What is Contextual Safeguarding?

Contextual Safeguarding is an approach to understanding and responding to the risks faced by children and young people beyond their families. Developed by Dr Carlene Firmin at the University of Bedfordshire, the approach looks at how processes and environments can be made safer to protect children and young people from coming to harm.

As children move from early childhood into adolescence, they spend increasing amounts of time independent of their families. Parents and carers have little influence during this time. The nature of young people’s schools and neighbourhoods, and they relationships that they form in these places, inform the extent to which they encounter protection or abuse.


How can I find out more information?

Read this Contextual Safeguarding briefing to find out more information.

Watch two videos explaining the principles of Contextual Safeguarding here.

You can join the Contextual Safeguarding Network too, to access all the latest information and updates.


How is Wiltshire using Contextual Safeguarding as an approach?

Wiltshire is one of the five original local authority areas in the country that has been selected to work with the University of Bedfordshire and now Durham University as part of their Contextual Safeguarding project. The University will work closely with Wiltshire Council and its partners to improve the way we work by embedding a new Contextual Safeguarding approach across Wiltshire. The project will involve rethinking how we can all work together to safeguard young people and reduce the risks they face.

One of the ways in which Wiltshire is changing how it works is in exploring whether a different approach to the Child Protection process can help reduce risks and increase safety for children. The traditional Child Protection process has a strong emphasis on parents/carers being responsible for a child’s safety. However, in some cases this model does not fit. Parents/carers may be doing everything they can to safeguard their child, but the risks to the child come from elsewhere and are still so high that the child may be experiencing, or likely to suffer, significant harm.

Bearing this in mind, together with the University of Bedfordshire and with the support of the Department for Education, Wiltshire has developed the Risk Outside the Home (ROTH) Child Protection Process.

This is a pilot project beginning on Monday 19th July and lasting for six weeks. At the end of this time the process will be reviewed and recommendation made about going forwards.


How does the Risk Outside the Home process work in Child Protection?

The ROTH process will involve all the normal elements of a Child Protection conference and plan, but with an emphasis on the risks identified outside of the home, such as the risk of exploitation.

The plans developed by those working with the child at risk may involve contributions from non-traditional safeguarding partners, such as park wardens or shopkeepers. These people may have a reach into the places and spaces where young people are most at risk of harm, and so we need to make sure their expertise is used to help keep young people safe.

If your agency is invited to attend a ROTH Child Protection conference, there will be support if you have any queries about completing the new paperwork and templates required. You can find any paperwork or supporting documents here, on our Policies, Protocols and Guidance page, for example ROTH Local Guidance, ROTH Definition and templates for agency reports and plans. We have also created versions for young people and parents.

If you have any further questions you can email Lisa.Colombi@wiltshire.gov.uk.