Safeguard-Me Blog

What is a DSL? And should we have one?

Safeguarding General Information
Before we address the importance of a DSL, let’s get straight to the definition and why this acronym needs to become part of your workplace vocabulary, if your organisation works with children.

DSL stands for Designated Safeguarding Lead, but can also be referred to as the following examples:

· Safeguarding Lead/Officer
· Child Protection Lead/Officer
· Designated Safeguarding Officer (DSO)
· Nominated Child Protection Lead

In the UK, the term Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL), which was first specified in the Children’s Act 2004 is often associated with schools/colleges but it’s important to stress that every organisation that works with children should have one even though it’s not law outside of schools.

The main roles and responsibilities of a DSL are:
  • Leading Safeguarding: The DSL has overall responsibility for ensuring the safety and well-being of children within their organisation. This involves developing, implementing, and reviewing safeguarding policies and procedures.
  • First Point of Contact: They act as the first point of contact for anyone with concerns about a child's safety. This could be staff, volunteers, parents, or even the children themselves.
  • Assessing Concerns: The DSL is responsible for assessing any reported concerns about a child's safety. This may involve gathering information, speaking with the child and their family, and consulting with other professionals.
  • Making Referrals: If they believe a child is at risk of harm, the DSL will make a referral to the appropriate social services department.
  • Supporting Staff: They provide advice and support to other staff members on safeguarding issues. This includes training staff on how to identify and report child abuse.
  • Maintaining Records: The DSL is responsible for keeping accurate and up-to-date records of all safeguarding concerns.

The role is a centre point in every organisation for safeguarding. The role should be undertaken by a senior member of staff and the distinct responsibilities of the role should be detailed in their job description, as it will more often than not form part of a wider role within the organisation.

Some larger organisations may choose to hire an individual whose sole responsibility is the DSL. This may occur when an organisation deals with a high number of safeguarding concerns, or those who deal with individuals with complex needs.

Top Tip: It’s good practice to not make your DSL the most senior person in the organisation; so there’s someone they themselves are accountable to.

For larger organisations with multiple sites or locations, a dedicated safeguarding team can be formed, with each location having a safeguarding lead, that reports in to the main DSL When this organisational model exists it is vital that there is a hierarchical structure in place, to ensure there is accountability for reporting and decision making.

Ultimately, no matter what the DSL is called in your organisation the underlying reason for their existence is to not only provide a well defined and clearly communicated reporting structure for any safeguarding concerns but demonstrate your commitment to the safety and welfare of children. Someone that will record and investigate concerns in line with internal processes and any government legislation.

One question we sometimes get is that whilst it is necessary for all children, parents and staff to both see and understand the actions they should take if they have a concern, should your DSL’s contact details be front and centre, visible at all times, by everyone that engages with your organisation?

These no law that says they should but here are some pros and cons to help you consider whether your DSL's contact details are directly visible to parents and children:

  • Accessibility: Having a clear point of contact can make it easier and faster for parents and children to raise concerns.
  • Transparency: Knowing who the DSL is promotes a culture of openness and encourages reporting of any issues.

  • Safety: There might be situations where a child feels unsafe approaching a specific adult (the DSL) directly. So, having alternative reporting methods is crucial.
  • Workload: DSLs might get inundated with “other issues”, not related to safeguarding, as their details are the most visible and perhaps the easiest route to managerial personnel.

Here's a possible compromise:
  • Don't directly publish DSL contact details: Instead, provide a clear and accessible process for raising concerns. This could involve:
  • A designated email address for safeguarding concerns.
  • A webpage with information on safeguarding procedures and alternative reporting options (e.g., another trusted adult, anonymous reporting hotline).

However you decide to structure the reporting of safeguarding concerns, it is vital that ALL staff in your organisation know who the DSL is, as any member of staff may become the “trusted adult” who receives a report of a concern, or wish to report a concern themselves. If this is the case it is vital they know who they need to approach, when and how. Ultimately, the most important thing is to create a safe and accessible system for reporting concerns.

Do DSLs need a qualification?
Designated Safeguarding Leads don't need a formal qualification, but undergoing specific training is essential for them to fulfil their role effectively.

Here's a breakdown:
  • Training is vital: While qualifications aren't required, completion of safeguarding training programs is crucial. These programs equip DSLs with the knowledge and skills to identify, understand, and respond to child protection concerns.
  • Training covers key areas: Safeguarding training typically covers topics like recognising signs of abuse and neglect, following reporting procedures, and supporting children at risk.
  • Regular updates are important: Due to the evolving nature of safeguarding risks, DSLs need to attend refresher training periodically to stay up-to-date with best practices and legal requirements.

In essence, the focus is on ensuring DSLs have the necessary competence to handle their significant safeguarding responsibilities.

A simple google search for “DSL training” will bring a number of in person and online options to select from. We can also offer advice and consultation, which includes training for your DSL and/or team.

Importance of the Role
The DSL role plays a vital part in protecting children from abuse and neglect. By having a clear and well-defined safeguarding lead, organisations can ensure they are doing everything they can to keep children safe.

Having a Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL), whilst a legal requirement for many organisations, it's a fundamental part of creating a safe environment for children in all organisations. Remember, a safe and accessible reporting system is paramount, and the specific method of contacting the DSL can be tailored to best suit your needs. By providing clear reporting structures and ensuring all staff know who the DSL is, when and how to contact them, you can empower everyone to play a role in protecting children from harm.