The returning families unit run by the Tavistock is funded by the Home Office and provides “local authorities with expert support”, according to an official letter sent to council chief executives and heads of children’s services in October 2017.
The letter states: “The majority of these children have lived in a war zone for a number of years.
“They will have been exposed to terrorism and extremist ideology and witnessed incidents such as violence, murder, beheadings, rape and many other horrors that will almost certainly have had an impact on their mental and emotional development. Some will have undertaken military training, and/or been involved in terrorist activity during their time in Syria.”
A child safeguarding advice document circulated to local authorities also warns that children must be first assessed when re-entering the UK to determine the level of “trauma they have experienced”; their vulnerability; and the “potential risk” they pose in “carrying out terrorist activity”.
The Tavistock declined to say how many families had been treated but the numbers are thought to be small. Its budget is also unclear but it funds a number of psychiatrists and experts as well as support staff.
In a statement, the Home Office said the Tavistock “ensures coordination for the provision of mental or emotional health interventions for the child and family as identified by their assessments”.
Ben Wallace, the Security Minister, said: “Everyone should understand that the UK and its allies have a range of measures at their disposal to deal with foreign fighters, which includes prosecution, citizenship deprivation… and in some cases a coalition military response.”
A spokesman for the Tavistock said: “The service is a pilot programme set up to specifically address the emotional and psychological needs of children returning from this war zone and who hence face a number of challenges to their well-being and development