I was delighted to see this week that the revised statutory guidance ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ now includes a chapter on Contextual Safeguarding. The inclusion of contextual safeguarding within this guidance is a huge step forward towards recognising the range of forms of harm that young people experience outside the home. Many practitioners and members of our network have been engaging Contextual Safeguarding principles in their work with young people already. The inclusion of Contextual Safeguarding within Working Together gives the authorisation to professionals that are already engaging in this work to develop the model and ideas further.
Ruth Lacey, Head of Service - Safeguarding Standards (Wandsworth Council Children’s Services) reflected that this was a pivotal moment for safeguarding, stating:
“The recognition of the need to widen our assessment of children’s lives beyond the boundary of families to include potential risks posed within the wider community is an important step forward. The value of including environmental factors and the social relationships of children and young people within assessments, both early help and statutory intervention, should lead to safeguarding better reflecting the areas in which children and young people exist… on street, on line and peer to peer.”
This revised version is currently out for consultation and can be accessed here until the 31 December 2017. The new version provides a clear overview and description of Contextual Safeguarding, which is very welcomed. However it requires further detail about the practical implications of using a Contextual Safeguarding framework. We would encourage network members to respond to the consultation, and in particular, in support of the inclusion of Contextual Safeguarding. The Contextual Safeguarding Network has a variety of resources that can support practitioners to understand and use contextual approaches. In particular, we have a short briefing that documents the journey of developing the model, outlines what Contextual Safeguarding is, what it means for practice and the relationship between contextual and individual interventions. You can access this briefing here. In addition to our own resources, we will be publishing our response to the consultation publicly by the end of November which will provide further detail of the practical implications of embedding Contextual Safeguarding in Working Together.
Contextual Safeguarding was developed at the University of Bedfordshire out of Dr Carlene Firmin’s research, working alongside practitioners and agencies, into cases of peer-on-peer abuse. Contextual Safeguarding is an approach that recognises that harm to young people happens in a range of places, including those outside of the home and family, and in a range of ways. In order to protect young people, practitioners need systems, resources and interventions that both understand these places and support them to create safety within them. Through the work of the MsUnderstood project and now the Contextual Safeguarding team at the University of Bedfordshire we are continuing this work through training, resource design and research with practitioners.
In the coming months we will continue to host events and training on Contextual Safeguarding. We will also be publishing a range of briefings, for example a learning project on ‘holistic approaches to safeguarding adolescents’, a toolkit for schools and local authorities on recognising and responding to harmful sexual behaviour and will be continuing to embed Contextual Safeguarding approaches within local authorities. Keep an eye out on the network for these or in get in touch if you would like us to deliver training.
We would like to thank all members of the Contextual Safeguarding Network for their support. Working with practitioners to understand the challenges faced in protecting young people is a key aspect of our work. If you have found the contextual safeguarding approach helpful in your work we would urge you to respond to the consultation. Please do get in touch if you have any questions, as we would be very happy to work with you.
Dr Jenny Lloyd
Senior Research Fellow
Bio: Dr Jenny Lloyd is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Bedfordshire within the International Centre: Researching Child Sexual Exploitation, Violence and Trafficking. As a member of the Contextual Safeguarding team, she works on two research projects; within Hackney children and families social care to embed a contextual safeguarding approach, and with Ofsted to develop tools for identifying enablers and barriers to tackling harmful sexual behaviour in schools. Previously she has carried out local area audits to assess responses to peer-on-peer abuse and research into police models used to tackle child sexual exploitation.