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How do we respond to harm faced by young people beyond their front doors? Can practitioners keep young people safe at school, in their neighbourhoods or with their friends when social care systems are designed to work with families?

The Contextual Safeguarding approach has transformed how policy makers, social care leaders, practitioners and researchers understand harm that happens to young people in their communities and what is required to respond. Since 2015 it has been tested across the UK and internationally. This book shares stories from child sexual exploitation, child criminal exploitation and peer violence about what has been learnt on this journey.

For anyone interested in how we safeguard young people beyond their front doors, this book shows how much we have achieved and raises big questions about what more we need to do to ensure young people are safe – whatever the context.

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In this introductory chapter, we chart stages through which Contextual Safeguarding (CS) has been implemented since 2015. In doing so, we outline the four domains of the CS framework and indicate how the chapters in this edited collection deepen how each is understood. Reflecting on where we began, where we have got to and where we are going, this chapter explains why there is far more to understand about the implications of CS, and how the values underpinning the approach may assist on that learning journey. Viewing the domains of CS through the lens of its values brings us closer to an ethical adoption of the approach and illustrates the paradigm shift required in research, policy and practice for full system implementation to be realised.

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How do you measure if a context is safer? What does it mean to change the social conditions of abuse? And how would you measure such changes? Children’s social care services are under increasing pressure to be able to demonstrate and evidence the outcomes of their work. Practitioners developing Contextual Safeguarding (CS) approaches are not immune from these pressures. This chapter outlines what a CS outcomes framework would be required to do – in theory – and discusses the challenges and realities of doing so – in practice. Drawing on experiences of developing a CS outcomes framework in one local authority, the authors reflect on the current challenges and steps needed to create an outcomes framework.

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The four domains of Contextual Safeguarding (CS) have provided the framework for what we are doing to respond to extra-familial harm (EFH). The evidence in this book indicates that they may not always provide enough of a framework to protect against problematic practice within child protection. In response, the five values of CS provide guidance on how we can do CS. Drawing on bell hooks’s (2001) love ethic, this chapter explores the five values of CS: collaboration, ecological, rights-based, strengths-based and evidence-informed, arguing that CS aims to create societies where children can know love. Drawing on findings from each chapter, it explores the need for love to be shown towards children impacted by EFH and practitioners working to protect them.

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Since its introduction in 2015, the concept of Contextual Safeguarding (CS) has been used to better understand, and respond, to extra-familial contexts and relationships where young people come to harm. Rapid take-up of the idea among children’s services and policy makers might suggest that CS is well understood. Yet, much of what has been learnt about the approach is yet to be published, and those involved in studying and testing the concept still have many questions about its ethical implementation. This edited collection charts the latest thinking on CS by researchers involved in developing the work – in the UK and internationally. Many draw upon insights from young people, families and practitioners who have participated in local pilots to reflect upon whether efforts at implementation have aligned with the CS framework and reflect the values which underpin it. In the process, their contributions evidence the challenges and opportunities that come with trying to build protective social conditions using systems designed to fix families and young people instead of the conditions in which they live. For anyone interested in improving how we safeguard young people beyond their front doors, this book illustrates how much we have achieved and what more we need to do to ensure young people are safe – whatever the context.

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Since its introduction in 2015, the concept of Contextual Safeguarding (CS) has been used to better understand, and respond, to extra-familial contexts and relationships where young people come to harm. Rapid take-up of the idea among children’s services and policy makers might suggest that CS is well understood. Yet, much of what has been learnt about the approach is yet to be published, and those involved in studying and testing the concept still have many questions about its ethical implementation. This edited collection charts the latest thinking on CS by researchers involved in developing the work – in the UK and internationally. Many draw upon insights from young people, families and practitioners who have participated in local pilots to reflect upon whether efforts at implementation have aligned with the CS framework and reflect the values which underpin it. In the process, their contributions evidence the challenges and opportunities that come with trying to build protective social conditions using systems designed to fix families and young people instead of the conditions in which they live. For anyone interested in improving how we safeguard young people beyond their front doors, this book illustrates how much we have achieved and what more we need to do to ensure young people are safe – whatever the context.

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Since its introduction in 2015, the concept of Contextual Safeguarding (CS) has been used to better understand, and respond, to extra-familial contexts and relationships where young people come to harm. Rapid take-up of the idea among children’s services and policy makers might suggest that CS is well understood. Yet, much of what has been learnt about the approach is yet to be published, and those involved in studying and testing the concept still have many questions about its ethical implementation. This edited collection charts the latest thinking on CS by researchers involved in developing the work – in the UK and internationally. Many draw upon insights from young people, families and practitioners who have participated in local pilots to reflect upon whether efforts at implementation have aligned with the CS framework and reflect the values which underpin it. In the process, their contributions evidence the challenges and opportunities that come with trying to build protective social conditions using systems designed to fix families and young people instead of the conditions in which they live. For anyone interested in improving how we safeguard young people beyond their front doors, this book illustrates how much we have achieved and what more we need to do to ensure young people are safe – whatever the context.

Restricted access

Since its introduction in 2015, the concept of Contextual Safeguarding (CS) has been used to better understand, and respond, to extra-familial contexts and relationships where young people come to harm. Rapid take-up of the idea among children’s services and policy makers might suggest that CS is well understood. Yet, much of what has been learnt about the approach is yet to be published, and those involved in studying and testing the concept still have many questions about its ethical implementation. This edited collection charts the latest thinking on CS by researchers involved in developing the work – in the UK and internationally. Many draw upon insights from young people, families and practitioners who have participated in local pilots to reflect upon whether efforts at implementation have aligned with the CS framework and reflect the values which underpin it. In the process, their contributions evidence the challenges and opportunities that come with trying to build protective social conditions using systems designed to fix families and young people instead of the conditions in which they live. For anyone interested in improving how we safeguard young people beyond their front doors, this book illustrates how much we have achieved and what more we need to do to ensure young people are safe – whatever the context.

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A body of social work literature evidences the relationship between the wider contexts of young people’s lives, such as poverty, austerity, racism and so on, their experiences of harm and the child protection response to it. This literature casts a light on significant inequalities in outcomes for young people and stratified disparities in child protection intervention dependent on class, race, gender, sexuality, disability and faith. However, it is also established that the child protection system is increasingly detached from these wider contexts.

Contextual Safeguarding (CS) has been developed as a framework for responding to ‘contextual’ harm, recognising that adolescents’ experiences of harm are often located in their peer groups, schools and neighbourhoods. The framework to date has supported local authorities, and their multi-agency partners, to understand and respond to harm in these spaces. Through this work, it is evident that inequalities shape young people’s experiences of extra-familial harm (EFH), their access to protective structures and systems and the extent to which they are identified as victims, or not, or diverted to youth justice spaces.

Could CS, then, offer a framework for understanding and responding to context beyond, say, context as parks and peer groups to context as poverty or patriarchy – dynamics that structure these spaces? Could the CS framework also help us think about the role of multi-agency safeguarding work in reproducing inequalities in young people’s lives?

Drawing on data from the CS research programme, this chapter expands our understanding of context to propose a holistic and structural approach to harm in adolescence.

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In 2018, England’s safeguarding guidelines were amended to explicitly recognise a need for child protection responses to extra-familial harms. This article explores the feasibility of these amendments, using quantitative and qualitative analysis of case-file data, as well as reflective workshops, from five children’s social care services in England and Wales, in the context of wider policy and practice frameworks that guide the delivery of child protection systems and responses to harm beyond families. Green shoots of contextual social work practice were evident in the data set. However, variance within and across participating services raises questions about whether contextual social work responses to extra-familial harm are sustainable in child protection systems dominated by a focus on parental responsibility. Opportunities to use contextual responses to extra-familial harm as a gateway to reform individualised child protection practices more broadly are also discussed.

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