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Safeguarding and volunteers

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The reach of safeguarding extends further than Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks (formerly CRB checks) to include how organisations recruit, induct, train and support volunteers.

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) definition of a volunteer is defined in the Police Act 1997 (criminal records) Regulations 2002 as:

“Any person engaged in an activity which involves spending, unpaid (except for travel and other approved out-of-pocket expenses), doing something which aims to benefit some third party and not a close relative.”

Organisations that involve volunteers need to ensure they have a robust approach to safeguarding in place. They should also consider what level of safeguarding is proportionate to the activities their volunteers are involved in and what approach to take in relation to:

  • recruitment
  • training 
  • supervision
  • DBS checks.
Our guide on safeguarding for volunteer involving organisations (PDF, 800KB) aims to help you think through developing a comprehensive approach.

This guidance should not be a substitute for a safeguarding policy or for relevant training where required.

Ex offenders

Many people with past convictions worry that they will not be able to volunteer. In fact, very few people are banned from working or volunteering with children and vulnerable adults. Individuals who are banned will usually know that they are banned.

It is therefore important to offer a fair recruitment process to all individuals.

Clinks has resources on their website including PDF guides, case-studies and research reports around volunteering and mentoring in the criminal justice system. 

DBS resources

A useful section on volunteers appears on this Gov.UK page under Volunteer Applications and NCVO members can access our Volunteers and the Law resource with a section on Safeguarding, vulnerable clients and DBS

The Department of Health provides useful tools to establish if a volunteer requires a DBS check that include:

There are a number of agencies that advise and assist organisations with DBS applications. NCVO Trusted Supplier Disclosure Services provide a secure system for submission of electronic DBS checks and there is a discount for NCVO members. 

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Page last edited Oct 15, 2018

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