenging extremism.  The mosques we work with are fully aware of our work and endorse our approach and also contribute by ensuring we have access to their imams when we require input to challenge extremist ideology that tries to manipulate religious texts and when a credible and accurate theological intervention is required.

All of our work including vulnerabilities around extremism is developed within a wider safeguarding framework and at no time do we seek to hide any engagement with Prevent.  We see Prevent as safeguarding and will continue to operate with this belief.

As for Cage and their report we can only say that it has been an expensive exercise in misleading the public and their donors by a poorly researched piece of work and frankly service like ours may have benefited by putting that £15,000 to better use.

£15,000 could have paid for:

  • 30 Drugs Kits that would enable us to provide awareness to all mosques across Birmingham on a weekly basis.
  • Provide mentoring support to 500 vulnerable young people.
  • 120 Outreach sessions with local organisations over an entire year.
  • Pay for a year’s worth of rent plus running costs for the service.

At a time when communities are concerned about the application of government agendas such as Prevent it is more important to come together and discuss actual delivery rather than speculate and increase the nervousness and suspicion of not only the agenda but those that try to work to reduce vulnerabilities.  The Cage report only serves the purpose to get communities to disengage with counter extremism work and put our staff at risk of harm and also reduce the impact of much needed work supporting vulnerable individuals.

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