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The Contextual Safeguarding Approach emerged from the PhD studies of Dr Carlene Firmin, MBE. In a review of safeguarding responses to nine cases of peer-on-peer abuse Carlene identified that risks to young people’s welfare escalated in their peer relationships, schools and neighbourhoods whereas safeguarding assessment and interventions targeted the individual young people and families affected by those contexts. In light of this finding, in 2015 Carlene coined the term Contextual Safeguarding to describe an approach to child protection in which extra-familial contexts, the interplay between them and their varying weight of influence on young people’s decisions, could be the target of assessment and intervention.

Since this time a team at the University of Bedfordshire (until June 2022) and at Durham University (since September 2021) has worked with practitioners around the UK and beyond to convert this idea first in to conceptual framework and latterly into approaches to practice and policy. The timeline below charts the key milestones upon which our current programme is built.

2022

Contextual Safeguarding Team at Durham launch The Next Chapter project

2022

Scale-Up Project concludes and launches new resource library for developing Contextual Safeguarding approaches

2022

Children’s Social Care Review Final Report recommends changes to statutory guidance in respect of extra-familial risk and harm and recognises the influence of Contextual Safeguarding on this area of practice and the findings of the Securing Safety programme

2021

Contextual Safeguarding team launches resources of relocation and extra-familial harm from the Securing Safety project

2021

Ofsted release report into their Review of Sexual Abuse in Schools and Colleges: acknowledging the Beyond Referrals resources from the Contextual Safeguarding team as promising practice for addressing this issue

2021

Carlene Firmin takes-up position as Professor of Social Work at Durham University, and establishes a research hub into Contextual Safeguarding programme at that institution

2020

Contextual Safeguarding team release an updated version of the Beyond Referrals toolkit for schools

2020

The Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel recommends changes to statutory guidance for supporting responses to extra-familial harm and notes the work of the Contextual Safeguarding programme in developing this area of practice

2020

Triennial review of serious case reviews notes the importance of considering peer relationships and peer influence when supporting adolescents at risk of significant harm

2021

UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner promotes a Contextual Safeguarding response to child criminal exploitation in their report into the Statutory Defence in cases of Modern Slavery

2019

Five pilot sites outside of London embark on a three year project to design and embed a Contextual Safeguarding approach

2019

The Contextual Safeguarding implementation toolkit is launched to disseminate the learning from tests in Hackney

2018

Contextual Safeguarding is inserted into Working Together to Safeguard Children and Keeping Children Safe in Education

2017-2020

A Social Care Innovation grant is secured to run the first full system test of the Contextual Safeguarding conceptual framework in the London Borough of Hackney

2017-2018

The Beyond Referrals project is delivered to explore the lever and barriers for addressing harmful sexual behaviours between young people in the context of schools. The findings are used to inform the work of inspectorates in schools, social care and health.

2016-2017

Contextual Safeguarding Audit Toolkit is published – supporting areas to review the extent to which they consider context in their response to peer-on-peer abuse

2016

The Contextual Safeguarding Practitioners’ Network is launched – connecting those involved in the work of the MsUnderstood partnership – to track and share learning from attempts to contextualise practice in the future

2016

The Contextual Safeguarding framework is published as a recommendation from the site work under the MsUnderstood partnership.

2013-2016

Working with the University of Bedfordshire, via the MsUnderstood partnership, 11 local areas explore opportunities to contextualise responses to peer-on-peer abuse, drawing on the emerging learning from the case reviews

2011-2015

Following a review of nine cases into peer-on-peer abuse the term Contextual Safeguarding is coined.