Launch of the Contextual Safeguarding Network

This week Danielle Fritz writes about the launch of the Contextual Safeguarding Network for practitioners.

We are very excited to announce the official launch of the IC’s Contextual Safeguarding Network for practitioners. Through the Network, we will work closely with practitioners from across the UK to develop contextual approaches to safeguarding young people from abuse and exploitation.  Membership of the Network is free and open to all practitioners and professionals in the United Kingdom who work with young people, commission or deliver services used by young people, or create policies that affect young people.


What is contextual safeguarding?

A contextual approach to safeguarding recognises children and young people’s experiences of significant harm in extra-familial contexts and seeks to include these contexts within prevention, identification, assessment and intervention safeguarding activities.  Extra-familial contexts associated with the abuse and exploitation of young people include peer groups, educational settings and public spaces within the community (such as parks, housing estates, shopping centres etc.).  Contextual safeguarding engages with:

  • The professionals and adults who manage these contexts – for example, teachers in schools, park wardens, shop owners, housing providers etc.;
  • People who use these contexts;
  • Young people’s relationships with their families, peers, communities and professionals that manifest in these contexts;
  • Young people’s behaviours within and the norms associated to these contexts;
  • The policies, procedures and institutions that govern these contexts.

What is the purpose of the Contextual Safeguarding Network?

The Contextual Safeguarding Network brings practitioners from across the UK together to develop contextual approaches to safeguarding young people from violence and abuse.  The Network continues and builds upon the work of the MsUnderstood (MSU) Partnership. Through its work with local sites to develop responses to peer on peer abuse, MSU identified two main challenges to safeguarding young people:

  1. Current approaches to child protection do not adequately intervene to address risks faced by young people outside of the home;
  2. Although young people may experience multiple forms of harm (CSE, youth violence, harmful sexual behaviour etc.) that overlap and intersect, practice and policy responses have developed in a siloed fashion and struggle to accommodate such overlaps.

The Network provides a space through which practitioners can learn from each other and use research to develop practices that intervene within all of the environments associated with young people’s risk of harm and engage with young people’s experiences of multiple forms of abuse.

How can practitioners use the Contextual Safeguarding Network website?

The Network website is a virtual hub through which practitioners can engage in peer learning activities and access written and digital materials on various contextual safeguarding topics.  Over the coming months, the research team will create a series of short films, webinars and podcasts for Network members.  Members are also encouraged to contribute to the Network’s Learning Projects, Blog, Ask-an-Expert series, or Tips from Practitioners series.   We are currently running the first Learning Project on evidencing peer-on-peer abuse in educational settings.  We would like the Network to be responsive to practitioners’ interests and needs and, therefore, encourage members to Contact Us with ideas on topics, resources, trainings or how to improve the Network.  To join the network and access all areas of the website, practitioners must submit the online application form.