Developing contextual responses to the abuse and exploitation of young people

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Practitioner Briefings

Safeguarding children and young people from sexual exploitation, gang-association and associated vulnerabilities: A briefing for Inspectorates

Dr Carlene Firmin

This briefing for inspectorates focuses on inspecting responses to child sexual exploitation (CSE), gang-association and other forms of child sexual abuse (CSA). in order to inform the Joint Targeted Area Inspection process. The briefing also considers associated vulnerabilities - such as being missing from home or education.

The individual and contextual characteristics of young people who sexually harm in groups: A briefing on the findings from a study in four London boroughs

Dr Carlene Firmin with Dr Jenny Lloyd

This briefing presents the findings of a study into the contextual profiles of young people suspected of displaying harmful sexual behaviours (HSB) in groups and/or on their own. In a period when peer-on-peer abuse, sexual violence in schools and responses to young people affected by sexual abuse are high on the public and policy agenda, this briefing provides a timely contribution towards deepening how HSB is understood and in addition, ensuring that the provision of services is sufficient for safeguarding young people. 

Contextual Safeguarding: An overview of the operational, strategic and conceptual framework

Dr Carlene Firmin

This briefing for practitioners provides an overview of the operational, strategic and conceptual framework of Contextual Safeguarding. 

Peer group mapping: practitioners briefing

The Contextual Safeguarding Network's second learning project evidences how practitioners develop and use peer-group maps and generate knowledge on a young person’s peer associations in order to assess their vulnerability or develop plans to keep them safe. The briefing is available to members of the network only via this link.

Evidencing peer-on-peer abuse in educational settings

What is peer-on-peer abuse?

Carlene Firmin and George Curtis

This briefing outlines what current research tells us about the nature of peer-on-peer abuse, and considers what this might mean for building a response 

Auditing your local response to peer-on-peer abuse

Carlene Firmin

This briefing explains will support local authorities to audit their responses to peer-on-peer abuse. 

Peer-on-peer abuse and exploitation: The role of youth offending services in building a local response

Carlene Firmin and George Curtis

This briefing paper highlights the role of youth offending services in building responses to peer-on-peer abuse. 

Developing multi-agency sexual exploitation (MASE) meetings to respond to peer-on-peer CSE

George Curtis

This briefing paper considers how evidence of peer-on-peer child sexual exploitation and other forms of abuse can inform the development of multi-agency sexual exploitation (MASE) meetings.

Profiling peer-on-peer abuse

Carlene Firmin with David Hancock, Sandeep Broca, Manish Umaria, Gareth Sloane, Sepia Golding, Solenne Levesque, Farah Dadabhoy and Matthew Abbott

This briefing shares the learning from a seminar series with a group of CSE and gangs analysts on profiling peer-on-peer abuse. 

The role of detached youth work in creating safety for young people in public spaces

Danielle Fritz with Carlene Firmin and Paul Olaitan

This briefing paper discusses the benefits and limitations of detached youth work provision in creating safety for young people in public spaces.

Incorporating contexts into assessments

Carlene Firmin with George Curtis, Danielle Fritz, Paul Olaitan, Lia Latchford, Jenny Lloyd and Ikamara Larasi

This extract from the report 'Towards a Contextual Response to Peer-on-Peer Abuse: Research and Resources from MsUnderstood local site work 2013-2016' discusses how practitioners may use peer group information capture forms and Asset Plus to incorporate contexts into assessments.  If you would like a copy of the slides or editable copies of the resources within this extract, then Contact Us.

Working with schools and alternative education providers

Carlene Firmin with George Curtis, Danielle Fritz, Paul Olaitan, Lia Latchford, Jenny Lloyd and Ikamara Larasi

This extract from the report 'Towards a Contextual Response to Peer-on-Peer Abuse: Research and Resources from MsUnderstood local site work 2013-2016' highlights the role that education providers may play in responding to peer-on-peer abuse.  The extract discusses the potential for working with Fair Access Panels and opportunities for creating whole school approaches to respond to peer-on-peer abuse. If you would like a copy of the slides or editable copies of the resources within this extract, then Contact Us.

Engagement of community, specialist and voluntary organisations

Carlene Firmin with George Curtis, Danielle Fritz, Paul Olaitan, Lia Latchford, Jenny Lloyd and Ikamara Larasi

This extract from the report 'Towards a Contextual Response to Peer-on-Peer Abuse: Research and Resources from MsUnderstood local site work 2013-2016' highlights researchers' work with community, voluntary and specialist organisations in the response to peer-on-peer abuse.  The extract discusses a train-the-trainer programme, a study on detached youth work provision and building awareness and partnerships amongst community sector provision.  If you would like a copy of the slides or editable copies of the resources within this extract, then Contact Us.

Responses to young people who abuse their peers

Carlene Firmin with George Curtis, Danielle Fritz, Paul Olaitan, Lia Latchford, Jenny Lloyd and Ikamara Larasi

In this extract from the report 'Towards a Contextual Response to Peer-on-Peer Abuse: Research and Resources from MsUnderstood local site work 2013-2016', researchers explain their work in two sites to enhance local responses to harmful sexual behaviour. If you would like a copy of the slides or editable copies of the resources within this extract, then Contact Us.

Reports, Articles and other Publications

Peer-on-peer abuse toolkit for schools

Farrer & Co’s Safeguarding Unit, in collaboration with Dr Carlene Firmin

This document provides practical guidance for schools on how to prevent, identify early and respond appropriately to peer-on-peer abuse. It encourages schools to adopt a clear and comprehensive approach to such abuse - tailored to the school’s specific safeguarding circumstances, to look behind children’s behaviour, and to identify and challenge any underlying attitudes, social conditions and contextual dynamics that may have led to peer-on-peer abuse. The toolkit can be downloaded here.

“Is this sexual abuse?” The concerns being raised to the NSPCC helpline and Childline about peer sexual abuse

NSPCC, peer-reviewed by Dr Carlene Firmin

The NSPCC has published a new report analysing the concerns being raised by those who contact the NSPCC helpline and Childlike looking at how peer sexual abuse takes place; the impact it has on young people’s lives; how best to provide support after peer sexual abuse; and how to prevent it from happening. The report was peer-reviewed by Dr Carlene Firmin and can be accessed here

Contextual Risk, Individualised Responses: An Assessment of Safeguarding Responses to Nine Cases of Peer-on- Peer Abuse

Dr Carlene Firmin

This paper uses findings from an in-depth analysis of nine cases to explore approaches to assessing and intervening with peer-on-peer abuse. The paper can be accessed here


Abuse between young people: A contextual account

Dr Carlene Firmin

Abuse between young people is the first book to offer a contextualised narrative of peer-on-peer abuse and an approach to Contextual Safeguarding. This book is recommended for practitioners and policymakers, as well as students and researchers. You can find out more or buy the book here


Book review - Third Sector practitioner

As someone who has worked in the third sector for many years I try to keep up to date with new academic thinking by reading a variety of books and journals. It’s been a very long time since I’ve read anything quite as good as Carlene Firmin's recent book - Abuse Between Young People: A Contextual Account. Quite apart from being very well written and totally accessible for a non academic like me it is a particularly relevant for anyone working with young people. The idea of contextual safeguarding and the plea to think wider than families as the site of risk or indeed a provider of safety left me questioning why I hadn't thought about this before and applied it to my work. Carlene’s work is thorough, well evidenced and very well argued. I would urge everyone to read this book and consider how they can use the knowledge in their work - it really must be used to change how we safeguard young people.

Working Together: Contextual Safeguarding consultation submission

This document is the consultation response submitted by the Contextual Safeguarding team in response to the 2018 revisions of Working together.

Safeguarding Adolescents: A Survey of London Professionals

Lucie Shuker

This report presents the findings of a survey of 120 London-based professionals from a range of agencies, on their views and experiences of safeguarding adolescents in the capital. It was undertaken as part of a programme of work for the London Safeguarding Adolescents Steering Group (LSASG) and will inform the development of a new chapter on safeguarding adolescents in the London Child Protection Procedures. 

From genograms to peer group mapping: Introducing peer relationships into social work assessment and intervention

Carlene Firmin

Despite evidence that young people’s peer relationships are associated with their experiences of abuse, child protection guidance directs social work practice to be primarily focused on the assessment of, and intervention with, families. Presenting data from two studies into the nature of, and safeguarding response to, peer abuse in England, this article questions the familial parameters of child protection frameworks, and evidences the need to include peer group relationships within social work assessment. Drawing on Bourdieu’s sociological theory, a conceptual framework is used to evidence that familial-focused practice fails to address the extra-familial social conditions in which peer abuse manifests. Complimenting an international evidence base that promotes ecological responses to adolescent welfare and social service development, this article suggests that advancing knowledge of peer group assessment and intervention should form a central part of the child protection research agenda. The article can be accessed here

Contextualizing case reviews: A methodology for developing systemic safeguarding practices

Carlene Firmin

This paper introduces a systemic methodology for reviewing professional responses to abuse between young people. The approach, “contextual case reviewing,” draws upon constructivist structuralism to assess the extent to which safeguarding practices engage with the social and public contexts of abuse. The article can be accessed here.

Young people who sexually harm peers in groups: A rapid evidence assessment of international literature

Lia Latchford with Carlene Firmin, Danielle Fritz and Simon Hackett

This literature review was conducted to develop an evidence base on young people who sexually harm in groups, by synthesising existing literature on group harmful sexual behaviour (HSB), wider group offending and group interventions

Sexual Exploitation and Its Impact on Developing Sexualities and Sexual Relationships: The Need for Contextual Social Work Interventions

Carlene Firmin, Camille Warrington and Jenny Pearce

This article considers how young people’s developing sexualities are influenced by extra-familial social and cultural contexts, particularly in relation to experiences of sexual violence.  It draws upon young people’s voices to illustrate the choices they make when they encounter, or engage with, exploitative contexts. Utilising the cumulative evidence base of our studies into sexual exploitation, trafficking and violence over the past ten years, we employ Bourdieu’s theory of the interplay between structure and agency to elucidate the relationship between young people’s choices and abusive social environments. When navigating or engaging with exploitative contexts, young people’s sexualities can be distorted through abusive normalising processes; coercive practices; professional attitudes which condone abuse; and/or structural inequalities that call for survivalist behaviours amongst young people. In exploring this social model of consent, we highlight the need to move beyond one to one (1:1) social work practices to engage with situations, contexts and relationships that disrupt young people’s developing sexualities. Such an adaptation of social work practice would adopt principles of ‘contextual safeguarding’ and we conclude by offering illustrations of interventions that have begun to explore this developmental pathway. The article can be accessed here.

Towards a Contextual Response to Peer-on-Peer Abuse: Research and Resources from MsUnderstood local site work 2013-2016

Carlene Firmin with George Curtis, Danielle Fritz, Paul Olaitan, Lia Latchford, Jenny Lloyd and Ikamara Larasi

This report chronicles the findings and resources on peer-on-peer abuse generated by the MsUnderstood Partnership over the past three years, with specific reference to the tools and knowledge created alongside professionals through local site work. The programme of work was funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the Samworth Foundation and Trust for London.

Peer on peer abuse: safeguarding implications of contextualising abuse between young people within social fields

Dr Carlene Firmin

An existing body of research indicates that peer-on-peer abuse, involving the physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse of young people by their peers, is an issue of serious concern within the UK. Whilst a range of studies have explored the individual and familial vulnerabilities associated with this phenomenon, there is an increasing recognition of the need to also consider the relationship between young people's peer groups, and other pertinent social fields, to their experiences of such abuse. This thesis offers an original contribution to the field by explicitly seeking to develop this contextual approach.

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