Developing contextual responses to the abuse and exploitation of young people

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Why we are inspired by Contextual Safeguarding

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Some members from the Contextual Safeguarding Advisory Panel share reflections on their last meeting and why they are keen to promote Contextual Safeguarding.

Margaret Flynn and Jan Pickles, National Independent Safeguarding Board of Wales:

There are few occasions when meeting attendees are inspired to contribute to a blog. However, since the first Advisory Panel of the Contextual Safeguarding Programme offered an intuitively sound approach to the challenges confronted by children’s safeguarding practitioners, here are the reasons we are keen to see its promotion in Wales.

Firstly, Contextual Safeguarding accepts that safeguarding referrals always present an abbreviated version of events. For example, if a young person whose family is known to services is truanting or arriving late at school, the wheels of the child protection strategy meeting may roll out plans involving attention to permissive or absent parenting for example. This is so familiar that we have ceased to question whether or not there are other ways of perceiving and responding to such a scenario.

Secondly, Contextual Safeguarding’s hunger for context accepts that the more familiar approach may only address the abbreviated version of events. It would be wrong to claim that safeguarding practitioners ignore the significance of context. Although it is on their radar, attention is not generally drawn to its radio frequency range.

Thirdly, Contextual Safeguarding acknowledges that the task of encouraging this young person to go to school requires a renewed purpose. For example, if the Child Strategy Meeting was to embrace the necessity of a parallel, Contextual Strategy Meeting, it may be revealed that the episodic bullying to which the young person is subject begins on the school bus and persists in the school toilets, changing rooms, and shopping center. Then the relevance of the peer group responsible for bullying, the absence of supervision on school transport, in school toilets and the local shopping center are revealed. In turn, the progressive change of perception enables different formulations of responses which engage with transport, passenger safety, supervision at school and security in the shopping center, for example.

Finally, having put a toe in Wales’ waters – by engaging with the security staff responsible for the night time economy who are in contact with young people in vulnerable circumstances and those who prey on them, for example – it’s time to splash around! Two locations in Wales have indicated that they want to be part of the Programme’s “Scale-up” sites; the National Board has undertaken to promote the Contextual Safeguarding Network and website, plus the Contextual Safeguarding in Schools’ work to Wales’ six Regional Safeguarding Boards. Credit and thanks to Carlene Firmin and colleagues at the University of Bedfordshire.

Julie Hague, Licensing Manager, Sheffield Safeguarding Children Board:

When the 31stof October finally arrived, I was keen to get to London to meet fellow members at the first meeting of the UK Influence and Implementation Advisory Panel for Contextual Safeguarding. Having accepted an invitation to join back in the summer, I wanted to see how the licensing and enforcement ‘piece of the jigsaw’ would help build a picture of how Contextual Safeguarding will look as it develops across the UK. I am delighted to say that I was not disappointed. It is clear that we all share a vision – and passion – for the contextual approach and that there is a wealth of experience, knowledge and expertise to drive lively discussions. As well as the many benefits of this approach, we recognised a key challenge will be to enable people in a range of settings to recognise their safeguarding responsibilities; that safeguarding risk is not always a domestic issue and that it is everyone’s business. I am sure that, as these meetings progress, they will produce innovative, collaborative ways to deal with risk to children and young people in a range of settings, using a spectrum of tools, including regulatory influences and powers. Exciting times and I am proud to be part of this.

Posted: 19 Dec 2018

Author: Delphine Peace

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