Nearly 4,000 people referred to Government's anti-extremism scheme last year

Referrals to the Channel deradicalisation scheme are up from 1,681 in 2014

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Almost 4,000 people have been referred to the UK government’s counter-terrorism scheme last year, including children under nine, new figures have revealed. 

The rise in the number of referrals to the flagship Channel programme comes after the Government gave prisons, NHS Trusts and Schools a statutory duty to tackle extremism.

In 2015, 3,955 people were reported to Channel - up from 1,681 in 2014. 

The figures, which were obtained by the Guardian via Freedom of Information Request, are the first since the new rules came into force in July last year. 

The data suggest authorities have become more vigilant about tackling extremism.

Recent cases such as a three-year-old child being referred to the service have highlighted the fear over the number of both families and lone fighters travelling to Syria to fight for Isis. 

Dr Erin Saltman, a senior counter-extremism researcher at the the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told the Guardian the figures were “highly significant”.

She said: “It’s indicative of a couple of things. 

“One is that there’s a huge amount of awareness around radicalisation that just didn’t exist before – it’s now a buzzword whereas five years ago it wouldn’t have been.

“The other is an increase in fear. We are seeing an increase in fearful rhetoric around radicalisation, particularly when we see foreign terrorist fighters and females in unprecedented numbers joining Isis.”

It comes as figures released in January found 415 children aged 10 or under and 1,424 secondary school aged children had been referred to the programme in England and Wales since July.