Even as a DSL, It’s ok to Admit that There are Topics We Don’t Feel as Comfortable With

Tricky Safeguarding Topics and How to Tackle Them

Even as a DSL, it’s ok to admit that there are topics we don’t feel as comfortable with. Safeguarding Adviser, Jo Perrin, provides advice and guidance for DSLs faced with a number of Complex Safeguarding Issues…

I’ve been working as an Education Adviser for Safeguarding for many years now, and before that I was in schools working as a DSL. You’d think, given those years of experience, I’d feel equally comfortable talking about any safeguarding issue.

It’s true that I have done extensive research on every topic and keep up to date with developments in the field. I can confidently work with governors, academics, school staff, charity organisation staff and indeed children on a wide range of safeguarding issues. But if I’m honest, I feel some apprehension every time I am tasked with working around certain online safety topics. 

I think that my awareness of how frequently the subject matter changes feeds into my state of mind.

Have I read and absorbed the latest research? Did I understand the latest jargon? And sometimes foremost in my mind, will there be someone who is more IT literate than me, who asks me a question I am not 100% certain of the answer to? 

I suspect I am not alone.

FGM is a safeguarding subject often cited as one where some staff feel less confident. Child on child sexual abuse is another. A deeper understanding of gang violence and child criminal exploitation is another.

But the reality is – that is ok.

We are all different, we have different areas of interest and expertise, and we cannot be expected to be an expert in everything.   

So, what can we do about this? Here are two key points to remember:

Remember that Safeguarding is Everyone’s Responsibility

So use the expertise in your teams.

If you don’t know, someone else might. Another DSL/DDSL might have a real interest in this area. And it doesn’t just have to be someone else on your safeguarding team. Is there another staff member who knows? For online issues, your IT or media staff might know

In terms of County Lines and gang situations, often your wider support staff are your experts as they often live in the local area.

Children can also be the experts – they know what goes on in their lives, where the risks are and possibly they know avenues of support in the local community that you didn’t identify. 

Do Your Research – Take the Time to Find Out

It might not be the area of safeguarding you are most passionate about, but there are many avenues to increase your knowledge and your confidence.

  • Services For Education provide a safeguarding subscription, offering many webinars and resources on different and specific issues to support you. We are also at the end of an email to provide advice for schools and will soon be launching “ask the experts” slot  where you can join us online to discuss safeguarding related issues.
  • NSPCC provide a vast collection of safeguarding resources on their website. We provide our free monthly safeguarding newsletter and an archive of many safeguarding blogs and articles.
  • Newspapers such as the Guardian and The Times regularly have safeguarding stories and campaigns that can inform.
  • Charities that focus on one particular safeguarding issue often have pages of information and even resources for education staff which are often free.

There are many sources at your fingertips, free and paid, to support you as a DSL. The route you take to information will depend on your need, its urgency and complexity.


So next time you are tasked with training staff on a tricky topic, or someone comes to you with a particularly challenging question, stop and take a breath.

Accuracy is everything in safeguarding as we can’t afford to give the wrong information which might lead to a child suffering further significant harm.

Take time to admit to yourself (and someone else if the situation requires) that research is everything and find the right person to answer the query – whether that is yourself, a colleague or someone external. 

Remember you can contact our Advisers at safeguarding@servicesforeducation.co.uk for any support you might need. 

About the Author

Jo PerrinJo Perrin - Adviser, Services For Education

Jo Perrin is a seasoned Education Adviser with a strong background in safeguarding. She has held key roles as a Designated Safeguarding Lead and pastoral lead in the education sector. Facilitating training to enhance the knowledge and skills of professionals working directly with children and young people is her passion.

With a wealth of experience in teaching PSHE and expertise in childhood trauma from her time as a foster carer, Jo is dedicated to supporting organisations that work with children and vulnerable adults on safeguarding issues. She is actively involved in professional safeguarding groups in the West Midlands and is currently collaborating on a research project with colleagues from the University of Birmingham and the NHS focusing on FGM awareness within communities. Jo’s has worked as a West Midlands' Adviser for national PSHE resources, presented at the Sex Education Forum National Members' Event and authored an advertorial for PSM magazine and an article for SEND magazine.

Jo's expertise extends to training on topics such as Safer Recruitment and Mental Health at Work. She is also a facilitator for the nationally recognised NPQSL qualification, supporting senior leaders in education. Her contributions to publications and development of resources for RSE provision have been well-received by schools nationally and internationally.

With her extensive experience and dedication to professional development, Jo Perrin is a highly respected figure in the field of education. Her guidance on safeguarding, mental health awareness, personal development, and relationships education is highly valued within the industry.


Our expert advisers can provide in-school visits to deliver sessions on any specific safeguarding issues that are relevant to your setting. We also offer consultancy and a detailed safeguarding audit. We will work with you to understand your exact requirements.

Get in touch with us today if you’d like to discuss bespoke Safeguarding training for your school.

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