What is Contextual Safeguarding?
Traditionally, child protection efforts have primarily focused on risks within the family unit, often overlooking the potential dangers that exist outside the home. However, a new and alternative approach called contextual safeguarding has emerged over the last ten years, highlighting the importance of considering the broader social and environmental factors that can impact young people's safety. In this article we describe what this approach means and some of its benefits in an educational setting.
Experiences and Influences
Contextual safeguarding is an innovative approach to child protection and welfare that expands the scope of traditional practices. It recognises that young people's experiences and vulnerabilities are not solely confined to the family, but also influenced by their wider, “extraDr-familial” context, including schools, where they live, peer groups, and online environments. By acknowledging the various contexts in which young people live and interact, contextual safeguarding aims to address the risks and harm they may face outside of the home.
The Development of Contextual Safeguarding
The concept of contextual safeguarding was developed by researcher Dr. Carlene Firmin over the course of her PhD research. Dr Firmin identified a key gap in traditional child protection strategies that failed to account for the risks posed by factors beyond the family. Her research and pioneering work led to the development of a framework that highlights the need for a holistic and context-driven approach to safeguarding young people. Contextual safeguarding is now well respected and understood in professional safeguarding circles, and is referenced in the UK Government’s statutory guidance, Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE), as well as the statutory framework, Working Together to Safeguard Children.
Benefits and Impacts
Contextual safeguarding offers several benefits and potential impacts, including:
• A more comprehensive understanding of the risks and vulnerabilities young people face.
Enhanced collaboration between agencies and sectors, leading to more effective interventions.
• Improved protection for young people from harm in schools, where they live, and online spaces such as the use of social media or school devices.
• Prevention of peer-on-peer abuse, exploitation, gang violence, and other forms of harm outside the home.
• Increased engagement of young people, as their voices and experiences are taken into account when designing safeguarding measures.
• Creating safer environments that promote the overall wellbeing and development of young people.