Contextual Safeguarding: more effective safeguarding of children and young people by looking beyond the family

9 October



October 9, 2019 - 9:30 am


October 9, 2019 - 3:45 pm


Pendulum Hotel and Manchester Conference Centre Weston Building Sackville Street Manchester M1 3BB   View map
Contextual Safeguarding Network RGB LOGO_CMYK_300MM

Most safeguarding and child protection work focuses upon the family environment of the child or young person thought to be at risk.

The Contextual Safeguarding approach, developed at the University of Bedfordshire, argues that this is only part of the picture. For older children in particular, influences outside the family are fundamental to assessing risk – and fundamental to safeguarding adolescents.

It offers a robust approach to high level risks such as child sexual exploitation and gang involvement. Importantly, Contextual Safeguarding does not seek to replace individual family interventions, but to complement and enhance them.

What is Contextual Safeguarding?

Contextual Safeguarding requires that an assessment of a young person takes into account the social or public environment (peer group, school, neighbourhood) in which they operate, as well as their family or private environment. As children get older, they spend more time in public spheres and become increasingly influenced by them. Parents often have little control over these environments, where young people may be exposed to positive, healthy norms which promote good social relationships, or they may encounter harmful norms that are conducive to abusive and exploitative relationships.

Consequently, professionals need to identify and assess the social environments in which a young person operates, and interventions need to take place in social as well as family spheres. The approach is based upon collecting and analysing intelligence gathered by professionals across a range of services.

In summary, Contextual Safeguarding:

  • Recognises the weight of peer influence on young people’s decisions
  • Extends the notion of ‘capacity to safeguard’ beyond the family
  • Provides a framework in which referrals can be made for contextual interventions which complement work with individuals and families


Contextual Safeguarding in practice

Contextual Safeguarding builds upon the work of systemic approaches (which also consider the social systems within which individuals operate) by looking at making change to the systems themselves – for example, making a school safe rather than moving a child to another school.

The concept was developed from a three-year review of operational responses to peer-on-peer abuse and provides a framework to advance the safeguarding of children and young people. Most of the initial development focus has been in the area of adolescent safeguarding, and a two-year DfE-funded pilot is almost complete in the London Borough of Hackney’s Children and Young People’s Services. This has led to a number of practical developments including safety mapping, a Neighbourhood Assessment Toolkit, and a School Assessment Toolkit.

Last year, Big Lottery funding was secured to support three local authority areas in England and Wales to create Contextual Safeguarding systems – building on the lessons and resources that have emerged from Hackney.

This learning day offers an opportunity to understand the theory and practice of Contextual Safeguarding, a major new development in safeguarding children and young people.

[Much of the information included above has been drawn, with her permission, from the published work of Dr Carlene Firmin]

This learning day aims to offer professionals from a range of front-line services an opportunity to understand the theory and practice of Contextual Safeguarding, a major new development in safeguarding children and young people:

  • The critical importance of context in safeguarding high risk children and young people, and why a contextual approach can offer higher impact interventions
  • The development of Contextual Safeguarding based upon reviewing real-life cases
  • The key components of a Contextual Safeguarding system including intelligence gathering
  • Examples of the application of Contextual Safeguarding to practice examples, including results from the Hackney pilot


The concept of Contextual Safeguarding has been developed by Dr Carlene Firmin and colleagues at the University of Bedfordshire. Carlene was one of the first researchers to highlight, and speak out about, the sexual exploitation of girls by gangs.

The learning day will be facilitated by Dr Lauren Wroe and Dr Jenny Lloyd from the Contextual Safeguarding Unit of the University of Bedfordshire.

Comments from previous learning days:

“Excellent …..very relevent to my role and responsibility to develop practice and awareness”

“Useful and interesting, thought provoking; exciting”

Agenda (subject to change)

9.30 – 10.00

Registration and coffee

10.00 – 10.10

Welcome and introduction

10.10 – 11.10

The challenge we face: adolescent development, vulnerability, risk and why context matters

11.10 – 11.30

Coffee break

11.30 – 12.40

Building a contextual understanding of risk

  • An interactive case study
  • Themes emerging from case reviews

12.40 – 1.30


1.30 – 2.30

The building blocks of a contextual safeguarding approach

  • Existing child protection schemes – a reflection on limitations in practice and policy
  • The components of a contextual safeguarding system
  • Contextualising a child protection system, safeguarding partnership or social care team – steps to take and key considerations

2.30 – 2.45

Quick break

2.45 – 3.45

Contextual safeguarding in practice

  • Multi-agency practices – implications for referral, assessment and intervention
  • Examples from the field
  • Tools developed through the Hackney pilot
  • Future scaling up


Final questions and close of day

  • Children’s and family social services
  • Local Safeguarding Children Boards
  • Children’s charities
  • Youth workers, gangs projects, and CSE specialists
  • Schools
  • Education support, including education welfare and exclusions
  • Police
  • Youth justice professionals
  • Community safety
  • Organisations which work in the night time economy
  • Social housing
  • Substance misuse services
  • Community health services
  • Mental health services
  • Public health
  • Trading standards
  • Environmental health services

The training will take place in Manchester City Centre:

Pendulum Hotel and Manchester Conference Centre

Weston Building

Sackville Street


M1 3BB

Venue telephone – 0161 955 8000

The venue is a 5 minute walk from Piccadilly and Oxford Street railway stations.

Directions by road and rail can be found by following this link to the venue website


The closest car park is on Charles Street, M1 3BB


Delegate fee:

 £130 + VAT = £156

*Team of 3 (3rd person attends for half price) £325 + VAT = £390

*Team of 5 (5th person attends for free) £520 + VAT = £624

ring 0115 916 3104 for details.


Included in the delegate package:

  • Delegate pack
  • Lunch
  • Refreshments available throughout the day


Booking Terms and Conditions

Cancellations received up to and including 18 Sep 2019 will be refunded in full less an administration fee of 25%. Cancellations received after this date will be liable for payment in full.

*Team bookings are non-cancellable but substitute delegates will always be accepted.

The full invoice amount will remain payable if you fail to attend the event, however, substitute delegates will be accepted up until, and including, the day of the event.



Confirmation of booking:

Your booking will be confirmed by email where possible (and by fax or post otherwise), and you will be provided with directions to the venue and details on nearby hotel accommodation. If you do not receive such acknowledgement, please contact Central Conference Consultants Ltd on 0115 916 3104.