Contextual Safeguarding Toolkit

Legal Framework

There is not presently a single legal framework for implementing a Contextual Safeguarding approach within child protection systems. The concept was introduced in England’s statutory safeguarding guidelines Working Together in 2018, in addition to statutory safeguarding guidance for educational institutions – Keeping children safe in education. While these insertions provided some initial direction, developments were required in:

  • Clarifying the legal framework for building consideration of peer relationships into child protection and wider safeguarding referrals, assessments and interventions
  • The engagement of private business and wider partner organisations not traditionally involved in safeguarding arrangements, where contextual assessment or intervention required their input
  • Noting relevant regulatory frameworks which could assist in leveraging engagement from partners to address concerns pertaining to peer groups, school or public space locations, as opposed to families

To address these requirements this part of the toolkit documents resources that may assist in building local legal frameworks through which to test or embed a Contextual Safeguarding approach. Areas are advised to assess these documents with their own legal teams, and use them as a basis to produce their own documentation. As further international, national policy for local legal advice in produced, this toolkit will be updated accordingly.

Contextual Safeguarding Legal Framework: A Briefing

When first developing this toolkit, we produced a briefing drawing upon a range of legal and regulatory tools – including the Children Acts 1989 and 2004, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010 – to propose an existing legal framework for Contextual Safeguarding. It was developed by Dr Carlene Firmin from the University of Bedfordshire and Adele Eastman from Farrer and Co in partnership with a range of child protection legal, policy and practice experts following a legal roundtable held in 2018.

The original legal briefing has been updated, presenting key messages that emerged from a legal roundtable held in 2020, alongside emergent data from the Contextual Safeguarding programme. This combined evidence base is used to make recommendations for how the existing legislative framework can be used to underpin a Contextual Safeguarding approach, if statutory guidance is amended to communicate the pathway for how this can be achieved.

The original legal briefing (2018) and the updated version (2020) are both available as PDFs below.

Further updates will be made as as policy/legislation is revised.

Legal advice: provided to the London Borough of Hackney in the matter of peer group mapping

This document details the legal advice on peer group mapping provided to the London Borough of Hackney following an instruction to a QC. It considers the legality of peer group mapping as part of safeguarding and welfare assessments, with particular consideration given to child protection legislation, the Human Rights Act 1998 and GDPR. The advice concludes that it is possible to integrate peer group mapping and assessment into child protection and safeguarding practices in manner aligned to the Human Rights Act and GDPR. It requires that areas have clarity on: the objective for mapping; data ownership, usage and disposal; information sharing agreements with parents, young people and partnership agencies, and; public facing documentation detailing that peer mapping takes place, the reasons under which this occurs and the treatment of such data. The full advice is available upon request. Please email Addicus Cort, Contextual Safeguarding Project Manage in Hackney at