What an exciting year it’s been for the CS team! We’ve finished some of The Next Chapter projects, such as our Building Safety study (led by Lauren), the second stage of the Risk Outside the Home Child Protection Pathway pilots (led by Carlene). Our schools-based project In the Name of Safeguarding (led by Jenny) and Sustaining Social Work (led by Rachael) are also coming to a close. We’re looking forward to sharing findings with you in 2024. We’ve also recently completed our Contextual Safeguarding Across Borders (CSAB) project and The Innovate Project (with The University of Sussex).
A huge milestone this year was the publication of our new book, Contextual Safeguarding; The Next Chapter, which is a collaborative collection from the CS team and practitioners about their CS journey so far. We had our book launch in London in September and it was a special night.
Our Local Area Interest Network (LAIN) has expanded to almost 80 local authorities and we now have over 300 practice champions taking part in sharing learning and best practice.
Some of the team had field trips to Tanzania and Germany as part of our CSAB project. Lauren, Vanessa and Jenny visited Railway Children Africa (RCA), while Lauren visited the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Germany. Both were rewarding visits which have enriched our CS work both in the UK and internationally.
There’s been some movement in the team; both Delphine and Carlene have returned from maternity leave, but for now we’ve said goodbye to Jo Walker while she’s off on maternity. Rebecca joined the team in January and has settled in nicely.
Below each team member shares their highlights of 2023.
For me, the highlight of 2023 was publishing our new book. Partly because having your name on a book is cool, but mainly because so many people were involved in bringing the collection to life. I love how the book signals that CS is a collaborative endeavour. It moves beyond definitions of CS to discuss what it means and how it feels to do this kind of work. It does this in collaboration with inspiring practitioners and professionals who’ve been involved in our shared journey, and it was wonderful to celebrate our achievement with them at our book launch in September.
The highlight of my year has been working on the Sustaining Social Work project. I’ve met with over 60 practitioners (mostly social workers) in four locations across the UK, and spent a whole day in each place holding workshops that involved doing creative activities together and listening to the practitioners’ experiences of CS. Following the workshops, I met with a small group of practice leaders to analyse the data and think collectively about what’s going on. It’s been rewarding, inspiring and enriching to get a deeper sense of social workers’ experiences of doing CS.
We wrapped up the second round of piloting Risk Outside of the Home Child Protection pathways – working with Leeds, Redcar and Cleveland and Southampton for the first time, as well as continuing to support Wiltshire. It was a real privilege to speak to parents and young people who had participated in the pilots, something we didn’t get to do the first time around. Seeing the pathways develop in multiple areas at once has given us a real insight into the shared opportunities and challenges that come with working in this way; insights we look forward to sharing with you in 2024.
A huge highlight for me was delivering a keynote speech at Southampton’s Contextual Safeguarding Conference in October. I fed back on their ROTH work (as part of our stage 2 ROTH pilots), and it was great to hear from such a vast range of partners on how the ROTH is being taken forward and about CS generally. Everyone was so enthusiastic about the ROTH and about implementing CS in Southampton. There was such interesting discussion and questions from the many smart and interesting people who attended! I’ve also been involved in a few published (or soon to be published!) papers with Jenny, Lauren, and Carlene which is so exciting.
This has been quite the year as I’ve had to chance to work with partners in Tanzania at Railway Children Africa and International Rescue Committee in Germany to learn more about what CS can look like in practice. Both trips were highlights for me and really pushed my understanding of what CS can mean and it was great to share this with 150 international stakeholders who attended our Contextual Safeguarding Across Borders webinar. Another one, closer to home, has been working with a brilliant group of community organisations, young people and multi-agency professionals to think about inequalities in professional responses to extra-familial harm – and importantly, how we might do things differently! This work, Building Safety, has led to some practical systems change recommendations in one local area, and will inform updates to the CS framework to help guide interventions that mitigate rather than embed discrimination and injustice.
I’ve loved working alongside and learning from our partner organisations in the UK, Germany and Tanzania as part of our CSAB and Innovate projects. Both studies sparked key questions about the conditions required to do CS; the opportunities and challenges of doing CS in international settings; how voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations build safety around young people; and how structural inequalities can shape young people’s experiences of extra-familial harms. I can’t wait to continue exploring these topics next year. I’m particularly excited about a new project in which, for the first time, we’ll pilot CS with a VCS organisation supporting asylum-seeking unaccompanied young people in the UK and then share learning with VCS organisations across Europe.
Through the CSAB project, I had the amazing opportunity to do a field visit to Tanzania (along with Lauren and Jenny), to learn how Railway Children Africa (RCA) are using CS as an approach to safeguard street-connected young people. We built new relationships with the RCA team, visited community spaces, and met young people and community guardians. We had lots to reflect on, including how the cultural context in Tanzania seems to allow CS values and practice to flourish, in ways we have sometimes seen difficult to incorporate in the UK. For example, the way the strong community, place-based, and peer work supported young people’s safety outside of the home. However, there’s still much to unpack about the international applications of CS, and the conditions required to safeguard contextually. What does it mean, for example, to create safety for young people when government policy, media and discourses are explicitly hostile to young people, particularly those who have insecure immigration status, are racially minoritised, or are living in situations of extreme poverty? These are questions that have begun to emerge from our UK work too, and we look forward to sharing these reflections with you in 2024.
I can’t believe it’s almost my one-year anniversary on the CS team! It’s been a privilege to join such a dedicated and enthusiastic team who are unwavering in their commitment to building safety for our young people. As project coordinator, much of my work is behind the scenes. My highlight is seeing the extent to which people use our website and free resources; it’s wonderful to know they’re being used in practice and potentially making a difference to people’s lives.
That’s it for 2023! We’re excited to publish findings from our recent work in 2024 and also to share news about the next stages of the CS research programme.
Thank you for your continued support.
Carlene, Jenny, Lauren, Rachael, Delphine, Molly, Vanessa and Rebecca x