The Board received a video presentation from the Operational Director Children’s Services, which provided an overview of contextual safeguarding and what it meant for Halton. It was noted that this information was requested following the Joint Targeted Area Inspection (JTAI) of Multi-Agency Response to Child Exploitation in Halton Report, which was on the September agenda and where contextual safeguarding was referred to.
Members were advised that contextual safeguarding was an approach to safeguarding that responded to peoples experiences of harm outside of the home. It expanded the remit of traditional child and family child protection models to social settings such as peer groups, schools and neighbourhoods; also known as contexts. Over the years a number of people had developed other ways of working to reduce crime and create safety in public and social settings, such as safer by design; situational crime prevention; or community safety. These were all important and contextual safeguarding built on these to ask how our child protection systems, as well as criminal justice and community safety, could address the harm that young people faced beyond their families.
It was commented that contextual safeguarding was not just about working in contexts, it was about how the child protection system recognised and addressed the risks that young people faced beyond the control of their parents and that happened beyond the front door.
The Board was advised that there were four component parts to contextual safeguarding: Target; Legislative Framework; Partnerships and Outcomes Measurements; these were explained in detail in the video presentation. It was explained that in order for something to be considered contextual safeguarding, a local authority or child protection service would need to have, or be working towards having these four parts in place.
An example of all four component parts happening at once was provided to Members as follows:
Take a park where sexual assaults were known to have taken place, the target of the assessment and intervention would be the park itself. A social worker would co-ordinate an assessment and plan involving practitioners who would reach into the park to consider ways of making the park safer, through interventions such as increased lighting, youth work or cutting back bushes. This might mean the social worker has to work with new partners such as the local youth club, the neighbourhood police officer, park wardens or the local newsagent, to conduct their assessment, build and deliver their plan. The outcomes or success would then be monitored contextually, such as monitoring reports of sexual assault or harassment in the park.
Officers advised that in response to contextual safeguarding Halton was adjusting its approach to safeguarding and now had many additional groups of people involved in the Operational Group. Members discussed the information provided and additional information was provided by Officers in response to Members queries around children who went missing, child sexual and criminal exploitation and the profiles of Runcorn and Widnes in relation to organised crime. It was acknowledged that the work around safeguarding was extremely challenging and that early identification and prevention was crucial.
In addition Board Members queried:
How Ward Councillors could help if they suspected a safeguarding issue?
iCART (the integrated contact and referral team) is the point of contact.
Was this a proactive or reactive approach?
Proactive, if someone suspected a child was in danger they can report this and raise the alarm. Preventative work was also taking place to raise awareness amongst children and young people, such as showing them videos of dangers. These messages could also be delivered in schools.
Will this result in more work for agencies and was it sustainable?
Yes it would but it has to be done. It was hoped that increased partnership working within the contextual safeguarding approach would help to identify and help more children at risk.
Was there liaison with schools and the Police when a child goes missing from school?
Yes, if a child is missing from school this is reported to the Police who would conduct case planning meetings about them. Where a child was excluded from school or placed on a reduced timetable, the Education Welfare Services would be advised by the school using a pro forma.
Members were advised of a workshop that would be taking place in January for the agencies and groups involved in safeguarding and an invitation to this was extended to them. The Chair requested a follow up report is received by the Board at a future meeting. He also requested that the contextual safeguarding information be disseminated to all school governors.
RESOLVED: That the presentation be received.