The Contextual Safeguarding Approach emerged from the PhD studies of Dr Carlene Firmin, MBE. In a review of safeguarding responses to nine cases of peer-on-peer abuse Carlene identified that risks to young people’s welfare escalated in their peer relationships, schools and neighbourhoods whereas safeguarding assessment and interventions targeted the individual young people and families affected by those contexts. In light of this finding, in 2015 Carlene coined the term Contextual Safeguarding to describe an approach to child protection in which extra-familial contexts, the interplay between them and their varying weight of influence on young people’s decisions, could be the target of assessment and intervention.
Since this time a team at the University of Bedfordshire has worked with practitioners around the UK and beyond to convert this idea first in to conceptual framework and latterly into approaches to practice and policy. The timeline below charts the key milestones upon which our current programme is built.
Five pilot sites outside of London embark on a three year project to design and embed a Contextual Safeguarding approach
The Contextual Safeguarding implementation toolkit is launched to disseminate the learning from tests in Hackney
Contextual Safeguarding is inserted into Working Together to Safeguard Children and Keeping Children Safe in Education
A Social Care Innovation grant is secured to run the first full system test of the Contextual Safeguarding conceptual framework in the London Borough of Hackney
The Beyond Referrals project is delivered to explore the lever and barriers for addressing harmful sexual behaviours between young people in the context of schools. The findings are used to inform the work of inspectorates in schools, social care and health.
2016 – 2017:
Contextual Safeguarding Audit Toolkit is published – supporting areas to review the extent to which they consider context in their response to peer-on-peer abuse
The Contextual Safeguarding Practitioners’ Network is launched – connecting those involved in the work of the MsUnderstood partnership – to track and share learning from attempts to contextualise practice in the future
The Contextual Safeguarding framework is published as a recommendation from the site work under the MsUnderstood partnership.
Working with the University of Bedfordshire, via the MsUnderstood partnership, 11 local areas explore opportunities to contextualise responses to peer-on-peer abuse, drawing on the emerging learning from the case reviews
Following a review of nine cases into peer-on-peer abuse the term Contextual Safeguarding is coined.