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Risk outside the home (ROTH) - adopting a contextual safeguarding approach

What is risk outside the home (ROTH)?

Risk outside the home (ROTH) refers to the contextual safeguarding approach (see section below) adopted in Swindon to understand and respond to, young people’s* experiences of significant harm experienced beyond their families. 

*Whilst reference is made to young people it should be remembered that these are still children. A child is defined as anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday and the statutory duty to safeguard and promote their welfare applies.

It recognises that the different relationships that young people* form in their neighbourhoods, schools and online can feature violence and abuse. Parents and carers have little influence over this, and young people’s* experiences of extra-familial abuse can undermine parent-child relationships.

These extra-familial threats might arise at school and other educational establishments, from within peer groups, or more widely from within the wider community and/or online.  These threats can take a variety of different forms and children can be vulnerable to multiple threats, including:

  • exploitation by criminal gangs and organised crime groups such as county lines or local lines
  • trafficking
  • online abuse
  • teenage relationship and peer-on-peer abuse
  • sexual exploitation
  • influences of extremism leading to radicalisation

Therefore, children’s social care practitioners, child protection systems and wider safeguarding partnerships need to engage with individuals and sectors who do have influence over/within extra-familial contexts, and recognise that assessment of, and intervention with, these spaces are a critical part of safeguarding practices. 

Further information about assessment of risk outside the home is detailed in Chapter 1 Sections 40 - 44 Working Together to Safeguard Children (2018) (updated December 2020).

Source: Contextual Safeguarding Network website (2020)

Other terminology may be used such as extra-familial harm or contextual safeguarding.

What is contextual safeguarding?

Contextual Safeguarding is an approach to understanding and responding to the risks faced by children and young people* beyond their families. Developed by Dr Carlene Firmin at the University of Bedfordshire, the approach looks at how processes and environments can be made safer to protect children and young people* from coming to harm.

As children move from early childhood into adolescence, they spend increasing amounts of time independent of their families. Parents and carers have little influence during this time. The nature of young people’s* schools and neighbourhoods, and the relationships that they form in these places, inform the extent to which they encounter protection or abuse.

Source: Contextual Safeguarding Network website (2020)

Contextual safeguarding illustration

How can I find out more information about contextual safeguarding?

There are some useful resources available below, providing further information.

Two short video clips explain the principles of contextual safeguarding:

There is a contextual safeguarding briefing where you can find out more.

You could also consider joining the contextual safeguarding network to access the latest information and updates.

SSP resources: 

Why do we need a different response to risk outside the home?

The child protection system was designed to protect children and young people* from risks posed by their families and/or situations where families had reduced capacity to safeguard those in their care. In traditional systems we address this by intervening with families to increase their capacity to safeguard young people* from harm and/or relocating young people* away from harmful contexts.

Contextual Safeguarding supports the development of approaches, which disrupt/change harmful extra-familial contexts rather than move families/young people* away from them. 

While parents/carers are not in a position to change the nature of extra-familial contexts those who manage or deliver services in these spaces are; and they therefore become critical partners in the safeguarding agenda. This extends the concept of ‘capacity to safeguard’ beyond families to those individuals and sectors who manage extra-familial settings in which young people* encounter risk.

Consider for example if a child is exploited at school, on a bus or in their local shopping centre – who can contribute to creating safety in these contexts? This approach requires working with non-traditional safeguarding partners such as shopkeepers.

How is Swindon responding to risk outside the home using contextual safeguarding as an approach?

Swindon is a part of the Contextual Safeguarding Local Area Interest Network (LAIN) with the University of Bedfordshire. 

Swindon were also successful in a bid to the Tackling Child Exploitation (TCE) Support Programme. This is a joint initiative with the Research in Practice (RIP), University of Befordshire and The Children’s Society.  This is a Bespoke Support Project and the goal was to explore decision-making around risk outside of the family home (extra-familial harm) with a view to addressing “siloed” approaches and enabling creativity and ambitious planning. This has supported us to rethink how we can all work together to safeguard young people* and reduce the risks they face.

Strategic managers and frontline practitioners have been working with the TCE Support Programme to develop a partnership response to Risk Outside The Home in Swindon. This used the Joining the Dots framework which is based on learning from both programme delivery and the development and synthesis of evidence-informed resources. Its focus is on the ‘how’ of tackling child exploitation and extra-familial harm, rather than the ‘what’ needs doing. Below is a graphic of the Joining the Dots Framework. There are three interconnected, themes which are intended to promote cross-cutting partnership approaches capable of responding to the breadth and depth of the system challenges inherent to child exploitation and extra-familial harm. Further information about this programme can be found on the TCE website.

There is also a short video:

Contextual safeguarding - Joining the dots illustration

In Swindon, we already have examples of good practice when responding to risks outside of the home, such as multi-agency mapping meetings, Multi-Agency Risk Panel (MARP) for those assessed as high risk.

Further developments are being implemented which include the introduction of an integrated adolescent service, Risk Outside the Home (ROTH) Child Protection Process, ROTH Child Protection Conference, Community Conferences.

How will the ROTH process work in Swindon? Will there be changes to the child protection processes?

Making a referral

The ROTH process will involve all of the usual elements of a child protection process and the referral process will remain the same.

Referrals to MASH and Early Help Hub will be the same and documented on the RF1.  See Referral guidelines and MASH contact information - Swindon Safeguarding Partnership

Where the risks relate to risk of criminal/sexual exploitation, there should be consideration for using the Child Exploitation Initial Screening tool to assist with decision-making and to evidence/support your referral. Please include as much detail as possible to ensure an appropriate and timely response.

You can access this tool below:

Where risk outside of the home is assessed as being the primary risk the process detailed in the following flow chart will be followed.

Will child protection conferences still be held if the risk is outside the home (ROTH)?

For those young people* where the assessed risk is clearly outside of the home, there will be some changes to the current Child Protection Conference process and this is detailed below.

These changes will initially be subject of a pilot and further information will be provided in due course. If you/your agency is invited to attend one of these meetings there will be support available. If there are any additional queries, please contact the SQA team email  

What will the ROTH meeting look like?

  • These will be young people* focused; their participation is the primary outcome
  • The priority is how we, as a multi-agency group can/will work with the young person* and their family to effect change
  • The inclusion of the community network will be a priority and this may involve contributions from non-traditional safeguarding partners, such as shopkeepers or library staff. They may have a reach into places and spaces, where young people* are most at risk of harm and we need to use their expertise to keep young people* safe from harm.
  • These meetings will be held in the community – we will go to the young person* and their family, instead of expecting them to come to us
  • The young person will not be made subject to a Child Protection plan; they will remain subject to a CIN plan
  • There will be 2 levels of risk – high and lower:
    • Lower will be chaired by the SW team manager
    • High will be chaired by CP conference chairs
  • The meeting will be held within 20 working days of a strategy discussion
  • The ‘standard’ professional invitees will be much more community based
  • This will be a strength based model, but will include push/pull factors for the young person*
  • As an agency and as a group, you will be asked to think outside the box and to be solution focused as to how together, we can make a difference for the young person

If at any time in the process risks are identified in the home or for example, there are found to be parenting/adult vulnerabilities impacting on the child the ROTH process can cease, the usual Child Protection procedures can then be implemented.

Documents related to the ROTH meeting

Feedback forms

Child/young person 

You can complete as a Word document or online via MS forms


You can complete as a Word document or online via MS forms


You can complete as a Word document or online via MS forms

Currently in development - Community conversations

The Family Group Conference Team is leading this piece of work. It is proposed that community conferences could be convened around a group of children or incident within the community. Therefore, the focus would not be on an individual child.

Update on Community conversations and helping communities find solutions: To assist in developing this initiative there will be a number of events being held in March 2022. These will provide an opportunity for communities to come together to discuss solutions and outline a community plan to  keep their community safe and protect the next generation of young people. These events are planned as follows:

  • Abbey Park School, Monday, 21 March 2022 at 6.00pm - spaces available for parents/carers of year 9, 10 and 11 pupils. 
  • Everleigh Centre, Penhill, Tuesday 22 March 2022 at 10.00am - Penhill Street representatives/community volunteers.
  • Commonweal School, Tuesday, 29 March at 6.00pm - spaces available for parents/carers of year 9, 10 and 11 pupils.

If you are interested in attending, please email Tiffany Fisher at or on 07976 906668.

Additional resources

A resource booklet has been created by the Youth Advisory Panel of the Safer Young Lives Research Centre (SYLRC) for children and young people on contextual safeguarding and dangers outside the home. The resource is also designed for professionals that work with children and young people to use as a tool to facilitate discussion about safeguarding in an age-appropriate way.

You can download the booklet below: