Fieldwork begins on £1.9 million safeguarding project

Wed 19 May, 2021
Article Header Image

A young person safeguarding project involving the University of Bedfordshire has begun its second stage of research following the assignment of six case study sites based across the UK.

The Innovate Project logoLaunched in November 2019, the four-year Innovate Project received £1.9 million in funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to explore new ways of combating safeguarding risks beyond the family home and online – including sexual and criminal exploitation, peer-on-peer abuse and gang affiliation.

Following the initial innovation mapping research and a practise survey which was finalised at the end of 2020, counterparts from Research in Practice and the Innovation Unit and researchers from across the project’s partner universities – Bedfordshire, Oxford and Sussex – have now begun analysing the safeguarding frameworks currently supporting six selected UK organisations, to address extra-familial risks faced by young people in their communities.

Discussing the on-boarding of the case study sites, Professor Michelle Lefevre – the Innovate Project’s lead researcher from the University of Sussex – said: “We are delighted to have the involvement of these six sites, who are at the vanguard of developing new ways of supporting young people, families and communities.

“We are confident that the learning from this project will inform innovation practice, improve the design and delivery of services, and enhance intervention experiences and outcomes for vulnerable young people and their families.”

‘Contextual safeguarding’, ‘trauma-informed practice’ and ‘transitional safeguarding’ have been identified by the researchers as the most promising frameworks for supporting safeguarding efforts. The six case study sites which have adopted these practises are:

Over the next two years, the Innovate Project team will observe meetings and practices (both virtually, during the pandemic, and in person), interview young people, parents and professionals, and examine organisational processes, systems, costs and outcomes. The focus will not just be on whether and how the three framework approaches lead to beneficial and effective services in the communities served by the six case study sites but on what factors stimulate innovation in social care and enable it to flourish.

Dr Carlene Firmin

Co-investigator, Dr Carlene Firmin MBE – Principal Research Fellow with Bedfordshire’s Safer Young Lives Research Centre (SYLRC) and Lead of the Contextual Safeguarding Network – said: “The Innovate Project creates a unique opportunity for us to understand how, and why, social care organisations have adopted a Contextual Safeguarding approach. In many respects the pace of uptake around the UK has been so rapid we haven’t been able fully comprehend what may be facilitating, or impeding, progress. Having research partners in both voluntary and statutory organisations maximises this opportunity – and we are grateful to both Safer London and Devon Children and Families services for going on this learning journey with us.”

Dr Helen Beckett, Director of SYLRC at the University of Bedfordshire, added: “We are delighted to be involved in this exciting project and to have the opportunity to work with our research partners and case study sites to explore how Contextual Safeguarding, trauma-informed practice and transitional safeguarding can contribute to better outcomes for young people.”

The project will also work with a wider Learning and Development Network of organisations in the UK and overseas so that emergent findings can help inspire and guide further innovation.

The final year of the Innovate Project in 2023 will focus on working with key stakeholders to develop findings into policy recommendations, practice guidance and resources to inform innovation practice, improve the design and delivery of social care, and enhance service experiences and outcomes for vulnerable young people and their families.

Further information about the project can be found online:


University switchboard
During office hours
(Monday-Friday 08:30-17:00)
+44 (0)1234 400 400

Outside office hours
(Campus Watch)
+44 (0)1582 74 39 89



International office

Student support


Our Tweets: @uniofbedsnews