The role of the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL, DDSL)

This page provides a broad introduction to the role and responsibilities, and tools available to the designated safeguarding lead (DSL) and deputy designated safeguarding lead (DDSL).

Responsibility for safeguarding

All boroughs in England have a local authority (LA) that is ultimately responsible for safeguarding in their area. It has a duty to establish a safeguarding partnership group consisting of the local authority, chief officers of police and clinical commissioning groups. The organisation’s DSL will typically attend the LA safeguarding partnership meetings and the named safeguarding governor may also choose to attend those meetings.

The Designated Safeguarding Lead in the FE and Training sector

The role of the DSL was first specified in the Children Act 2004. The role was identified as essential in the management of safeguarding in education, and further, that every organisation that works with children should have a role dedicated to safeguarding.

The designated safeguarding role is pivotal when implementing the government’s statutory guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE, 2015, updated 2023). Independent learning and workplace providers (ILPs and WPPs) and others in the sector also adopt the duties within the guidance.

A DSL has the status and authority within an education provider to commit resources to safeguarding actions and issues. They’re also required to support and direct staff on safeguarding matters. The DSL 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 college to carry out the duties of the post.

The Deputy Designated Safeguarding lead (DDSL)

The DDSL role was first outlined in the 2018 KCSIE. Any deputies should be trained to the same standard as the DSL and the role should be explicit in their job description.

Whilst activities of the DSL can be delegated to appropriately trained deputies, the ultimate lead responsibility for child protection, as set out above, remains with the DSL. This lead responsibility should not be delegated to someone else.

DDSLs 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.

Some organisations prefer not to use the title, designate safeguarding lead. This is entirely their choice, however, you can recognise them in the organisation as they MUST have the full range of roles and responsibilities even if they aren’t called the same. Other names include safeguarding lead or officer. They MUST have a role that delivers against the guidance.

The role of the DSL: It’s time to speak up
ETF Associate Polly Harrow looks at the development of the Designated Safeguarding Lead role.

The Named Safeguarding Governor in the FE and Training sector

Whilst the corporation/board of trustees has overall responsibility for safeguarding within an organisation in its widest sense, the role of the named safeguarding governor has a focus on child protection policy and procedure, safer recruitment and reporting to the corporation/board of trustees on safeguarding practice and compliance.

All organisation governors and trustees should have an awareness and understanding of safeguarding, though the named safeguarding governor or trustee will have a more thorough and in-depth knowledge. Governors and trustees should be aware of the legal and statutory duties placed upon them and should support the development of effective practice in safeguarding in education and skills settings.

Further reading:
About the designated safeguarding lead role: information about the DSL role in charities and the Charity Commission’s expectations.

Nominated child protection lead or designated safeguarding officer: information on the role and responsibilities of the DSL.

Ann Craft Trust
The leading UK authority on Safeguarding Adults and Young People at Risk. Its web pages are packed full of research and guidance. Unlike the NSPCC link above it does not have a specific section for guidance and legislation however it has a section called Resources with useful links and information. 

Links to further support

Safeguarding specialists

A website that provides national links to safeguarding partnerships in local safeguarding.   

Gov.UK: Regional Prevent Co-ordinators

FE and Training sector specialists

Association of Colleges regional support network
For general enquiries and local networks.

Association of Employment and Learning Providers regional support network
For general enquiries and local networks.