Peer-group mapping: Recent discussions with practitioners

This week Danielle Fritz writes about recent discussions with practitioners from the Contextual Safeguarding Network on the topic of peer-group mapping.  The Network is currently running a Learning Project on peer-group mapping and welcomes participation from all interested practitioners.

On 25 January 2017, fifty members of the Contextual Safeguarding Network met in the London Borough of Southwark for an interactive session on how practitioners assess and respond to group-based exploitation and abuse of young people.   In response to practitioners’ interest, the session included a discussion on peer-group mapping.  Peer-group mapping brings together knowledge from different agencies to chart the associations young people have to each other.

Peer group map firmin 2015.PNG

Example of a peer-group map. (Firmin, 2015)

Peer-group mapping allows practitioners to contextually consider the vulnerability of the individual young people on their caseload and understand the strengths, risks and vulnerabilities within young people’s peer networks. The practice may also enable practitioners to design complementary intervention plans for young people who offend alongside one another or who are routinely exposed to risk when together.  In the video below, Paul Bowen (Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub Manager for Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire) discusses how peer-group mapping helped identify locations associated with peer-on-peer abuse incidents, and identify young people vulnerable to future abuse.

Peer Group Mapping from Contextual Safeguarding on Vimeo.

At the Network event, we held a discussion with practitioners around the ethics, opportunities and challenges of peer-group mapping.  Here are some of the questions and thoughts that came out of our discussion:


  • Are we at risk of labelling young people by including them in peer-group maps?
  • What about including young people who have nothing to do with an incident or concern?
  • We need information-sharing agreements across partnerships in order to do this kind of work.
  • What level of evidence or certainty do you need to include a young person (and information about the young person) in the map?


  • Peer-group mapping can help us move away from individualised work that only focuses on the young person and his/her family.
  • Learning about what is going on within young people’s peer groups can help us put more effective interventions into place.
  • More opportunities for cross-agency working.
  • Practitioners may be able to identify young people who aren’t known to services yet; this may, for example, allow early intervention to prevent further grooming.
  • Peer-group mapping could provide the evidentiary basis needed for forming interventions with whole peer groups (rather than individualised interventions).


  • The problem of being ‘information rich, but time poor’; in other words practitioners often have access to a wealth of information, but may lack the time or necessary skills to compile the information into a peer-group map.
  • Coordinating information-sharing across boroughs and sectors.
  • How do we correctly identify young people associated to a peer network?
  • Some practitioners might be fearful of a new approach.

For more information on how practitioners have used peer-group maps, you may wish to read a blog post by Police Inspector Mark Pearson on the Margate Task Force.