The Contextual Safeguarding programme is delivered across the two Universities of Bedfordshire and Durham by two Contextual Safeguarding Teams. The Durham team is directed by Professor Carlene Firmin who started the Contextual Safeguarding approach whilst at the University of Bedfordshire. The team is located within the Sociology Department at Durham University.
The team at Bedfordshire is led by Dr Julie Harris as part of the Safer Young Lives Research Centre . This is an applied research centre committed to increasing understanding of, and improving responses to, the abuse experienced by children and young people, and is led by Director Dr Helen Beckett.
University of Durham Staff
The Contextual Safeguarding team with the University of Durham headed by Dr Carlene Firmin, is made up of dedicated Research Staff, Operational Staff and Practice Advisors with a range of experience in social work research and practice.
Our Research Staff
- Vanessa BradburyResearch AssistantVanessa BradburyResearch Assistant
As a member of the Contextual Safeguarding Programme at Durham University, Vanessa supports two research projects: the National Scale-Up project (which aims to embed a contextual safeguarding approach across five local authority partnerships); and the Beyond Referrals project (which aims to explore the barriers and levers to addressing extra-familial harm in VCS youth settings). Prior to joining the team, Vanessa worked for a Children's Safeguarding Team, before completing an MA in Development Studies. Working across various international contexts, her research focus has centred largely around exploring 'well-being' in policy and practice, research ethics, decolonisation, and Indigenous rights.
- Dr Carlene Firmin MBEProfessor of Social WorkDr Carlene Firmin MBEProfessor of Social Work
Carlene is Professor of Social Work at Durham University. She has spent the 15 years researching young people’s experiences of community and group-based violence and advocated for comprehensive approaches that keep young people safe in public places, schools and peer groups. She coined the term Contextual Safeguarding in 2015 as a result of her doctoral work, and applied the idea through a multi-research project at the University of Bedfordshire until 2021. Carlene continues to develop the idea of Contextual Safeguarding at Durham. She is Principal Investigator for the Scale-Up programme (testing Contextual Safeguarding in multiple sites) and Beyond Referrals (developing contextual approaches to safety in voluntary settings), as well as Co-Investigator on Contextual Safeguarding Across Borders (testing in Australia) and the Innovate Project (in partnership with Sussex University). Carlene’s work has informed policy and research agendas for advancing the protection of adolescents, and she has worked with practitioners across the UK to co-create contextual safeguarding systems within children’s social care. Her work has led to changes in statutory guidelines in England, Wales and Scotland, and she has conducted 20 case reviews for safeguarding children’s boards to identify opportunities for intervening with extra-familial forms of significant harm. Carlene is Associate Editor of Child Abuse Review and Convener of the Contextual Safeguarding Academics Network. Her book, Contextual Safeguarding: Rewriting the Rules was named best sociology monograph published by Routledge in 2020.
- Dr Jenny LloydAssistant ProfessorDr Jenny LloydAssistant Professor
Jenny is a social and cultural geographer at Durham University. Jenny’s work focuses on extra-familial harm in adolescence. As a member of the Contextual Safeguarding team I work across two projects. I manage the National Scale-Up of Contextual Safeguarding approaches in five child and family social care departments across England and Wales. Utilising embedded research methodologies, I work with practitioners to develop new approaches to addressing extra-familial harm including child sexual exploitation, child criminal exploitation, harmful sexual behaviour and youth violence. Secondly, I work on the ESRC funded Innovate Project exploring how services are addressing extra-familial risks experienced by young people outside of the family home, building new knowledge about the processes of innovation in social care.
- Dr Lisa ThornhillResearch FellowDr Lisa ThornhillResearch Fellow
Research Fellow at the University of Bedfordshire. Lisa joined the Contextual Safeguarding Team in 2020. She has been working with families and young people affected by sexual abuse online and offline since 2005. She has joined the Contextual Safeguarding Team with the ambition of helping professionals, parents, young people, schools and communities create safer spaces, policies, practices and processes in response to the risk of extra familial harm. Lisa works across the two Contextual Scale Up projects – supporting and capturing the process of embedding Contextual Safeguarding systems in both in London and National test sites. Lisa also plays a coordinating role in ensuring the Contextual Safeguarding short course and training content reflects the programme’s latest research findings.
- Molly ManisterResearch AssistantMolly ManisterResearch Assistant
Molly works on three projects: The National Scale-Up project, which aims to embed a contextual safeguarding approach across five local authority partnerships, Watching Over Working With, which delves into how relationships of trust and relationships of surveillance operate in Contextual Safeguarding approaches, and the Contextual Safeguarding Academics Network.
Before joining the team, Molly worked for The Children’s Society. Prior to this, she was completing her MA in Human Rights at University College London. Here, her research focused on the sexual exploitation and abuse of women and children in post-conflict zones perpetrated by UN peacekeepers. Her wider research interests include understanding and responding to various forms of child exploitation (including sexual, criminal, and radicalisation), intersectional feminist theory, social policy analysis, and human rights in practice. She is particularly interested in how safeguarding policy and practice relating to the exploitation and abuse of young people is gendered and racialised, and what the impact of this might be on reproducing and reinforcing structural harm.
- Joanne WalkerResearch FellowJoanne WalkerResearch Fellow
Research Fellow at the University of Bedfordshire. As a member of the Contextual Safeguarding team Joanne works across two projects: the Beyond Referrals project, which aims to explore the enablers and barriers to addressing harmful sexual behaviour in schools and to support both local authority partnerships and schools to develop effective approaches grounded within a Contextual Safeguarding framework to address this issue, and the Contextual Safeguarding Scale Up Programme, which aims to embed a contextual safeguarding approach to adolescents experiencing extra-familial forms of abuse across five local authority partnerships.
- Dr Lauren WroeAssistant ProfessorDr Lauren WroeAssistant Professor
I have a critical social psychology background. I am interested in how structural inequalities shape young people's experiences of violence and abuse in their communities, and their experience of harm reduction services. Adopting a contextual, critical and zemiological approach, I am also interested in understanding, demonstrating and mitigating the ways in which policy and practice can contribute to young people's experiences of harm; particularly through the use of surveillance practices, or the utilisation of children's rights issues to justify oppressive policing, sentencing and immigration reform.
I have a PhD in psychology. I joined the Department of Sociology at Durham in 2021, having previously worked at the Safer Young Lives Research Centre at the University of Bedfordshire. I am Social Work England registered social worker and a co-founder and trustee at the charity Social Workers Without Borders where I write and oversee independent social work reports to support immigration applications.
My recent publications have explored the holistic safety implications of ‘out of area’ placements of adolescents exposed to ‘extra-familial’ risks; the efficacy and ethics of multi-agency safeguarding responses to ‘county lines’ using a contextual and social harm lens; and the role of surveillance practices in innovations in children’s social care in response to extra-familial harm and during the Covid-19 pandemic.
At Durham, I am part of the Contextual Safeguarding research programme. I am Co-PI on two projects; one exploring the applicability of contextual safeguarding in international settings characterised by structural inequalities, and the second ‘Watching Over Working With’ is a scoping study into the conditions that support relationships or trust, or surveillance, in children’s social care innovation in response to extra-familial harm. I am also a researcher on a project ‘Beyond Referrals 3’ exploring the levers and barriers for addressing extra-familial harm in voluntary and community sector youth settings. I am the editor of the Contextual Safeguarding Network blog.
- Contextual and structural accounts of safety and harm
- Social justice perspectives in social work
- Anti-racism and migrant rights
- Firmin, C., Wroe, L. E. & Bernard, D. (2021). Last resort or best interest: exploring the risk and safety factors that inform the rates of relocation of young people abused in extra-familial settings. British Journal of Social Work.
- Wroe, L. E. (2021). Young people and ‘county lines’: a contextual and social account, Journal of Children’s Services, 16:1, 39-55.
- Wroe, L. E. (2021). ‘County lines’, inequalities and rights - a moment of pause and reflection. Tackling Child Exploitation/ Research in Practice (commissioned ‘think piece’)
- Dillon, J., Evans, F. & Wroe, L. E. (2021). Covid-19: changing fields of social work practice with children and young people. Critical and Radical Social Work, 9:1
- Featherstone, B., Firmin, C., Gupta, A., Morris, K. & Wroe, L. E. (2020). The Social Model and Contextual Safeguarding: Key messages for practice. University of Bedfordshire.
- Firmin, C., Wroe, L. & Skidmore, P. (2020). A sigh of relief: A summary of the phase one results from the Securing Safety study. University of Bedfordshire.
- Wroe, L. E. (2020). “The message that you're giving to them by moving them away, you're taking them away from everything that they know”: overview of the first year findings of a study into the rate, cost and impact of relocation as a response to extra-familial harm. Research in Practice (commissioned blog post)
- Wroe, L., Ng’andu, B. & King, L. (2020). Surmounting the hostile environment: reflections on social work activism without borders. In Asylum for Sale: Profit and Protest in the Migration Industry. S, McGuirk & A. Pine. (eds). Oakland CA: PM Press
- Wroe, L. & Lloyd, J. (2020). 'Watching over or Working with? Understanding Social Work Innovation in Response to Extra-Familial Harm', Social Sciences, 9:37, 1-17. (REF 3*)
- Firmin, C., Wroe, L. & Lloyd, J. (2019). Safeguarding and exploitation - complex, contextual and holistic approaches: Strategic Briefing. Dartington: Research in Practice.
- Wroe, L. (2019). Contextual Safeguarding and County Lines. University of Bedfordshire.
- Wroe, L. (2019) 'Social working without borders: challenging privatisation and complicity with the hostile environment', Critical and Radical Social Work, 7:2, 251-255.
Indicators of Esteem
Invited lectures and talks:
- JSWEC 2021 ‘The role of surveillance in safeguarding responses to extra familial harm: watching over or working with?’ (paper) and ‘Social Harm Theory and ‘county lines’: supporting the sector to keep children safe’ (paper)
- EUSARF 2021 Securing Safety: Young People's views on the use of out-of-home care in cases of exploitation’ (paper) and ‘Using participatory research methods to explore young people’s experiences of distance-placements in cases of exploitation’ (paper)
- Barnardo’s 2021 Introduction to Contextual Safeguarding (keynote)
- Making Research Count December 2020 ‘Social work with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants’, Forced Migration Series. (Opening event)
- Guernsey Islands Safeguarding Children Partnership, Annual Conference 2019 Introduction to Contextual Safeguarding (Keynote)
- British Association of Social Workers Annual Conference 2019 Social Workers Without Borders: Troubling the deserving/undeserving nexus (Keynote)
- Red Cross Annual Conference 2019 Social Workers Without Borders: Troubling the deserving/undeserving nexus (Keynote)
- East Riding Contextual Safeguarding Conference 2019 Introduction to Contextual Safeguarding (Keynote)
- Manchester Complex Safeguarding Conference 2018 Introduction to Contextual Safeguarding (Keynote)
- Manchester Metropolitan University, ESRC Festival of Ideas 2018 Social Workers Without Borders: Troubling the deserving/undeserving nexus (Presentation)
Contributions to the sector:
- Child Abuse Review 2018-present Reviewer
- British Journal of Social Work 2021 – present Reviewer
- Social Workers Without Borders 2015-present Co-founder, trustee and ISW assessment co-ordinator. National co-ordination of ISW expert reports, campaigns and education events.
- National Youth Agency Safeguarding and Risk Management Hub - Steering group member
- Contextual Safeguarding Network 2020-present Blog editor
- Resistance Lab 2021-present Member
- Salford University 2020 Selected alumni social work campaign
Our Cross University Staff
These staff members work across both University of Durham and University of Bedfordshire on multiple Projects within the Contextual Safeguarding Programme
- Dr Rachael OwensSocial Work Practice Advisor
- Delphine PeaceResearch Assistant
University of Bedfordshire Staff
The Contextual Safeguarding programme, and the team who deliver it, are part of the Safer Young Lives Research Centre (SYLRC) at the University of Bedfordshire. The SYLRC is an applied research centre committed to increasing understanding of, and improving responses to, the abuse experienced by children and young people, and is led by Director Dr Helen Beckett. The SYLRCs work is underpinned by a commitment to: academic rigour and research excellence; collaborative and partnership based approaches to applied social research; meaningful and ethical engagement of children and young people, and; active dissemination and evidence-based engagement in theory, policy and practice.
Our Research Team
- Dr Julie HarrisPrincipal Research Fellow
- Caroline CresswellResearch Fellow
- Hannah MillarResearch Assistant
- Dr Lisa BostockSenior Research Fellow
- Paula SkidmoreSenior Research Fellow
Our Practice Advisor
- Carly Adams EliasYouth Work Practice AdvisorCarly Adams EliasYouth Work Practice Advisor
is the Youth Work Practice Advisor in the Contextual Safeguarding Scale-Up project supporting four sites in London to create, test and embed contextual approaches within their local area. She is seconded from Safer London where she is also working to develop contextual systems to support young Londoners, families and communities affected by exploitation and violence. Carly is an experienced social worker and manager within the children’s voluntary sector; holding national roles with both the NSPCC and The Children’s Society; designing, delivering, managing and developing services for young people affected by harm outside of the family context. Carly is committed to driving quality support for young people that places them at the centre and recognises their strengths and abilities.
Our Operational Staff
- Meegan ScipioResearch AdministratorMeegan ScipioResearch Administrator
- Gayanthi HapuarachchiContextual Safeguarding Admin CoordinatorGayanthi HapuarachchiContextual Safeguarding Admin Coordinator
Gayanthi joined the Contextual Safeguarding team in 2018 as the Contextual Safeguarding Project Administrator. Currently as Contextual Safeguarding Admin Coordinator, Gayanthi’s role focuses primarily on servicing governance arrangements for the National Contextual Scale up Project, supporting Dr Carlene Firmin (Head of the Contextual Safeguarding Programme) in strategic development and supporting Jeannette Adames (Head of Operations and Development) with navigation of internal administrative and financial systems. Gayanthi has a LLB (Hons) and is currently working towards her LLM in Intellectual Property and Internet Governance. She has previously provided administrative support to the Director of Clinical Services and clinical managers in low security or vulnerable adults with learning disabilities and behavioural disorders and she has also experience as a senior legal intern for the Director at a law firm and dealt with a range of legal issues including human rights, consumer rights protection and tort law.