A boy's hand thrust forward towards the camera

Contextual safeguarding

Contextual Safeguarding is an approach to understanding, and responding to, young people’s experiences of significant harm beyond their families. It recognises that the different relationships that young people form in their neighbourhoods, schools and online can feature violence and abuse.

Parents and carers have little influence over these contexts, and young people’s experiences of extra-familial abuse can undermine parent-child relationships. Therefore children’s social care practitioners need to engage with individuals and sectors who do have influence over/within extra-familial contexts, and recognise that assessment of, and intervention with, these spaces are a critical part of safeguarding practices.

Contextual Safeguarding therefore expands the objectives of child protection systems in recognition that young people are vulnerable to abuse in a range of social contexts.

As individuals move from early childhood and into adolescence they spend increasing amounts of time socialising independently of their families. During this time the nature of young people’s schools and neighbourhoods, and the relationships that they form in these settings, inform the extent to which they encounter protection or abuse.

Evidence shows that young people encounter significant harm in a range of settings beyond their families. For example: from robbery on public transport, sexual violence in parks, gang-related violence on streets, through to online bullying and harassment from school-based peers and abuse within their intimate relationships.