The Adolescent Safety Framework (ASF) is a pioneering approach to managing contextual risk which will support children, young people, families and professionals from across the partnerships. These risks are often found outside of the family environment and place young people at risk or compromise their safety. This includes risks caused by peer groups, exploitation, locations and persons of concern outside the family.
The Adolescent Safety Framework and coronavirus (COVID-19)
The safety and protection of Devon’s young people at risk of harm outside of the home remains a critical necessity during this coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As professionals we need to be alert to the impact of social distancing and periods of isolation. It is likely to change the patterns and characteristics of exploitation activity. There is the potential to create a greater risk of exploitation, with increasing activity online presenting a particular danger, and reduced direct contact from key professionals and organisations making young people less visible. The activity may become more covert and harder to identify and intervene with directly.
Adolescents may struggle to balance the risks associated with coronavirus (COVID-19) with the pull to be with their friends and peers over the coming weeks. This may lead to increased conflict and tensions within family homes and lead to increasing pressures on families to manage the care of young people.
We have produced safeguarding guidance to support colleagues in responding to contextual risk during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as well as information about how we are protecting children from harm during these unprecedented times.
Together we can continue to support those who are at greatest risk of exploitation.
The model is bespoke to Devon and has been adapted and is flexible to meet the needs of the organisation and locality. It is based on the national Safer Me model, the work of Hackney Children’s Services and research from the Contextual Safeguarding Network, but the Framework remains unique to the county.
It is a strengths-based model, harnessing the already trusted relationships that practitioners have with the young person and enables us all to follow a process and pathway to mitigate the risks for all concerned.
The Adolescent Safety Framework (ASF) has received positive endorsement from multi-agency partnership groups, Research in Practice (RiP) and the Contextual Safeguarding Network. It has the full approval from the Devon Children and Families Partnership (DCFP) Executive, Safer Devon Partnership and Community Safety Partnerships. A range of agencies and partners have endorsed the model including Devon County Council Children’s Services, Devon and Cornwall Police, Early Help, Education, Health, Voluntary Agencies and the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH).
Key changes to practice will include:
- A single and holistic approach to assessment of individual children, peer groups, neighbourhoods, locations or persons of concern that guides the assessor to the correct pathway/action through the identification of vulnerabilities, behaviours, environment, relevant concerns and indicators as well as protective factors.
- The meeting formats use existing statutory thresholds to ensure safe planning at an individual level but provide an alternative approach within TAF and CIN meetings, and CP conferences.
- This model of working at the individual level through Safer Me (TAF / CIN) and Safer Me Plus (CP meetings). It is designed to give a focus around the risks OUTSIDE of the family and maximise the participation of the young person to understand how the situation can be made safer with all agencies working together
- A single coordination hub through the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), which will ensure timely individual safeguarding, threshold stability, analysis and support for professionals and ensures connectivity between key forums (including the MACE).
- A model of working at a wider level to improve the safety of the contextual circumstances around the child(ren). This is achieved through the Peer Group, Neighbourhood (Location) and School Context Conferences, which will be facilitated by independent Safeguarding Chairs, Community Safety Partnership Chairs, and Headteachers or Designated Safeguarding Leads respectively.
What is Contextual Safeguarding and exploitation?
Contextual Safeguarding is an approach to understanding, and responding to, young people’s experiences of significant harm beyond their families, within their communities. It expands the objectives of child protection systems in recognition that young people are vulnerable to abuse in a range of different social contexts.
Contextual Safeguarding is relevant to a range of risks which can possibly cause significant harm to young people where the primary cause of harm is outside of the family. This list is not exhaustive but includes:
- Child Sexual Exploitation – including peer-on-peer exploitation
- Child Criminal Exploitation – including County Lines
- Risks associated with gangs
- Modern Slavery and Trafficking
- Missing young people
- Radicalisation (PREVENT)
For more information contact the Contextual Safeguarding Network: https://contextualsafeguarding.org,uk/
What do I do if I have concerns about an individual young person where the risks are external to the home?
Individual assessment, planning and intervention will still take place for individual children, but alongside responding to the needs within the family or home, there will be more focus on risks and influence for that young person outside of their family. The Safer Me Assessment will be a key document in terms of understanding the broader picture of contextual risk. Where the risks to the young person are predominantly external the home and parents/carers are doing everything they can to protect their child, a safer me approach to meetings and planning will be taken.
Safer Me TAF reflects an Early help approach to responding to need where the harm is identified as outside the family home.
Safer Me Child In Need reflects a Child in Need Approach to responding to need where the harm is identified as outside the family home.
Safer Me Child in Care Meetings are a response where the harm is identified as outside the family home.
Safer Me Plus reflects a Child Protection Conference approach to responding to significant harm where the harm is identified as outside the family home.
The processes and procedures that underpin these different levels of response will largely remain the same as existing frameworks. The difference will be the focus of the discussion. Assessment, planning and intervention will shift to the issues external to the home. That is not to say difficulties within the family should not be considered as there will be an interplay between the two that needs to be understood. The participation of parents/carers is key and there will be a focus on creative ways of trying to engage the young person so they remain central to decision-making and planning around their safety.
What do I do if I have concerns about a location or peer group and the risks are external to the home?
If your concern is about a location or peer group, you would refer this context into MASH using the Safer Me Assessment. This will then be triaged by the Exploitation Hub and a decision will be made as to whether it needs to proceed to a context conference.
In relation to Persons of concern, unless there is a clear need for a strategy meeting or complex strategy meeting, Persons of concern and disruption regarding these individuals will continue to be discussed in the MACE where necessary.
The Adolescent Safety Framework (Safer Me) includes:
This provides guidance for the correct identification of risks and proactive factors to create a whole picture of the factors involved.
This tool provides a guide as to the most appropriate response to the needs of a child, family or context.
The Safer Me Assessment is a multi-disciplinary assessment that identifies and analyses the risk of exploitation, extra-familial and contextual harm to a young person. The harm is considered and assessed within a variety of different contexts to include individual, peer, school and neighbourhood.
The pack includes guidance and resources for individual planning and intervention. These meetings are held following a Safer Me Assessment where concerns have highlighted extra-familiar threats and/or exploitation. Safer Me or Safer Me Plus meetings provide a model of planning with young people to improve their safety, within the established Early Help, Child In Need (CIN) and Child Protection processes. The meetings should ensure that areas of risk and need are addressed in a strengths based and evidence-informed manner, anchored in an understanding of adolescent development, risk taking and safeguarding.
Safer Me meetings are facilitated by either a lead professional (Early help) or Social Worker (CIN) or the young person’s nominated Trusted Adult. They provide an alternative to either Team Around the Family (TAF) or CIN meetings where risks from outside the family home are the PRIMARY risk. Safer Me meetings can also be held to consider contextual and external risks for individual Children in Care (CIC). These meetings would be held in addition to CIC Statutory Reviews and would be facilitated by a suitable professional identified within Children’s Social Care.
Safer Me Plus meetings are facilitated by an Independent Child Protection Chair and provide an alternative to a Child Protection conference where risks from outside the family home are the PRIMARY risk. These meetings will be triggered by the statutory route of strategy discussion, s47 enquiry and screening discussions.
A context Assessment and conference is a multi-agency assessment and meeting that aims to explore the broader situation or environment in which harm is present. It does not assess, plan or intervene for individual young people but instead seeks to assess and intervene with the context itself in order to reduce its influence or role in the harm presented to young people. The Pack includes guidance and resources to undertake Context Assessment and facilitate Context Conferences, which may include Peer Group Conferences, School Conference or a Neighbourhood conference. More specific guidance for the three different context approaches are outlined below:
The Pack includes guidance and resources to undertake a School context Assessment and Meeting. These meetings are facilitated by a school, following a school context assessment, when it is deemed that this context is one in which young people are at risk of harm.2.
The Pack includes guidance and resources to undertake a Peer Context Assessment and Meeting. It is facilitated by Children’s Social Care and held when it is deemed that there are concerns for a group of young people who are at risk of contextual harm
The Pack includes guidance and resources to undertake a Community Context Assessment and Neigbourhood Meeting. This is facilitated by Community Safety Partnerships, when it is deemed that this wider community context is one in which young people are at risk of harm.
Information for parents and young people
Information for young people and their families in relation to Safer Me and Safer Me Plus meetings. The attendance and/or participation of the young person and their family at Safer Me meetings is paramount to this strength-based approach and all meeting structures should reflect this.