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Who can be designated safeguarding lead?

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The designated safeguarding lead should:

  • be someone with resources and capacity to act
  • not be the most senior person in the organisation
  • be one person with overall responsibility
  • be available when the organisation is active.

In some organisations the DSL will be a member of the senior management team, reporting directly to the chief executive. They must have the resources and capacity to act and to influence others.

In other organisations, the DSL might be an operational manager (staff or volunteer) reporting to a member of the senior management team.

Some organisations recruit a separate specialist to do this role. For example, this could be a larger organisation that deals with a lot of concerns, or one that works with children, young people or adults with complex needs.

The role may be performed by one person or the responsibilities can be shared by more than one person. In many organisations DSLs will also have other responsibilities to perform.

Larger organisations, those working across multiple sites or in different geographic locations may have a safeguarding team with different people playing a DSL role; perhaps with different levels of responsibilities. Where this is in place, procedures should always be explicit about which role acts as the most senior DSL with accountability for decision making and ensuring referral to statutory services.

It is good practice to avoid the most senior person in the organisation being the DSL. This ensures that where there are concerns of underperformance normal employment or volunteer management procedures can apply. Similarly, where there is a complaint about the actions of the DSL, you may need a more senior person to step in.

This should be someone who’s not been involved in previous decision making. If you have a very small staff or volunteer team, you may not have a choice but for the operational DSL to be the most senior employee or volunteer. In these circumstances, you should have a lead trustee for safeguarding who can act as a contact for escalation.

There should always be a designated safeguarding lead available when your organisation is active. This includes during activities delivered outside of normal hours, online, and cover when you’re not available. It’s a good idea to set up a separate, generic email address and telephone number which can be accessed by whoever is acting as DSL. This helps avoid confusion when people need to report a concern and means you’re not giving out your personal details.

The DSL does not need to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, only when your organisation is active. You should make sure everyone knows what to do if they need emergency help when you are not working.

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 06 December 2018

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