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Working with your designated safeguarding lead

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Designated safeguarding lead responsibilities

All voluntary organisations should make sure there is an appropriate person appointed to take lead responsibility for safeguarding. In this guide we use the common title for this role: designated safeguarding lead. In many organisations this will be a member of staff – either as a standalone role or an additional duty alongside other responsibilities. In some organisations this responsibility may be taken on by a volunteer. If this role falls on you as CEO, you should share this guide with your lead trustee for safeguarding. They need to support you in the same way that this guide advises you to support the designated safeguarding lead. 

Once you have a designated safeguarding lead, you need to decide if you want one or more deputies. Any deputies should receive training to the same standard, as they will carry out the lead role when the designated person is not available. 

You must make sure the designated safeguarding lead understands that their role is to act as the main source of support, advice and expertise for safeguarding in your organisation. 

Responsibilities include:

  • responding to all initial safeguarding concerns or disclosures
  • providing advice and support
  • managing safeguarding referrals
  • coordinating training
  • raising awareness amongst staff and volunteers.

 Some of the activities can be delegated to appropriately trained deputies but operational leadership belongs to the designated safeguarding lead.

Example
The CEO of Learn Plus, a charity providing education services for adults to help them access employment has just appointed Robin, a new designated safeguarding lead. They have become worried that the charity’s safeguarding records are not up to date due to the amount of concerns they’re dealing with.
Robin catches the CEO in the corridor and mentions the pressure. The CEO asks how they could help and Robin responds that they need more capacity so that the charity can meet its reporting and recording deadlines. The CEO reviews the situation and tells Robin at their next supervisory meeting that they’ll be appointing a deputy and asks Robin to arrange the right training. 

CEO responsibilities supporting the lead 

You should make sure you know the answers to several questions in order to make sure your designated safeguarding lead and their team can do their work.

  • Does your designated safeguarding lead have enough time to do their role?
  • Does the organisation need to appoint deputy designated safeguarding leads?
  • Are the requirements of the designated safeguarding lead role and any deputies explicit in job descriptions?
  • Is your organisation large enough to need multiple designated safeguarding leads in different areas?

 As CEO you must support the designated safeguarding lead directly by:

  • making sure they have enough time, funding and training resources for their role
  • making sure they have appropriate management, supervision and support 
  • working with them and their deputies regularly to provide feedback and guidance
  • being a link between the designated safeguarding lead and the board of trustees on safeguarding matters.

 You must also support them indirectly by:

  • making sure all staff and volunteers feel able to raise concerns about poor or unsafe practice 
  • making sure concerns are addressed sensitively and effectively in a timely manner following your organisation’s policies and procedures
  • participating in inter-agency meetings as required
  • acting upon receipt of any allegation against a staff member or volunteer
  • making sure your organisation’s Code of Conduct is followed by everyone.

Managing the relationship

Communication is at the heart of effective safeguarding practice. As CEO, you will need to agree how you will communicate with your designated safeguarding lead and any deputies.
You must have a process that allows for regular and frequent contact, proportionate to the level of risk in your organisation. You should aim to include different levels of formality.
Informal check-ins help you to:

  • demonstrate your commitment to the designated safeguarding lead and show you understand the pressure of the role 
  • gain a sense of the day-to-day issues of safeguarding in your organisation
  • get a sense of the emotional impact of safeguarding and how they are coping.

 They can take place in person or via phone or messenger conversation, but even though they’re informal communications, you should take care to not be overheard. You must also make sure digital communications are secure.

Management meetings help you to:

  • get a broad understanding of the safeguarding issues across the organisation by reviewing formal reports
  • consider implications for the organisation of any changes in legislation and statutory or non-statutory guidance
  • keep records of decisions and actions you take to manage safeguarding in the organisation.

 These meetings should follow an agenda which makes sure you cover prepared reports and updates that include internal cases and external information on best practice.

Supervision meetings use best practice from fields such as counselling. They help you to support the designated safeguarding lead to:

  • spend time reflecting on their thoughts, feelings and values and how their safeguarding workload has affected them
  • evaluate how cases have been handled and any changes they or you would make to actions with the benefit of hindsight, in a non-judgemental way
  • explore whether any individual or organisational biases are affecting safeguarding decisions.

 You should use open questions as a tool. Here are some examples.

  • What were the strengths and weaknesses of particular courses of action taken?
  • Are there any actions they would have done differently?
  • How pressurised does their work feel ?
  • How are they feeling in the context of the work they are doing?

Emotional impact of safeguarding

Being the central point for all safeguarding concerns can sometimes have an emotional impact on the  designated safeguarding lead. As CEO, you should look out for this. Signs of emotional impact are:

  • tiredness and being drained most of the time
  • feeling less interested in the role
  • increased absence from work
  • a pessimistic attitude towards the work
  • taking longer to get things done
  • change in demeanour and personality. 

 You can put the following practices in place in order to minimise the emotional impact from managing safeguarding concerns:

  • regular supervisions 
  • an open-door policy 
  • checking that they feel confident to do the role and provide training if needed
  • debriefing sessions after any incidents 
  • offering counselling services paid for by your organisation.

 You must also make sure that that the designated safeguarding lead has the full support of the board. 

Additional Support

  • If you need help supporting your Designated Safeguarding Lead or in challenging their approach you can turn to external organisations. Our Local and National Support page shows you how to find local support and lists some national helplines and advisors. 
  • If you want a more in depth approach to understanding the role of the Designated Safeguarding Lead you can read the DSL handbook.
  • Our dealing with safeguarding concerns page explains how to work with your Designated Safeguarding Lead when an incident happens.
Page last edited Sep 30, 2019

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