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Responsibilities of a lead trustee for safeguarding

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This page tells you more about the role of a lead trustee for safeguarding.

If your organisation works with children or adults at risk, the Charity Commission expects your organisation to have a safeguarding lead. This is generally the individual who would respond to concerns about a child or adult at risk and ensures referral to statutory services.

If your organisation works with children, it must follow the Working Together to Safeguard Children statutory guidance. This requires you to have both a lead trustee for safeguarding and an operationally focussed designated safeguarding lead. A wider range of charities have also found it useful for one trustee to take the lead to support, advise and guide the board on safeguarding matters.

What is a lead trustee for safeguarding?

The lead trustee for safeguarding will, in most cases, be a volunteer from within the board who has skills, experience and confidence in the area of safeguarding. Sometimes, it is a volunteer who starts without knowledge, but is willing to undertake the necessary training in order to develop the knowledge and skills required to undertake the role.

It is good practice to ensure that the role and responsibilities of the lead trustee is described in writing, agreed by the Board and reviewed regularly. This should include the scope of any formal decision making authority delegated to them and how they should report to the Board the use of powers in an appropriate fashion.

Wherever possible, you should distinguish between the strategic, advisory and governance role of a lead trustee and the day-to-day operational designated safeguarding lead. This is especially important – and may be a statutory requirement – where you work with children and adults at risk.

The Charity Commission states that safeguarding is the responsibility of all trustees. If you appoint a lead trustee, it should be clear that they are not to be the only person among the trustees who understands safeguarding.


The lead trustee for safeguarding usually takes on three main sets of duties related to safeguarding in addition to their wider responsibilities as a trustee.


  • Consider the organisation’s strategic plans and make sure they reflect safeguarding legislation, regulations specific to your activities, statutory guidance, and the safeguarding expectations of the Charities Commission.
  • Work with the CEO and designated safeguarding lead regularly to review whether the things the organisation has put in place are creating a safer culture and keeping people safe.
  • Check the organisation’s risk register reflects safeguarding risks properly and plans sensible measures to take, including relevant insurance for trustees liability.
  • If your organisation delivers activities that need inspections, be aware of how ready for those inspections you are and respond to any following reports.
  • Make sure there is space on the agenda for safeguarding reports and help trustees understand and challenge those reports.

Effective policy and practice

  • Make sure there is an annual review of safeguarding policies and procedures and that this is reported to trustees.
  • Understand the monitoring your charity does to see whether policies and procedures are effective.
  • Call for audits of qualitative and quantitative data (either internal or external) when they’re needed.
  • Learn from case reviews locally and nationally, to improve your organisation’s policies, procedures and practices.
  • Oversee safeguarding allegations against staff or volunteers, together with CEO and designated safeguarding lead.
  • Be a point of contact for staff or volunteers if someone wishes to complain about a lack of action in relation to safeguarding concerns.

Creating the right culture

  • Champion safeguarding throughout the organisation.
  • Attend relevant safeguarding training events and conferences.
  • Support the trustees in developing their individual and collective understanding of safeguarding.
  • Attend meetings, activities, projects to engage with staff, volunteers and beneficiaries to understand safeguarding on the ground.
  • Work with the chair, CEO, designated safeguarding lead and communications team in order to manage all serious safeguarding cases.
  • Support regular safeguarding updates for staff, volunteers and beneficiaries.
  • Make sure you have ways of gathering the views of staff and volunteers in relation to safeguarding and sharing these with the board.

Support from the chair

The chair should make sure that the lead trustee for safeguarding either has the required knowledge, skills, and experience or is supported to develop these.

This can include:

  • setting up regular meetings together with the lead trustee, CEO and designated safeguarding lead
  • making sure the lead trustee is allocated enough time at meetings to provide full and detailed reports on safeguarding
  • encouraging the lead trustee to take part in local and national partnerships that can help you keep up to date with safeguarding messages, trends and priorities.

Further information

The lead trustee for safeguarding usually takes on three main sets of duties related to safeguarding in addition to their wider responsibilities as a trustee.

Last reviewed: 06 December 2018

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 06 December 2018

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