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Last updated: 23.04.21

How to Become a Safeguarding Officer

Every organisation that works with children or vulnerable adults must have a member who takes on the role of a safeguarding officer. Appointing a safeguarding officer is the best way to ensure that your organisation has the appropriate measures in place to respond to safeguarding concerns as quickly and efficiently as possible, ensuring that anyone at risk of harm will receive the appropriate care and intervention before it is too late.

Becoming a safeguarding officer is a great way to get more involved in helping and supporting the children and vulnerable adults that you work with, along with helping to promote and protect positive health and wellbeing. Working in child protection can be incredibly rewarding, and becoming a safeguarding officer is a great first step.

What is a Safeguarding Officer?

A safeguarding officer is also sometimes referred to as a designated safeguarding lead or a child protection officer if they work exclusively with children. They are in charge of all of the safeguarding procedures within an organisation, including delivering training, keeping policies up to date and reporting any concerns or cases to the relevant authoritative parties.

In some cases the role may be split between staff, or in large organisations there may be a whole team of designated safeguarding leads. Many safeguarding officers in schools or children’s organisations are also in charge of promoting the health and wellbeing of children and ensuring that all parents and carers have access to information and services that can help with this. 

Who can be a Safeguarding Officer?

The role of a safeguarding officer can be given to anyone already working in an organisation that involves children or vulnerable adults.

In most cases, some experience of safeguarding and working with children or vulnerable adults is required to take on the role. A safeguarding officer has to have appropriate knowledge of all of the relevant legislation and keep up to date with any changes or new additions to safeguarding policy, so it’s helpful to have experience working in child protection before taking on the role.

To be a safeguarding officer, you will also have needed to pass all of the relevant advanced DBS checks to work with children, and have no criminal background or history that prevents you from interacting with young people or vulnerable adults.

There are several skills and personal qualities that it is useful to have as a safeguarding officer, the most important of which is good people skills. Not only will you need to be able to speak to colleagues, parents and carers about safeguarding issues and concerns, but you will also have to confidently and calmly speak to children about potentially difficult or delicate topics and handle these situations appropriately.

Having excellent listening skills is also essential to being a good safeguarding officer, as a lot of the role involves actively listening to other people and then relaying this information. You’ll also need to have good written and verbal communication skills to deliver training, write reports and put together official safeguarding policies for your organisation.

At times, your role as a safeguarding officer may be stressful or involve having to deal with quite difficult or emotionally challenging situations. You will need to be able to work efficiently under these conditions and also be resilient and act professionally no matter what you are dealing with.

Finally, to be a safeguarding officer you need to be incredibly responsible and organised. You are in charge of keeping your organisation compliant with safeguarding legislation and keeping records of any complaints or questions that arise, and keeping on top of paperwork and completing relevant tasks is essential to this.

What Qualifications Do I Need to be a Safeguarding Officer?

In order to be a designated safeguarding officer, you must usually have a higher level of safeguarding training than the rest of the staff at your organisation. Virtual College offers ‘Safeguarding Children Level 3’ which is suitable for anyone who is actively involved in the safeguarding processes of wherever they work.

You will need to ensure that everyone else in your organisation who works with children has also completed relevant safeguarding training and that this training and your own is refreshed every two years. As a safeguarding officer, you will also need to have an up-to-date DBS qualification that ensures that you are safe to work with children.

What Does a Safeguarding Officer Do?

A safeguarding officer has a variety of responsibilities, which will often be carried out alongside their main role within a company or organisation.

Implementing Safeguarding Reporting Systems

A safeguarding officer must establish systems for reporting issues, behaviour or information that they are given concerning the welfare of a child or vulnerable adult. These must be accessible for all members of staff in the organisation, ensuring that any concerns are investigated right away and that official procedures can be followed, such as filling in the paperwork and contacting relevant authorities.

Advising on Safeguarding Concerns

One of the main reasons for having a designated safeguarding officer is so that all other staff within an organisation know who to go to if they have a safeguarding concern. The officer should always be the first point of contact for all issues or queries that are raised, and should offer the appropriate advice when consulted or take further action when necessary.

Some safeguarding issues arise outside of working hours, so there should be an appropriate procedure in place for contacting the safeguarding officer in these cases. A deputy safeguarding officer can also be appointed if the first officer cannot be reached.

Even if a safeguarding concern is not followed up, any issues that are reported must be officially logged by the safeguarding officer. These records must be kept securely and destroyed after a specified amount of time, as outlined in your organisation’s data protection policy.

Reporting Relevant Safeguarding Concerns

If another colleague comes to the safeguarding officer with a safeguarding concern that they think is genuine, it is their responsibility to refer this case to the appropriate authoritative organisation.

In most cases, the safeguarding officer will have to gather information or evidence to support their concern before sending off an official report. This may involve taking statements from certain members of staff or talking to the child or vulnerable adult who is involved.

Delivering Safeguarding Training

A key part of being a safeguarding officer is ensuring that everyone who works at your organisation has received the appropriate level of safeguarding training and that this training is updated and delivered every two years in line with official changes and guidance.

This training will include topics such as spotting the signs of abuse and neglect, what to do if a child or vulnerable adult comes to you with a problem, and what will happen when a safeguarding issue is raised.

The safeguarding officer can deliver the training themselves, or they can use resources like online training courses to help staff undertake relevant training when it works for them. Virtual College has a wide range of different safeguarding courses available that can help with this, from general safeguarding qualifications to specific topics like safer recruitment and child poverty.

Communicating Safeguarding Policies

Not only does a safeguarding officer have to ensure that all the staff at their organisation understand the official safeguarding policies that are in place, but they also have to make people such as parents and carers aware of these. This ensures that everyone is aware of the safeguarding procedures in place and that parents and carers can also report any safeguarding concerns that they have.

Keeping Safeguarding Policies Updated

Child protection and safeguarding legislation are always getting updated, which means that the requirements for organisations that work with children and vulnerable adults are frequently changing as well. Along with the management committee or Board of Trustees, a safeguarding officer has to ensure that their organisation policies are updated to reflect this.

Anyone who works with children or vulnerable adults has to undertake safeguarding training every two years to stay up to date with any changes, so this will help the safeguarding officer ensure that their colleagues are aware of any changes. 

Complying with Local Safeguarding Procedures

Specific safeguarding actions, processes and guidelines are dictated by the local authority safeguarding services, and it is the responsibility of the safeguarding officer to liaise with these organisations to ensure that they are compliant with their recommendations. The local safeguarding provider is responsible for the services available to any children in need, so it is useful for the safeguarding officer to be aware of these services and how they can help in situations where a child or vulnerable adult is at risk.

Working with Children with Specific Safeguarding Needs

In almost every organisation that works with children or vulnerable adults, there will be individuals who need specific support or who are identified as being more vulnerable to certain safeguarding issues. As a safeguarding officer, you will need to identify what action can be taken to support these children or vulnerable adults as best as possible and inform other members of staff what they need to do or look out for to ensure the at-risk person’s safety.

FAQs

What does a safeguarding officer do in schools?

In schools, a safeguarding officer is responsible for ensuring that all staff understand what the signs of child abuse or neglect are and know the process that they need to follow when raising a safeguarding concern. It is also the officer’s responsibility to report safeguarding concerns to social services and monitor any children in the school who are receiving support from safeguarding services or are under investigation.

What are the six principles of safeguarding?

The Care Act 2014 set out six key principles for safeguarding that all safeguarding officers and those who work with children or vulnerable adults have to adhere to in their work. These principles are accountability, empowerment, partnership, prevention, proportionality and protection.

What is a safeguarding policy?

A safeguarding policy or child protection policy is a statement that clearly outlines what an organisation is going to do to keep the children or vulnerable adults that they work with safe. The policy needs to include a commitment to protecting the children or vulnerable adults that are being cared for and then go into detail about the various procedures and systems that are put in place to keep everyone safe and appropriately deal with any concerns.

Summary

Safeguarding is a vital part of the work that many organisations do, and if you work in a school, charity, healthcare sector or social care industry, you’re likely to come across the rules, procedures and legislation. A safeguarding officer ensures that all the necessary steps are being taken to protect the people that they work with and support, providing an essential point of contact between child protection authorities and the organisations that their regulations apply to.

If you already work with children or vulnerable adults and have undergone the relevant safeguarding training at this level, becoming a safeguarding officer is the next step you can take to further your work promoting the safety and wellbeing of those who need it. There are plenty of safeguarding officer training courses available to gain the necessary levels of knowledge and expertise for this role, including our safeguarding children Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 online courses.

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