What is Contextual Safeguarding?
Contextual Safeguarding is an approach to understanding and responding to young people’s experiences of harm beyond their families. It recognises that the different relationships young people form in their neighbourhoods, schools and online can feature violence and abuse. Parents and carers typically have little influence over these contexts and young people’s experiences of extra familial abuse can undermine parent-child relationships. As individuals move from early childhood and into adolescence they spend greater amounts of time socialising independently of their families. During this time, peer relationships are increasingly influential; setting social norms and informing young people’s experiences, behaviours, choices and peer status. These relationships are shaped by, and shape, the school, neighbourhood and online contexts in which they develop.
The current child protection system and legislative/policy framework which underpins contextual safeguarding was designed to protect children and young people from risks posed by their families or situations where families have reduced capacity to safeguard those in their care. Contextual Safeguarding supports the development of approaches which disrupt/change harmful extra familial contexts rather than move families/young people away from them. The approach extends the concept of ‘capacity to safeguard’ beyond families to those individuals and sectors who manage extra familial settings in which young people may encounter risk.
The Role of Professionals
Those working with young people need to engage with individuals and sectors who do have influence over/within these extra familial contexts and recognise that intervention with these spaces are a critical part of safeguarding.
The interplay between extra-familial contexts and relationships is crucial. If young people socialise in safe and protective schools and community settings they will be supported to form safe and protective peer relationships. Conversely, if they form friendships in contexts characterised by violence and/or harmful attitudes relationships may become anti-social, unsafe or promote problematic social norms.
Contextual Safeguarding Resources:
West Sussex Contextual Safeguarding Resource Pack – Please ensure you use presentation or slide show mode so you are able to access the links in this pack.