Developing contextual responses to the abuse and exploitation of young people


Current Projects

Last updated: 15 Dec 2019

The Contextual Safeguarding team, at the University of Bedfordshire, have a range of current projects. See below for details and to visit the project pages and resources:

Children’s Services Systems Change

National Scale-Up Project

The Contextual Safeguarding team are working with 5 new sites (Bristol, Wiltshire, Swansea, Kent and Knowsley) to embed Contextual Safeguarding. Developing the work from Hackney we are working to create, test and embed contextual approaches in 5 new areas. The project aims to understand the policy and practice implications for Contextual Safeguarding in geographically variable areas. By 2022 the project will release 5 new operational toolkits. For more information click here. For further details please contact

Contextual Safeguarding in Hackney

Since 2017 the Contextual Safeguarding team have been working with Hackney Council Children and Families service to implement a whole service Contextual Safeguarding framework. This is the first project to test Contextual Safeguarding in practice by developing safeguarding responses to vulnerable children and young people exploited in extra-familial contexts. We have now launched an implementation toolkit available here which provides step-by-step guidance on the changes. We continue to work with Hackney to embed this work. For more information click here. For further details please contact or

Innovations in Safeguarding Adolescents, ESRC Project

This project will explore how and why innovation is happening, and is sustained, in response to complex safeguarding issues that affect the welfare of adolescents. Trauma-Informed approaches, Contextual Safeguarding and Transitional Safeguarding and three case study innovations that will be examined through this study – and their specific take-up in six local authority areas in the UK. The project is led by the Professor Michelle Lefevre at the University of Sussex, with Dr Carlene Firmin as a Co-Investigator from the UoB Contextual Safeguarding team, as well as Professor Gillian Ruch and Dr Kristie Hickle from the University of Sussex. As project website will be established soon with further details. For further details please contact

Understanding the nature of and responses to extra-familial harm

‘Out There’ Rescue and Response (R&R): A contextual safeguarding evaluation of a pan-London safeguarding response to children who are criminally exploited via ‘county lines

This is a three year qualitative evaluation of a pilot programme aimed at operationalising a London-wide safeguarding response to young people who are exploited via ‘county lines’. The programme will be evaluated against the objectives of developing a holistic response across agencies to ensure that young people are safeguarded from abuse and are not criminalised. The evaluation will also consider the extent to which the project embeds a contextual safeguarding approach. For further details please contact

Securing Safety: A study into the scale and experience of relocation in response to extra-familial abuse

This is a three year national study into the rate, cost and impact of relocation as a response to extra familial harm in adolescents. Adopting a mixed methods approach this study will report on survey data from twenty local authorities across England and Wales on the rate at which relocation is used as a response to extra-familial harm. This data will be costed by Lisa Holmes and Vania Pinto of the Rees Centre, Oxford University using the Cost Calculator for Children’s Services methodology. In depth qualitative case studies will be carried out in three local authorities to explore the impact of relocation on young people and their family and support networks. Findings from the study will be disseminated at a policy, professional and community level to promote best practice in the use of relocation as a response to extra-familial harm. For further details please contact

Developing contextual interventions: peers, schools and communities

Beyond Referrals 2

The Contextual Safeguarding team have received funding from Esmee Fairbarn to expand Beyond Referrals. We will be working with 16 schools to consider how schools can improve their responses to harmful sexual behaviour. The project team will work with schools to test the Beyond Referrals self-assessment toolkit and develop resources, webinars and training that can support schools to improve their responses. For further details please contact

Developing Contextual Interventions in Hounslow; PEACE project

Working with the Protecting and Empowering Against Child Exploitation (PEACE) project to create a Contextual Safeguarding system within the London Borough of Hounslow. Embedded research with the team delivering interventions for young people at risk of extra-familial harm supports the development of Contextual Safeguarding theory and practice, and seeks to understand the extent to which the project contributes to wider system change. For further details please contact

Developing Contextual Interventions in Oldham; Youth Now

This project explores the use of family, peer, school and community interventions as part of Oldham’s response to serious youth violence. Through embedded research, the UoB team will work alongside practitioners in Oldham to understand how their interventions engage with contextual dynamics of harm, capture and disseminate this learning, and support the service to identify its impact on the lives of young people and the contexts in which they spend their time. The research team will also support Oldham to understand how the interventions being developed could inform the application of a Contextual Safeguarding approach within children’s social care, as part of their wider approach to complex safeguarding issues. For further details please contact

Peer relationships and safeguarding, exploring with Safer London

An exploratory study with Safer London into the opportunities for integrating peer support into safeguarding assessment and intervention. Embedded research, staff focus groups and interviews, document review and observations of practice, will build on the learning from an international literature review of peer support interventions, and will inform strategic planning within Safer London. For further details please contact

Sector Leadership and Getting Involved

Contextual Safeguarding Practitioners’ Network

‘The International Centre: Researching child sexual exploitation, violence and trafficking’ launched the Contextual Safeguarding Network in September 2016. The Contextual Safeguarding Network brings together thousands of practitioners across the United Kingdom and beyond to share and generate knowledge on contextual approaches to safeguarding young people from violence and abuse.

The network promotes theory-informed practice and seeks to develop practice-informed research and resources co-created with academics and practitioners. We seek to accelerate the learning from, piloting of, contextual approaches to safeguarding by disseminating research findings, resources and running in-person and online trainings and events.

An aim of the Contextual Safeguarding Network is to provide a forum for practitioners to be able to learn from one another, to develop practices that intervene within all of the environments associated with young people’s risk of harm, and engage with young people’s experiences of multiple forms of abuse. As such, we are keen for members to directly contribute to the network. If you or your organisation are undertaking work that you believe would be of interest or benefit to other Contextual Safeguarding network members, we would love to hear from you. You could write a blog, record a podcast, or pose a question to network members. If you have any questions or suggestions of other ways to get involved, please contact

Local Area Implementation Group and Interest Network

Since 2018 an increasing number of local areas have been contacting the Contextual Safeguarding team for support in developing their approach. In response to this demand we have set up a local area implementation group who meet twice a year and share learning on their implementation journey and a wider virtual interest network of areas who are at the earlier stages of implementation. From 2018 – 2022 we hope that these structures will facilitate sector leadership on Contextual Safeguarding within children’s social care, supporting the sector to support each other as they test and embed this systems change approach to extra-familial harm. Areas in the virtual interest network are also surveyed to identify thematic areas where support is required so that the Contextual Safeguarding team can identify strategic needs in the sector and offer advice and support across multiple localities at once. To learn more about the implementation group or interest network please contact

Contextual Safeguarding VCS Collective

The Contextual Safeguarding VCS Collective is a grouping of voluntary and community sector organisations who support a Contextual Safeguarding approach. A sub-group of this collective meets as an implementation group three times a year to share their learning in using and developing Contextual Safeguarding resources and approaches. This group is chaired by Dr Camille Warrington. For further information on the VCS Collective and for details on how to join please email

Contextual Safeguarding UK Advisory Group

A group of government departments, regulators and practice associations from England, Wales and Scotland meet twice a year to discuss the implications of a CS approach for policy, commissioning and legislative frameworks. Chaired independently the group meet to hear about thematic issues emerging from test sites, and to ensure work in test sites in informed by relevant policy changes. For more information on the membership of, or terms of reference for, the group please contact

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