Smoother referral to services for radicalised persons
Prevention of violent radicalisation and extremism in Finland is based on joint efforts by public authorities and other bodies. The aim is to produce services that help people who have become or are in the process of becoming radicalised disengage with violence. These services are provided by a wide range of government agencies and non-governmental organisations.
One of the recommendations in the Safety Investigation Authority’s report on the recent stabbings in Turku is to improve referral to services and harmonise referral procedures. In the Turku case, the police had been tipped off before the attack, but the perpetrator was never referred to the services that might have prevented the tragedy. The Ministry of the Interior reacted by launching an inquiry, the findings of which are presented in the Rajapinta Project report. The report describes current practices in referral to services and local-level cooperation, and recommends improvements. It also describes practices in other countries.
"Referral to services can be especially challenging when none of the measures laid down in the Criminal Code can be applied, but police still need to refer a person to municipal or non-governmental services. Practices vary a great deal and are often vaguely defined, while information on established practices is not always available to all those who need to apply them," says Milla Perukangas, former coordinator of the Rajapinta Project.
The challenges associated with referral were also highlighted in an evaluation published in April 2019 on the national action plan for the prevention of violent radicalisation and extremism. A new national programme on the prevention of violent radicalisation and extremism is currently being drafted. It will include measures to improve referral to services.
Strategic guidance and practical implementation of the Anchor model need to be coordinated better
The Anchor model is based on multi-agency teamwork involving a police officer, a social worker, a health professional and a youth worker. The goal is to prevent juvenile delinquency and to promote well-being among minors (children and young people aged under 18). There is no upper age limit in cases of violent radicalisation. In such cases, the team should therefore include an adult social worker. More detailed information on the Anchor model can be found on the ankkuritoiminta.fi website.
"Anchor activities have a key role in ensuring referral to services. They bring together representatives of various authorities, making for smoother referral to services provided by specialist organisations. Because of the multi-professional nature of their work, Anchor workers have a wider outlook and cross-cutting expertise that cannot be found in any single official body", says Perukangas.
Anchor services operate in accordance with common principles applied nationwide as described in the Anchor manual published in March 2019. The manual underpins the efforts of Anchor teams and provides tools for multi-agency cooperation. There is also a need for binding instructions on action and cooperation by the authorities and for guidelines on best practices in exchanging information.
The participants interviewed felt that the link between strategic actions at national ministry level and practical actions at local level was weak. There is a risk of failing to translate strategic plans into concrete actions. Structures need to be put into place to ensure communication between the strategic level and local, multi-professional Anchor teams.
The professionals employed by the teams support the national strategy and goals as such, but they call for better guidance and support for grassroots-level measures to prevent radicalisation. Joint training courses arranged by the authorities and partner organisations have had a favourable reception, and participants have requested follow-up courses.
Ensuring funding for NGOs and religious organisations
Non-governmental and religious organisations are experts in engaging with people at every stage of life. It is often psychologically easier for people to get in touch with such organisations than with government officials. One of the reasons is that people who work for these organisations tend to be seen as part of the local community. The third sector also possesses know-how lacked by the authorities.
NGOs can either provide the services needed themselves or they can provide referrals. Many of them have extensive networks and are well-acquainted with the services and activities provided by both civil society and government. NGOs can pass on information about existing services, build trust in officialdom and provide advice on which services to turn to.
The salient feature of their work is continuity. At present, however, it is difficult to ensure access to funding. This means that it is virtually impossible for NGOs to pursue a long-term strategy. Sufficient resources should be guaranteed for multi-professional Anchor activities, among others, to help ensure sustained cooperation between NGOs and the various branches of government involved.