Bristol City Council: building on past work

Under the previous Prevent regime Bristol established a successful partnership with the Muslim community called Building the Bridge. It is now redeveloping that scheme so it has a wider focus including setting up advisory groups to engage women and young people and tackle far-right extremism. This case study forms part of our counter extremism resource.


Under the previous Prevent regime Bristol established a successful partnership with the Muslim community called Building the Bridge. It is now redeveloping that scheme so it has a wider focus to tackle the new Prevent agenda head-on. This includes setting up advisory groups to engage women and young people and tackle far-right extremism.

Bristol has not been chosen as a priority area for the new push on Prevent, but it still has ambitious plans to curb radicalisation and meet its obligations.

Key to this is building on previous work that has its origins in the previous government’s Prevent programme. Bristol City Council set up a partnership with the Muslim community called ‘Building the Bridge’ in 2008 with the help of central government funding available at the time.

The group was led by a community representative and included key personnel from the council and local police and oversaw a variety of initiatives.

These included everything from a picture exhibition celebrating the role Muslims play in the local community, to the creation of a Muslim-run helpline that was set up to offer advice and support to families worried about radicalisation.

A series of workshops and events for young people, under the umbrella of ‘Proud2B’, were also established.

The programme has been widely acclaimed. A Bristol University review in 2014 praised it for being a “genuine collaboration” and helping develop an “unprecedented level of civic engagement”.

But the new duties on councils under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 have prompted Bristol to refresh its approach over the past year.

The Building the Bridge brand has been kept and brought under the remit of the Safer Bristol Partnership to ensure a better alignment with wider safeguarding issues.

There are to be two community co-chairs – a man and a woman – and a statutory deputy chair. The membership has also been widened and now includes representatives from the community, voluntary and community sector providers, council, police, fire and rescue service, health and education sector and probation service.

The Board works closely with the Police’s Prevent Case Management Team and the Channel Panel process, which has been up-and-running for over two years.

Peter Anderson, the council’s Crime and Substance Misuse Service Manager and Deputy Chair of Building the Bridge, says:

We are not a priority area so that means we will not have the resources that the others have, but we obviously have the statutory duties to meet.

Therefore, we are building on the strong foundations that we have in Bristol. Building the Bridge did lots of good work but it was more focused on community cohesion. The duty has refocused and reenergised our work. “We now have the right structure in place and aim to build on that from now on.

To do that, task and finish groups have been established to lead on work in two priority areas. The first, a training sub-group, has been charged with ensuring those in public authorities and in relevant community groups have access to the right training.

The sub-group has only just started meeting, but it is likely the emphasis will be on online training to ensure as many people as possible, including those in schools, can access support.

The second is aimed at communications.  Anderson says:

We want to get some more consistency with our messaging. There are a variety of referral routes into Prevent and Channel, which can be confusing, and so we want to make that process easy to use and understand.

But some of it will be about ensuring we have the right literature available to the public and our partners – whether that is our own or from other sources, such as websites and You Tube channels or national resources.

The new approach is also seeking to broaden the involvement of the local community. To ensure a wider variety of voices were able to feed into the old Building the Bridge model, a partnership advisory group (PAG) was established composed of members of the Muslim community.

That has been retained, but the model is also being extended with forums being established for young people, women and the far right.

The aim is to ensure specific issues for all these groups are addressed and that the relevant people in all three areas are involved in defining the approaches being taken.

Already plans are being put in place to work with some of the key local bodies including youth and family charity Full Circle, while a local women’s conference is planned for the new year.

“To date Building the Bridge has focussed on the Muslim community, but the Prevent agenda is much wider than that. Through the work of the PAGs we want to ensure a wider range of voices are heard and more issues addressed," adds Anderson.

Contact: peter.anderson@bristol.gov.uk