Toolkit Introduction from Contextual Safeguarding on Vimeo.

Since 2013 The University of Bedfordshire, as part of the MsUnderstood Partnership (MSU), have been supporting the development of local response to peer-on-peer abuse. By working with local sites, practitioners and young people, MSU have developed a variety of resources and tools that address the contextual and holistic nature of peer-on-peer abuse. A key aspect of this work has been MSU’s work with local multi-agency partnerships to audit and develop their responses to peer-on-peer abuse (local site work). Following local site work In 14 areas across England, this Contextual Safeguarding Audit Toolkit has been created so that multi-agency partnerships can audit and evaluate their own responses to peer-on-peer abuse.

While manifesting in multiple ways, peer-on-peer abuse relates to violence and abuse that occurs within young people’s friendships and relationships. In recent years research has shown that for many young people, their experiences of exploitation and abuse is often instigated, facilitated and or perpetrated by peers. In light of research in this area practitioners, researchers and policy makers have become increasingly concerned with identifying how to respond to peer-on-peer abuse and developing responses that recognise both the different forms this abuse takes, and the contexts in which it occurs.

What research in this area is telling us is that the contexts in which abuse occurs is as important to prevention and intervention as the individuals involved. Schools, neighbourhoods and peer groups are all sites where abuse occurs, and as such need to be recognised within assessments and safeguarding responses. The Contextual Audit Toolkit supports practitioners to recognise how social environments and extra-familial relationships are relevant and the extent to which responses are already contextual in nature. For more information about contextual safeguarding please visit the Contextual Safeguarding Network website. Please view the video below to learn more about the concept of 'contextual safeguarding'.

What is contextual safeguarding from Contextual Safeguarding on Vimeo.

In order for sites to develop their responses to peer-on-peer abuse it is important to understand firstly, the contexts in which abuse manifests and secondly, what the current response looks like.

Aim: Understand and evaluate current responses to peer-on-peer abuse to support the development of contextually informed and holistic approaches to safeguarding.


  • Explore the relationship between strategy and operational approaches to understand if responses to abuse are consistent at different levels.
  • Understand the extent to which professional responses to peer-on-peer abuse are connected, coordinated and complementary.
  • Account for young people’s own experiences in responses to abuse and recognise their expertise and knowledge of different local contexts and environments.
  • Support the development of contextually informed responses to safeguarding that are both responsive and proactive, ensuring that individual and environmental issues are addressed.

The audit toolkit website is structured to give you all the information you need to carry out the audit. Make sure you read each section in full, including all videos and audio content, before starting the audit.