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Contextual Safeguarding

An overview of the operational, strategic and conceptual framework

Author: Carlene Firmin

Contextual Safeguarding is an approach to understanding, and responding to, young people’s experiences of significant harm beyond their families. It recognises that the different relationships that young people form in their neighbourhoods, schools and online can feature violence and abuse. Parents and carers have little influence over these contexts, and young people’s experiences of extra-familial abuse can undermine parent-child relationships. Therefore children’s social care practitioners need to engage with individuals and sectors who do have influence over/within extra- familial contexts, and recognise that assessment of, and intervention with, these spaces are a critical part of safeguarding practices. Contextual Safeguarding, therefore, expands the objectives of child protection systems in recognition that young people are vulnerable to abuse in a range of social contexts.

Contextual Safeguarding has been developed at the University of Bedfordshire over the past six years to inform policy and practice approaches to safeguarding adolescents. Initially emerging from a three-year review of operational responses to peer-on-peer abusei, Contextual Safeguarding provides a framework to advance child protection and safeguarding responses to a range of extra-familial risks that compromise the safety and welfare of young people. This briefing collates and summarises learning from multiple publications on the subject of Contextual Safeguarding with particular reference to the:

1. International evidence on why context is important to adolescent welfare

2. Contextual Safeguarding framework with specific reference to how contexts relate to each other and inform young people’s behaviours

3. Contextual Safeguarding system and the role of contextual interventions

4. Implications of Contextual Safeguarding for child protection systems and practices