Ann Marie Christian, Associate Safeguarding Consultant at drb outlines the requirement for and roles of Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSLs) in schools
Post Lamming, back in 2003, we were all committed to the five outcomes and the Every Child Matters agenda. Schools were expected to work with families alongside our multi-agency colleagues in supporting the holistic needs of children as a UK government initiative response to the death of Victoria Climbié.
CAFs (Common Assessment Framework) became compulsory at the time and was a big shift in how schools worked in partnership with families. Previously PSPs (Pastoral Support Plans) focusing on re-engaging children back into learning with positive social, emotional and behavioural skills was the norm.
The “Early Help” offer was recommended by the Munro Review in 2011 – she called for a duty on local authorities to provide early help services. Ministers did not adopt this recommendation as they felt the existing duty to cooperate set out in Sections 10 and 11 of the Children Act 2004 to be sufficient.
Since then revised government guidance has clearly stated how schools should be using early help. Keeping Children Safe in Education statutory guidance document, published in 2016
What does this all mean in practice?
Early help services should support families that fall below the child protection threshold. Schools are expected to support these families by using the early help process and signposting them to supportive services. All referrals should be made to MASH (the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub) and they should then signpost you as to how to access the local early help process if the specific concern does not meet the threshold of social care intervention.
All schools should have a designated safeguarding lead (DSL) who leads on child protection matters and should consult and refer early help and child protection concerns to their local child protection services or Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs. Staff should also be trained to act as the lead professional if ever required.
Designated safeguarding leads (DSLs) should be familiar with their Local Safeguarding Children Board’s (LSCB) thresholds of child protection and know the referral pathways.
DSLs are also senior leaders and therefore have a heavy workload. Some schools have created pastoral care or safeguarding teams within the school to offer them additional support with their child protection duties. These teams sometimes consist of pastoral care staff, HLTAs, family support workers and deputy safeguarding leads and early help would be part of their core work.
There are key staff within the school that would have regular contact with families and sometimes they work in isolation due to their location in the school or busy workload. The chaplain, school counsellor, attendance officer, office staff, frontline receptionists or “first-day-call-back” office staff have frequent contact with families and they need to be aware of when they could refer families on for early help support.
It is important for schools to train all staff on how to spot and report child protection concerns including low level concerns that often contribute towards the early help identification.
Schools need to have a non-judgemental approach in order to make these families feel at ease and remove the stigma of being a vulnerable family. They should have cosy rooms with soft furniture and a child-friendly atmosphere set aside to encourage families to stop and talk – this helps set a welcoming atmosphere.
To help schools meet current requirements in the area of safeguarding drb Schools and Academies Services are hosting a Designated Safeguarding Leads Course 26th September with Ann Marie Christian