Designated safeguarding lead


Designated safeguarding lead might be a role you have heard of but you might be unsure of what their responsibilities are at school. 

You might need to seek their support if you have concern about a pupil or a pupil makes a disclosure to you. Quite often the designated safeguarding lead is the headteacher or SENCO. Read your school’s safeguarding policies to find out and understand the procedures you will have to follow.

In this article, we provide a summary of the role and look at examples of how schools practically use the role.

Designated safeguarding lead: what are the responsibilities

The Department for Education (DfE) has published Keeping Children Safe in Education which is statutory guidance for schools on safeguarding children and safer recruitment. 

The DfE explains that the designated safeguarding lead should take lead responsibility for safeguarding and child protection (including online safety). 

This should be explicit in the role holder’s job description. This person should have the appropriate status and authority within the school to carry out the duties of the post. 

They should be given the time, funding, training, resources and support to provide advice and support to other staff on child welfare and child protection matters, to take part in strategy discussions and inter-agency meetings, and/or to support other staff to do so, and to contribute to the assessment of children.

Managing referrals

The designated safeguarding lead is expected to: 

  • Refer cases of suspected abuse to the local authority children’s social care as required
  • Support staff who make referrals to local authority children’s social care 
  • Refer cases to the Channel programme where there is a radicalisation concern as required
  • Support staff who make referrals to the Channel programme
  • Refer cases where a person is dismissed or left due to risk/harm to a child to the Disclosure and Barring Service as required
  • Refer cases where a crime may have been committed to the Police as required

Working with others

The designated safeguarding lead is expected to: 

  • Act as a point of contact with the three safeguarding partners
  • Liaise with the headteacher or principal to inform him or her of issues- especially ongoing enquiries under section 47 of the Children Act 1989 and police investigations
  • As required, liaise with the “case manager” and the designated officer(s) at the local authority for child protection concerns in cases which concern a staff member
  • Liaise with staff (especially pastoral support staff, school nurses, IT Technicians, and SENCOs, or the named person with oversight for SEN in a college and Senior Mental Health Leads) on matters of safety and safeguarding (including online and digital safety) and when deciding whether to make a referral by liaising with relevant agencies 
  • Act as a source of support, advice and expertise for all staff

Raise awareness

The designated safeguarding lead should:

  • Ensure the school’s or college’s child protection policies are known, understood and used appropriately
  • Ensure the school’s or college’s child protection policy is reviewed annually (as a minimum) and the procedures and implementation are updated and reviewed regularly, and work with governing bodies or proprietors regarding this
  • Ensure the child protection policy is available publicly and parents are aware of the fact that referrals about suspected abuse or neglect may be made and the role of the school or college in this
  • Link with the safeguarding partner arrangements to make sure staff are aware of any training opportunities and the latest local policies on local safeguarding arrangements
  • Help promote educational outcomes by sharing the information about the welfare, safeguarding and child protection issues that children, including children with a social worker, are experiencing, or have experienced, with teachers and school and college leadership staff. Their role could include ensuring that the school or college, and their staff, know who these children are, understand their academic progress and attainment and maintain a culture of high aspirations for this cohort; supporting teaching staff to identify the challenges that children in this group might face and the additional academic support and adjustments that they could make to best support these children


During term time the designated safeguarding lead (or a deputy) should always be available (during school or college hours) for staff in the school or college to discuss any safeguarding concerns.

 Whilst generally speaking the designated safeguarding lead (or deputy) would be expected to be available in person, it is a matter for individual schools and colleges, working with the designated safeguarding lead, to define what “available” means and whether in exceptional circumstances availability via phone and or Skype or other such media is acceptable. 

It is a matter for individual schools and colleges and the designated safeguarding lead to adequate and appropriate cover arrangements for any out of hours/out of term activities. 

Designated safeguarding lead: examples from schools

St Dominic’s Catholic Primary School in Camden explains the role of designated safeguarding lead at the school. It says they will:

  • Provide advice and guidance for staff on safeguarding and child protection issues and making referrals
  • Have an awareness of those children who may be in need, young carers and children who have special educational needs
  • Oversee child protection systems within the school/college, including the management of records, standards of recording concerns and referral processes
  • Ensure all staff, including temporary staff, are aware of and understand policies and procedures and are able to implement them

Larkhill Primary School in Salisbury explains:

“The designated safeguarding lead is responsible for promoting a safe environment for children and young people. They are the first point of contact for all staff and volunteers to go to for advice if they are concerned about a child. 

Their role includes supporting staff to assist in information regarding concerns and support decision making about whether staff concerns are sufficient enough to notify children’s social work services or whether other courses of action are more appropriate, such as the completion of an Early Help Approach.

It is not the designated safeguarding officer’s responsibility to decide whether a child has been abused or not. That is the responsibility of investigative statutory agencies such as children’s social work services or the police. However, keeping children safe is everybody’s business, and all staff should know who to go to and how to report any concerns they may have about a child being harmed or at risk of being harmed.”

If you are an Edapt subscriber and you have been referred to the LADO you can contact us for further advice and support.

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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
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