Carlene Firmin & Susan Rayment-McHugh #ContextualSafeguarding

TWO ROADS, ONE DESTINATION: Community and Organizational Mechanisms for Contextualizing Child Abuse Prevention in Australia and the UK

Authors: Carlene Firmin & Susan Rayment-Mchugh 

International Journal on Child Maltreatment: Research, Policy and Practice (2020)


Calls for a contextual approach to abuse prevention highlight a need to better understand how contextual frameworks may be operationalized. Using a dual-case study design, this research compares two contrasting pilot projects underpinned by contextual theories of abuse prevention. One was implemented in a small remote Indigenous community in Australia and aimed to reduce the extent of youth-perpetrated sexual abuse. The other occurred in a densely populated urban area in London (UK) and involved the co-creation and testing of a contextual child protection response to peer-to-peer abuse. Despite their divergent approaches to developing contextual practice, a comparison of the two projects identified shared features of implementation. Both involved context-specific community buy-in and ownership of a response to peer-to-peer abuse; solutions that were co-created between professionals and communities; and the enhancement of community guardianship, pro-social use of space, and changes to the physical design of areas to increase safety. Consequentially, both projects demanded a radical transformation in the way health and social care professionals viewed the target of their interventions—the what—and the approach to achieving change—the how. Comparing these two case studies provides a unique opportunity to extend knowledge on the practical application of contextual theoretical approaches to abuse prevention.

Download: HERE

Contextual Safeguarding Keynote by Dr Carlene Firmin MBE at NYCC Children & Families Service Day

North Yorkshire County Council’s Children and Families Service had the pleasure of the company of Dr Carlene Firmin MBE. Dr Firmin spoke at a Children and Families Day around the work she leads at the University of Bedfordshire for Contextual Safeguarding. With kind permission we were able to video Carlene’s Keynote and hope you will find this of interest. Bio: Dr Carlene Firmin MBE is a Principal Research Fellow at the University of Bedfordshire, where she leads their Contextual Safeguarding and peer-on-peer abuse research programmes. Carlene has spent the past 10 years researching young people’s experiences of community and group-based violence and advocated for comprehensive approaches that keep young people safe in public places, schools and peer groups. Her theory of Contextual Safeguarding has informed policy and research agendas for advancing the protection of adolescents, and she has worked with practitioners across the UK to co-create contextual interventions and develop contextual safeguarding systems within children’s social care. Carlene has also conducted 20 case reviews for safeguarding children’s boards to identify opportunities for intervening with extra-familial forms of significant harm.

Keep updated

Look out for more updates from Dr Firmin next week – more briefings and a webinar. Thanks so much Carlene, Susan and the Contextual Safeguarding Network. You can join the network for free: HERE

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