Racism, mental health and pre-crime policing: the ethics of Vulnerability Support Hubs – Report CoverOur latest report, Racism, mental health & pre-crime policing: the ethics of Vulnerability Support Hubs, exposes a secretive counterterrorism police-led mental health project called  ‘Vulnerability Support Hubs’. Thousands of individuals suspected of potential ‘extremism’ – a vague and racialised term which the government itself has tried and failed to legally define – have been assessed by the hubs, in which mental health professionals collude with counterterrorism police officers. 

Based on documents obtained through a series of long-running Freedom of Information requests, our report shows how the hubs blur the boundaries between security and care. It raises the following ethical concerns:

  • Activities beyond the health remit: the hubs embed NHS mental health professionals within regional counterterrorism police units and encourage health workers to ‘monitor’ patients, and help conduct ‘combined’ mental health and terrorism risk assessments.
  • Stigma: the hubs were substantially premised on dubious associations between mental health and terrorism and exacerbate this stigmatising assumption.
  • Racism: a racialised Muslim is at least 23 times more likely to be referred to a mental health hub for ‘Islamism’ than a white British individual is for ‘Far Right extremism’.
  • Securitisation: counterterrorism policing’s often spurious and highly racialised pre-crime security concerns may be improperly influencing medical treatment and implicating health workers in criminalisation.
  • Circumventing confidentiality: the hubs use a ‘consultancy’ model which appears to allow police to circumvent normal confidentiality expectations.
  • Coercion: there are serious concerns about the deployment of medicine as a security device, including coercing people into the Channel ‘deradicalisation’ scheme.
  • Pathologisation: the hubs use sub-diagnostic thresholds and risk pathologising people based on political expression or socioeconomic vulnerability.
  • Lack of transparency: the project has partly been funded with NHS money, yet police strenuously resisted disclosure of any information about the scheme.
  • Lack of scrutiny: despite a lack of independent evaluation and public scrutiny, the scheme is currently being rolled out nationwide by the police via ‘Project Cicero’.
  • Deterrence: the scheme risks worsening mistrust and further deterring racialised groups from accessing healthcare when in need.

Download the report [PDF]

Online launch: Report co-authors Dr Hilary Aked, Dr Tarek Younis and Dr Charlotte Heath-Kelly will discuss the report alongside Vicki Nash – Head of Policy, Campaigns and Public Affairs at mental health charity Mind – at our online launch event on Weds 19 May at 7pm.
Register for the launch event Weds 19 May at 7pm
Read the original data: In the interests of transparency and enabling public scrutiny, we are publishing the 2017 hub evaluation documents on which this report is based, which we have combined into one PDF document. 
Download the original documents [PDF]
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Hilary Aked