Youth sector calls for strengthening of Safeguarding Lead role

10th November, 2021 1:25 pm

The role of designated safeguarding leads (DSLs) within youth organisations needs to be strengthened and backed by improved training and support, according to youth sector organisations.

DSLs are appointed by voluntary and statutory youth organisations to champion safeguarding. They are also the main point of contact for other agencies when child protection referrals are made.

According to a report, by the National Youth Agency and involving the NSPCC, UK Youth and London Youth, the DSL role “has become more complex and challenging than ever before” and needs to be overhauled.

The report, Keeping Young People in Sight, says DSLs are unable to “fulfil the role effectively” due to a lack of support to cope with “ever growing expectations, responsibilities and knowledge”.

Rising mental health problems among young people, online harms, disclosures of abuse, preventing radicalisation and managing risks around offenders are among the wide range of day-to-day issues DSLs face, with little support and gaps in their training.

Around half of DSLs have no qualification of verified training in safeguarding and where offered it is piecemeal, the NYA report adds.

“Interviews with DSLs highlighted the significant variety of training available and whilst most DSLs who attended training felt it was relevant, they also reported it to be basic and assumed most training was the same. Very few had training related to safeguarding adults,” states their report.

It adds that “ongoing support and supervision” of DSLs is “low and inconsistent, with only half feeling as they received the frequency of job-based supervision support they needed”.

Only a quarter say they had reflective supervision regarding their work around safeguarding.

It adds that “ongoing support and supervision” of DSLs is “low and inconsistent, with only half feeling as they received the frequency of job-based supervision support they needed”.

Only a quarter say they had reflective supervision regarding their work around safeguarding.

DSLs are “the lynchpin” in youth organisation’s work to keep people safe and are the “in house champion for safeguarding who sets the direction for action and will lead support to those why have been harmed”, their report says.

“They are a critical part of the team to ensure that young people facing abuse, neglect and exploitation are kept in sight. Yet, without the right support for the DSL, safeguarding systems are weakened,” it adds.

The report is calling for detailed regulation around the role, which is currently without a formal set of expectations and specific responsibilities.

Among recommendations is that DSLs should also be considered as a “position of trust” in law. They should also be offered full legal protection if they whistle blow in the public interest.

Also being called for is the development of a national competency framework of occupational standards for DSLs, to aid their training and to benchmark their skills.

Meanwhile, separate research has found that 97 per cent of child sexual exploitation referrals to the charity Catch22 have an online or social media element.

The research, funded by London’s Violence Reduction Unit, also found that two thirds of young people had seen content online that was either violent or explicit during Covid-19 lockdown.

Recommendations include safeguarding children’s rights to learn, to play and be informed, when online. This focus is “too often missing from online safety discussions”, states the research.

In addition, teachers and safeguarding leads need more access to resources to combat online harm and social media companies need to be “held accountable for inaction”.

 

Source: Children & Young People Now

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