Home Secretary Sajid Javid has boosted funding for next year’s places of worship protective security to £1.6 million to reassure communities and safeguard mosques and other places of worship. This is double the amount awarded last year. In addition, a new £5 million fund will be opened to provide security training.
The funding boost, announced in a written ministerial statement, comes after the terror attack in Christchurch claimed the lives of 50 people and injured 40 more. Following the incident, the police presence was stepped up at mosques across the UK to reassure communities fearful of similar attacks.
Established in 2016 as part of the Government’s Hate Crime Action Plan, the Places of Worship Fund provides financial support for physical protective security such as fencing, lighting and CCTV. Government previously committed funding of £2.4 million over three years.
So far, more than a third of grants under the Places of Worship Fund scheme have been awarded to mosques.
“The horrific events in New Zealand are a direct attack on the values of tolerance and freedom of worship that unite us all,” urged Javid. “Nobody should ever fear persecution of their faith and it’s vital we stand together to reject those who seek to spread hatred and divide us. I know many Muslim communities are feeling vulnerable and anxious, but they should seek comfort from knowing we are doing everything we can to tackle hate and extremism. That’s why we are doubling next year’s Places of Worship Fund and providing physical protection as well as peace of mind.”
Opening new consultation phase
In addition, the Government will open a consultation with faith representatives and organisations including the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group, Tell MAMA, the Independent Advisory Group and other faith representatives and organisations on improvements to existing policy to protect faith communities.
To increase uptake in the Places of Worship Fund and ensure it reaches those most vulnerable to hate crime, the bidding process will also be simplified so organisations no longer have to prove they’ve previously experienced a hate crime incident directly. In addition, the Government will be streamlining the supplier arrangements for bidders, after which the programme will open for applications.
Places of worship, including mosques, will also benefit from a new £5 million fund over three years to provide protective security training to build on some of the positive work already happening in communities. This is in recognition that physical protective security is only part of the solution, and institutions, their staff and volunteers need to have a security understanding to ensure the protective measures work effectively.
The Government will engage closely with communities on the scope of this new scheme to ensure that it meets the needs of all places of worship. It will then undertake a competitive process to determine providers of the training, with plans in place for the commencement of delivery later this year and on into 2020.
Reassurance patrols stepped up
Police have stepped up reassurance patrols in London and across the UK as they continue to engage with communities of all faiths following the horrific attacks in New Zealand.
Metropolitan Police Service Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, head of Counter-Terrorism Policing, said: “Our thoughts are with the victims, their families and loved ones, along with the Emergency Services personnel in New Zealand who continue to deal with this atrocity and the wider Muslim community who have been affected. While there’s no intelligence linking these appalling events in Christchurch to the UK, additional uniform patrols will continue in London and nationally over the coming days, focusing on places of worship and specific communities. We’re paying specific attention to Mosques particularly Friday prayers.”
Basu continued: “Many communities will be understandably concerned and local officers will be out and about providing reassurance and protective security advice to communities, places of worship and businesses. Our utmost priority is keeping the public safe. Counter-Terrorism Policing and security partners continue to work tirelessly to stop and disrupt attacks in the UK and to prevent people from being drawn into violent extremism. Police also routinely carry out daily activities to provide protection and security to the public, institutions and businesses. This activity remains under constant review to counter the threats that the UK is facing.”
Assistant Commissioner Basu also said: “It’s important that all communities stand together and do not allow such evil acts to divide us. We are committed to tackling all forms of toxic extremist ideology which has the potential to threaten public safety and security. We continue to work with social media providers to take down terrorist content, but it’s apparent that companies need to act more quickly to remove this content from their platforms. Mainstream media companies should also consider very carefully whether it’s truly in the public interest to host anything that might inspire hate crime.”