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A group of children walking away from the camera

A team led by Professor Carlene Firmin from our Department of Sociology, has created a new toolkit aimed at improving child protection.

The toolkit, which includes over 180 resources, gives guidance on how to implement a so-called contextual safeguarding approach to the risks young people face beyond their families.

Why the toolkit was created

The toolkit was developed by Professor Firmin and other researchers at the University, alongside a research team at the Safer Younger Lives Centre at the University of Bedfordshire. The team conducted research which showed that the child protection system needed to understand and respond to the context where young people are unsafe, and not solely focus on the behaviour of children and young people themselves.

The research behind the toolkit, showed that where children who are abused by peers or adults unconnected to their families, often the work to protect them focuses on changing their behaviour and that of their parents, rather than changing the contexts where that child is unsafe.

In worst cases, young people can be left unprotected altogether, or only responded to by criminal justice agencies who saw them as a risk to others rather than at risk of harm.

Toolkit scaleup

The Contextual Safeguarding toolkit was initially piloted with Hackney Council before being rolled out in nine additional areas. The research team embedded themselves into children’s services teams in the test sites to identify how they were changing their systems.

The toolkit was then used to trial different approaches, for example the introduction of a new child protection pathway and category for a child protection plan, called Risk Outside of the Home. Meetings held in this pathway involved young people and parents as partners in developing plans to keep young people safe. This pathway resulted in a better partnership between parents/guardians and social workers.

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