Contextual Safeguarding

The phrase “Contextual Safeguarding” has arisen because of the recognition that as young people grow and develop, they are influenced in different settings and different other people outside of their family.

So for example their schools or college, their friendship groups, their peers, their community, and their online community. Any environment can be risky but sometimes the different contexts are inter-related and can mean that children and young people may encounter a number of risks. In contextual safeguarding we look at how we can best understand these risks, to help keep them safe. As child becomes more independent we need to think about their different contexts in today’s ever changing social environments both on an offline

Contextual Safeguarding is an approach to understanding, and responding to, young people’s experiences of significant harm beyond their families. Traditional approaches to protecting children/young people from harm have focussed on the risk of violence and abuse from inside the home, usually from a parent/carer or other trusted adult and don’t always address the time that children/young people spend outside the home and the influence of peers on young people’s development and safety.

Contextual safeguarding recognises the impact of the public/social context on young people’s lives, and consequently their safety. Contextual safeguarding seeks to identify and respond to harm and abuse posed to young people outside their home, either from adults or other young people. It’s an approach that looks at how interventions can change the processes and environments, to make them safer for all young people, as opposed to focussing on an individual.

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Your community

You will be really aware and alert to the influences in your community. You may be in an area where there is a level of gang violence or knife crime, perhaps you work in a deprived area or there is an increased risk of child sexual exploitation. Young people, in particular those who are vulnerable may be influenced by factors in the community.

A young person’s online life should be considered too. Influenced by their peers using social media to track or groom young people, the methods used by grooming gangs can start off very subtle. A young person may not have the discernment that they are being drawn in to something that is risky. On the other hand a young person may be very switched on and understand what is happening to them but too afraid to say anything to anyone.

Every situation and context is different but whatever the issues and problems, contextual safeguarding can help provide you with an approach to help keep children and young people safe. By understanding your context and working with other agencies, together, with others you play your part in safeguarding children and young people.

Building Trust

It’s really important that the culture of church is open and transparent and provides a safe place to be for children and young people to be able to express themselves. This way you will help build trust. So, for leaders, it’s important to listen and to be alert to what your young people are saying, it will help with understanding the risks that young people are potentially exposed to in their different contexts

Contextual Safeguarding – Areas of Risk

Contextual Safeguarding is applicable to a wide range of risks which can potentially cause significant harm to children and young people where the prime cause of harm is outside of the family. This list isn’t exhaustive but includes:

  • peer on peer and relationship abuse both online and offline
  • criminal/ sexual exploitation/ online abuse
  • missing episodes
  • risks associated with gangs
  • risks associated with radicalisation
  • safeguarding risks in public spaces
  • trafficking and modern slavery

For more information about contextual safeguarding please click here

Posted in: Training

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