Developing contextual responses to the abuse and exploitation of young people


Looking back on our national Contextual Safeguarding learning event



Contextual Safeguarding is at an exciting stage in its development as it is currently being implemented across the London Borough of Hackney’s Children and Families Service.

In December 2018 the Contextual Safeguarding team in Hackney held a national learning event to share learning from the benefits of a Contextual Safeguarding System and how this can be effectively implemented in practice. Over 290 local authority leaders across a range of directorates and key partner agencies attended the event.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble’s opening address welcomed the broad membership in attendance from across the country and emphasised the important leadership role that Elected Members can play in promoting effective safeguarding and the need to continuously improve their understanding of the complex challenges and risks that young people face as these emerge.

Dr Carlene Firmin followed, delivering a presentation on contextual approaches and implementing systems change. Sarah Wright (Director of Children and Families in Hackney) and Lisa Aldridge (Head of Safeguarding and Learning in Hackney) then provided an insight into the progress, reflections and challenges of implementing contextual safeguarding as part of a systems change process in Hackney. Their presentation was followed by a talk from ‘Hackney Elite’, Hackney’s Youth Panel. Young people explained how they developed the youth panel, why they joined, what they have achieved so far (including the development of Snapchat training) and next steps.

Dr Susan Rayment McHugh, from the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia, then shared an example of how contextual safeguarding was implemented in practice to safeguard young people in a neighbourhood in Australia.

Four thematic seminars were led by Hackney’s Contextual Safeguarding project team partnered by some local authorities who have been involved in trialling contextual approaches. The topics covered were:

  • Design and implementation of contextual assessments
  • Contextual interventions with peers, schools and communities
  • Contextualising referral processes, information sharing and digital systems
  • Partnerships, processes and policy reforms

The afternoon session ended with a final talk from Wendy Ghaffar, HMI Specialist Advisor, Cross Remit Safeguarding (OFSTED) who provided some interesting insights from an OFSTED perspective on Inspecting complex and contextual safeguarding.

Overall the event has received fantastic feedback. It was inspiring to see hundreds of social care practitioners gathered in one room to find out more about Contextual Safeguarding and committed to protecting young people from extra-familial risk.

Some feedback from Contextual Safeguarding Advisory Panel members included:

‘The CSP learning event reinforced the fact that safeguarding children and young people is an evolving and dynamic process. Acknowledging that traditional safeguarding arrangements which focus on young person’s experience and relationship within the home totally ignores the important influencing relationships outside of the home. Developing new partnerships for example with local businesses, security services, transport services, youth services etc. truly makes safeguarding everyone’s responsibility. Health staff are gradually being to acknowledge the benefits of having access contextual safeguarding practitioners who can help them undertake risk assessments which have a broader holistic perspective and start to effect positive change for individual young people and hopefully in the long term their peers and communities.’

Marcia Smikle
Head of Safeguarding Children
Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

‘It was a pleasure and an honour to represent the Security Industry Authority as the Government’s regulator of the private security industry on the day’s Closing Panel. To be able to highlight the support that we and the private security industry can provide to so many people in the packed hall and to consequently get requests for such support, cannot be underestimated. During the day it was encouraging to attend the really informative seminars where security staff in contextual safeguarding locations were reported on, were anecdotally requesting more local safeguarding training or were a factor in making those at most risk feel safer. An excellent and productive day all round!’

Matthew Murchington MBE
Investigations Officer – East Team
Security Industry Authority

Feedback from participants:

‘Fabulous conference which has provided inspiration, research, strategic reflections and practical operational examples’

‘I will take back the message that safeguarding is not about referrals, it’s about partnerships’

‘Hackney Elite are amazing and fabulous. The leaders of Hackney of tomorrow’

‘I thought Hackney Elite were amazing and brave as well as articulate’

Helpful to see organisations that have used a contextual safeguarding approach using resources already available and some creativity. This demonstrates that this can be implemented without DfE funding.’

‘Very good example of contextual safeguarding in action in the community in action in the community with young people at the centre. Also of shift in organisational mindset.

‘Great to hear from young people. We can often ignore their perspective in the planning process so great to see they are an integral part of the contextual approach’

The contextual safeguarding project team will be exploring the possibility of future national learning activities building on the success of this event.

Posted: 16 Jan 2019

Author: Delphine Peace

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