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Contextual Safeguarding

In 2018, the Government updated its statutory guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children and Keeping Children Safe in Education to include contextual safeguarding. 

Contextual Safeguarding is an approach to understanding, and responding to, young people’s experiences of significant harm beyond their families. Traditional approaches to protecting children/young people from harm have focused on the risk of violence and abuse from inside the home, usually from a parent/carer or other trusted adult and don’t always address the time that children/young people spend outside the home and the influence of peers on young people’s development and safety.

Contextual safeguarding recognises the impact of the public/social context on young people’s lives, and consequently their safety. Contextual safeguarding seeks to identify and respond to harm and abuse posed to young people outside their home, either from adults or other young people.

It’s an approach that looks at how interventions can change the processes and environments, to make them safer for all young people, as opposed to focussing on an individual.

It considers the places that children and young people go to outside their home and the relationships they make as opportunities for interventions. So this makes parks, public transport and schools all part of a possible intervention, moving away from focusing solely on the young person and the boundaries of their family life. For example, this means including the staff at the local fast food restaurant in a child’s intervention plan, if this location is where they are at risk of exploitation or abuse.

Research illustrates that young people’s experience is not only influenced by their family, but also by their peer network,wider community and society in general.

The model of contextual safeguarding was developed by Prof. Carlene Firmin at the University of Bedfordshire.

Contextual Safeguarding can be simply illustrated as:

Contextual Safeguarding – Areas of Risk

Contextual Safeguarding is applicable to a wide range of risks which can potentially cause  significant harm to children and young people where the prime cause of harm is outside of the family.

Sexual Exploitation
Criminal Exploitation
Serious Youth Violence
Bullying and Social Isolation
Teenage Relationship Abuse
Knife crime
Missing from home; from care and from education
Forced Marriage
Harmful Sexual behaviour
Extra Familial Harm
Women & Girls
Domestic Abuse
Trafficking & Slavery

Please read our Exploitation Language Guide

Below are links to our safeguarding strategy and action plan.  

Visit the Contextual Safeguarding Network website  


MSCP Training

We regularly run training on this subject matter – please see below available courses coming up.


Related websites