Contextual Safeguarding

There is a growing need to respond to the harm that young people experience due to child criminal exploitation, child sexual exploitation and serious youth violence.   This is a national issue, but is one that particularly affects London and other large cities. 

In Hillingdon we are developing our multiagency response to the risks that young people face outside of their families and homes, this is known as extra-familial harm.    These risks can be understood using the model of Contextual Safeguarding created by the University of Bedfordshire.   This model supports us to understand, and respond, to the risks that young people face through relationships formed in their communities, schools and online.  It relies on the effective engagement of young people, families, communities and professionals.   It recognises that the harm young people can experience outside of their families often has a detrimental effect on family relationships, and supports professionals to think ‘outside of the box’ to reduce the risks.   

As a Safeguarding Partnership we recognise that relationships with young people provide hope and an opportunity for change.   This basic tenet is fundamental to practice with families.   We are now seeking to build upon our existing links with schools, neighbourhoods and the wider community to reduce the contexts in which harm can take place.  This includes raising awareness across all professionals working in public services, providing support and information to businesses and community groups.

Contextual Safeguarding is:

  • Collaborative: Is achieved through collaboration between professionals, children and young people, families and communities to inform decisions about safety
  • Ecological: Considers the links between the spaces where young people experience harm and how these are shaped by inequalities
  • Rights-based: Rooted in children’s and human rights
  • Strengths-based: Builds on the strengths of individuals and communities to achieve change
  • Evidence-informed:  Grounded in the reality of how life happens.  Proposes solutions that are informed by the lived expereinces of young people, families, communities and practitioners

(Owens, Ruch, Firmin, Millar, Remes, 2020)