Extreme right-wing ideology has overtaken Islamism as the biggest cause of referrals to the Government’s anti-radicalisation programme for the first time, figures have revealed.

Far-right radicalisation was feared in about 25% (1,229) of those put forward to the Prevent programme in the year from April 2020 to March 2021, the Home Office said on Thursday.

That figure was higher than the number of Islamist radicalisation referrals, which was 22% (1,064) during the same period.

Prevent aims to safeguard people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. Referrals to Prevent can then be put forward to a Channel Panel that decides if individuals would benefit from more support and its programme.

(PA Graphics)(PA Graphics)

The impact of coronavirus restrictions led to the first drop in referrals since records began in 2016. In total, 4,915 were made, 22% lower than last year.

Referrals for an individual with mixed, unstable or unclear ideologies made up for more than half of the total with 2,522.

Of the total, 1,770 (36%) of referrals to the Prevent programme were made by police, 1,221 by people in education and 325 by the prison and probation service.

The vast majority, 88%, were made in relation to men and the most common age was between 15 and 20.

Concerns over extreme right-wing radicalisation among teenagers have mounted in recent years.

MI5 director-general Ken McCallumMI5 director-general Ken McCallum (PA)

In September, MI5 director-general Ken McCallum said the presence of teenagers is a “rising trend in MI5’s counter-terrorist casework” and is becoming more so in extreme right-wing investigations.

A study published this year also suggested extremist views are widespread in classrooms across the country.

The report from the University College London Institute of Education found that a majority of teachers spoken to by the researchers said they have heard pupils express far-right extremist views in their classroom, as well as “extremist views about women” or Islamophobia. Almost all the teachers surveyed had encountered “hateful extremism” in the form of racist views in the classroom, according to the report.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Prevent remains a vital tool for early intervention and safeguarding. We will not allow extremists or terrorists to spread hate or sow diversion, and Prevent remains an important tool to help divert people away from harm.

“It is vitally important that if anyone has a concern about someone they think may be being radicalised, that they act early and seek help. Information and support can be found online through the Police’s ACT Early website, or from Educate Against Hate.”