A new independent evaluation of the implementation of a contextual safeguarding system in a London borough has been published by Department for Education (DfE). The evaluation, led by the University of Sussex in partnership with Research in Practice, was part of the second wave of DfE Innovation Programme funding.
Contextual safeguarding theory provides a framework upon which to develop systems to address extra-familial risk and harm (EFRH) experienced by adolescents outside the family home, such as child sexual and criminal exploitation, peer-on-peer abuse, and gang affiliation. Developed by Dr Carlene Firmin and her colleagues at the University of Bedfordshire, the contextual safeguarding framework includes individual practitioners working with young people to help them find safer ways of being. It also redirects the focus of professional assessment and intervention towards friendship groups, communities, real world spaces and virtual environments.
As part of the Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme, the DfE commissioned a research team led by Professor Michelle Lefevre from University of Sussex, as well as researchers from Research in Practice, to evaluate this new approach to understanding and responding to young people’s experiences of significant harm beyond their home environment in the London Borough of Hackney.
The evaluation was conducted over two years and it has concluded that the implementation of the contextual safeguarding system in Hackney provides a workable framework and robust system to address EFRH. Key findings show that Hackney is also now better equipped than comparable local authorities to assess and respond directly to contexts in which EFRH occurs. There are also indicators to suggest it has the potential to exert a positive impact on practice, with staff feeling more confident in this aspect of their practice, and evidence of culture change.
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