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The contextual safeguarding project in Hackney is already one year into its delivery. This brief update highlights key pieces of work developed so far and priorities for the project moving forward.

Contextual Safeguarding Consultations
We recently developed a contextual safeguarding consultation process for social work practitioners and managers working with young people to identify and to manage extra-familial risk. The Contextual Safeguarding team has also been developing and piloting a host of other resources and practitioner toolkits, peer group assessment and interventions and responses to specific problematic locations. It is anticipated that the case consultation toolkit will be able to identify the need for and use of such resources and interventions.

Contextualising the Child and Family Assessment Framework
Contextual safeguarding practitioners have been offering hands-on support to Hackney's Access and Assessment (A&A) practitioners in cases where there is contextual risk such as undertaking joint visits, reflecting on individual cases and offering support at the assessment writing stage. Our next steps are to support the A&A service around undertaking a context based assessment where, for example, multiple young people are considered alongside each other within the same assessment, so that a joint plan can be developed in response to their collective needs. Watch this space for upcoming learning and resources that will be shared on the network.

Piloting contextual safeguarding methodologies in Stoke Newington Secondary School
Over the past few months, the project team undertook a contextual assessment in Stoke Newington Secondary School in Hackney to test out a methodology on an identified context to address specific concerns and develop a range of contextual interventions to address them. The resources that were developed for the pilot to enable a full contextual assessment with staff and students are available in a school assessment toolkit. We also held a multi-agency Contextual Safeguarding Conference to review the assessment and develop an intervention plan. The aim of this ‘Contextual Conference’ was to provide a coordinated multi-agency response that addresses the risks to vulnerable adolescents in a specific location, thereby reducing the risks to a wider cohort of young people and the wider community. Guidance on holding a Contextual Safeguarding Conference will be available on the network in the coming weeks.

Interventions, training and engagement
We have been busy developing our relationships with our partners in Education, Health, Police, Transport, local businesses, Housing, Community Safety and with parents to support them in understanding contextual risk and to think about how they can share learning and offer practical peer advice and support to each other. Training sessions have been offered to placement providers and training is being developed for Foster Carers, Special Guardianship Carers and Adoptive Parents. In our up-coming Neighbourhood Pilot, we will be scoping out local businesses who are able to support us acting as ‘safe eyes’ for our young people. In addition, practitioners in the Contextual Safeguarding team have been trained to deliver Bystander Approaches Interventions. We will be offering training in this approach to enable practitioners to facilitate this programme alongside community partners. More details to follow!

Learning from existing practice
To support the project team to build new relationships, share learning from the project and to strengthen knowledge of contextual practice, team members have attended a range of national site visits that have been organised by the University of Bedfordshire. Additionally, Dr Carlene Firmin is building international links for the team and we have formed a Local Authority Learning Group to bring together a range of Local Authorities from across England, creating a community of interest and providing an opportunity for interested Local Authorities to explore and develop contextual safeguarding approaches to peer-on-peer abuse and adolescent vulnerability. Learning from existing practice is regularly shared on the network

What next?
With one more year to go, our upcoming priorities include:

  • The project team is currently looking at the area of Woodberry Downs as the focus for their second contextual pilot. Concerns were identified in this area through analysis of a range of partnership data. Scoping work is underway and methodologies used will draw on those used in the schools’ pilot, including surveys for schools, local businesses and residents.
  • A priority for the next phase of the project is to further develop social work interventions that address peer and contextual relationships including peer group work, multi-family therapy and interventions informed by models of detached youth work, social pedagogy, community psychology, restorative justice and bystander interventions.
  • The project team are working to develop tools, training, policies and procedures that will be implemented to ensure contextual safeguarding factors are addressed in each aspect of the child’s journey across the contexts of their lives.
  • Work is underway to develop meeting and conference models which includes seeking necessary dispensations from the DfE to remove the requirement to convene a Child Protection Conference where the risk is extra-familial.
  • Communication and engagement continue to be a priority area of focus for the project.
  • A working group in Hackney is looking at the development of systems and scoping technology options that could support contextual safeguarding, including the development of Mosaic (the social work database) to record peer group and location referrals, the use of apps to strengthen community engagement and potential options for linking databases.
  • The external project evaluation will be undertaken by the University of Sussex and Research in Practice and will commence over the coming months.

Keep checking in with us for the next phase of our contextual safeguarding journey!