Spotlight on contextual safeguarding

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Walthom Forest

July 2021: Spotlight on contextual safeguarding

What is contextual safeguarding?

Contextual Safeguarding is an approach to understanding, and responding to, young people’s experiences of significant harm beyond their families (extra-familial risks).

Watch this short film about contextual safeguarding.

Different types of extra-familial risks include:

  • Child criminal exploitation (CCE - includes county lines and debt bondage)
  • Child sexual exploitation (CSE)
  • Harmful sexual behaviour
  • Serious youth violence
  • Going missing from home or care

Some of the following signs and behaviour may be seen in children who are being criminally and / or sexually exploited, but there are many more: 

  • Missing from home or care
  • Recruiting others into exploitative situations
  • Repeat sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, and terminations
  • Involvement in offending

Read more about warning signs of CCE and CSE, and some good practice examples.

See the child, not the behaviour


It is crucial that we see children and adolescents as children first.

It may be tempting to view and treat some children as mini adults which can often be the case for Black children who are more likely to be perceived and treated as adults which could lead to them receiving less of, if any safeguarding response than to their white counterparts.

This is sometimes referred to as ‘adultification’. Remember ALL children and young people are always a child first.

Read about Child E, who was thought to be older.

Read about why Black girls and women's experience of child sexual abuse is often missed.

Reachable moments

project zero

These are the occasions when a child comes into contact with a service at a time when they are vulnerable. This is a reachable moment because it gives us an opportunity to make a connection with that child, offering a chance to actually reach them.

Why are reachable moments so important?

A professional who makes a connection during a reachable moment can potentially change the direction of travel for a child and make a difference to their whole life.

How to refer an at-risk young person?

moody teen

One of the mechanisms for safeguarding children from extra-familial risks in Waltham Forest is through the Exploitation Risk Panel - or ERP.

What is ERP? ERP is a forum that takes place every two weeks, where people from across different services can discuss children or vulnerable adults in Waltham Forest who are at risk. There is no age limit for who is discussed at ERP as it is recognised that vulnerabilities do not just stop when a child turns 18 years old.

Anyone can refer a child or young person via the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) where all contextual safeguarding concerns go to in the first instance - get in touch by:

Tel: 020 8496 2310 (Mon-Thurs 9am-5.15pm, Fri 9am-5pm, out of hours 020 8496 3000)


Find out more about ERP.

Information and support for at-risk young people

Project Zero

Below are some of the services in place to safeguard children, young people and vulnerable adults.

Abianda: a London-based social enterprise that works with young women affected by gangs and county lines, and the professionals who support them.

Ask Us: a community outreach volunteers engaging with young people, signposting to support and busting myths about gangs.

Spark2Life: a community-inspired initiative that empowers and advocates for offenders, and those at risk of offending. 

Change Grow Liveover 18 service for adults in prison and the community. 

Victim Support: an independent charity for people affected by crime and traumatic incidents in England and Wales.

Nia: Free, confidential specialist help for women and girls who have been raped or experienced any other form of sexual violence at any time in their lives.

Safeguarding information & resources

For tools and resources, please check out:

Read more about Child C, victim of criminal exploitation.

In other news....

Upcoming training in July - last few spaces available to book

Interested in becoming a Safeguarding Adolescent Lead? Email Zahra Jones to find out more


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