Bedfordshire awarded £850,000 grant to roll out safeguarding framework to protect children from abuse

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The University of Bedfordshire has been awarded over £850,000 of National Lottery funding to further develop a framework aimed at strengthening the safeguarding response to vulnerable children and young people.

The Contextual Safeguarding Framework was first developed by experts in the University’s International Centre: Researching child sexual exploitation, violence and trafficking, and was implemented in Hackney Borough Council in 2017.

This new approach will explore, understand and respond to young people’s experiences of significant harm, which often occurs outside their family environment. It will also look into the different relationships that young people develop in their neighbourhoods, schools and online - many of which often expose them to violence and abuse. Families generally have little influence over this.

The funding from the Big Lottery Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, will enable the University to expand these services in three additional areas. The International Centre is now looking for local authorities in England and Wales to apply to be one of three sites selected to implement the framework in different areas to see how it could work at a national level.

Principal Research Fellow Dr Carlene Firmin MBE said: “Since introducing Contextual Safeguarding into the child protection landscape in 2015, we have seen a steady increase in interest from local authorities who recognise it as a helpful framework to articulate the challenges in the child protection system that they have been aware of for many years.Carlene Firmin

“Being able to take what we have learnt in Hackney and test what this means in three further parts of England and Wales presents us with a real opportunity to identify the implications of Contextual Safeguarding for national policies, regulation, inspection and legislation. We look forward to identifying three areas willing to work with us and ensuring that the views of young people and parents get to shape the direction of this work as we move forward.”

Director of Children and Families at Hackney Borough Council Sarah Wright said: “Working with the University to find creative ways of embedding contextual safeguarding responses into our local processes and partnerships has been both stimulating and rewarding. Colleagues from the University have been very effective in engaging and working alongside practitioners in redesigning protocols and procedures and supporting them to put theory into practice.

“This has enabled us to develop some radically different ways of thinking about and working with families, communities and other agencies and organisations.  We believe that the changes that we are making will enable us to better understand and address the needs of young people in a way that is more attuned to their lived experiences and more supportive of their families.”

Joe Ferns, UK Funding Director at the Big Lottery Fund, said: “We’re proud that National Lottery funding is supporting children and parents’ involvement in designing this important protection. Understanding their real-life experiences will be key to strengthening the safeguarding response.”


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