Each parish should review and update its recruitment processes to meet safeguarding standards. This can be done by whoever the PCC appoints (normally the Parish Safeguarding Officer).
The Diocese of London is committed to safeguarding children, young people, and vulnerable adults to worship and grow in Christ safely – Safeguarding and Safer Recruitment are the foundations of our Safer Churches priority for the 2030 Vision. The Church of England’s Safeguarding policy statement “Promoting a Safer Church” contains the commitment to “carefully select and train all those with any pastoral responsibility within the Church, including the use of Criminal Records Bureau disclosures where legal or appropriate.”
To help improve your recruitment process, the Church of England have provided some templates which you may find helpful. For more information please visit the Church of England templates and resources page, under the heading ‘Safer Recruitment’.
Additionally, the resources outlined below may be helpful:
A DBS check must be carried out, where applicable, once a candidate has been offered a role but before starting in that role. More information is available on our DBS pages.
Overseas applicants: ‘If a candidate/applicant etc. for a position that is eligible for a DBS check is coming from overseas who either has never lived in the UK or spent a period of time (i.e. lived abroad), the person making the appointment should request an additional check and ask the applicant to obtain criminality information (also known as a certificate of good conduct/character) from his/her relevant embassy/high commission (or police force)’ (see the House of Bishops’ Safer Recruitment Practice Guidanceat paragraph 2.10) and Overseas DBS.
Probationary/settling in period, supervision and regular review should be made part of the process. See the House of Bishops’ Safer Recruitment Practice Guidanceat paragraphs 2.13 and 2.14).
“Those who have or will go onto abuse may not have a criminal record. Thus, selection and recruitment becomes a very important safeguard” Bichard Inquiry Report 2004
Furthermore, while it may seem like this is an onerous and bureaucratic box ticking exercise, a good and robust recruitment process can save us heartache further down the line. An unwise appointment can impact team morale and can lead to devastating legal consequences, most importantly it can put the most vulnerable in harm’s way.
Not all recruitment falls under the umbrella of Safer Recruitment, however, these principles form the basis of a robust process that can be applied to all roles regardless of whether they are subject to DBS and additional safeguarding checks – more details below.
The diagram below shows the workflow of a recruitment process. Please note: steps outlined in red are specific to SAFER recruitment and are optional for recruitment which falls outside this remit.
The Responsible Person
The Responsible Person (RP) maintains oversight of the whole process. They must have completed the Safer Recruitment training while also ensuring that any other individuals involved in the process are appropriately trained. Learning modules can be accessed on the Church of England Safeguarding Training Portal: https://safeguardingtraining.cofeportal.org/course/view.php?id=28
This does not preclude the RP from delegating tasks but they have ultimate responsibility for ensuring that all the steps are appropriately followed.
Ways in which other people can be involved while also maintaining clear lines of responsibility include:
Developing role descriptions
Forming part of the interview panel
Assisting in the formulation of interview tasks and questions
Job Description and Personal Specification
A well-designed job description will set clear boundaries and expectations for a role. It will help the RP consider what it is they want from a role and what sort of person will be suitable.
Please also see the information on the Equalities Act 2010 which is designed to protect people from discrimination in the workplace and in their wider society. Adherence to this is a legal obligation.
Advertising a role
How you advertise a role is important as it gives the first impression of you as an employer. You can advertise in various places with varying degrees of cost – each have their advantages and disadvantages. For instance: Indeed.com will give a wide coverage but often invites applicants with low engagement. Using an agency incurs a hefty cost but will provide a bespoke and comprehensive service.
It is important to note that just because someone is known by the Church, that alone does not make them safe. Informality can make the Church vulnerable.
To prevent unfair bias, wherever possible, the person reviewing the confidential declarations should not be on the shortlisting or interviewing panel. When a declaration is made, it should, along with the application and job description, be sent to the DSA for review and possible further action.
Applicants have the right to legally withold criminal record information – however, some roles are exempt from this under the ROA Exceptions Order 1975.
Exempt roles usually have substantial contact with children or vulnerable adults.
If the role is exempt this also means that the applicant requires a criminal records check (see DBS eligibility)
In Safer Recruitment:
Information is voluntary and requests should encourage openness, honesty and trust
Information should be used as part of the overall assessment of suitability for the role – it does not automatically preclude an application from being taken forward
However, if the request for a Confidential Declaration is refused, the application should not be taken any further
Please see the Church of England Guidance for templates.
The RP should assemble and lead the shortlisting panel of at least two people. Using the job description and personal specification, a shortlisting matrix can be formed from the essential and desirable criteria. Each application should be considered against each criteria and given a score. Your scoring system can take various forms as long as it is applied consistently across all applicants. A good system to follow is a score out of 5 where 1 – Not met, 3 – Met expectations, 5 – Exceeds expectations. The highest scoring applications should be taken forward to the interview process. Dependent upon the role, we recommend shortlisting no more than 5 candidates.
For some criteria it may be more appropriate to assess these at the interview stage, if this is made clear on the personal specification, this can speed up the both the application and shortlisting processes as these particular criteria will not have to be scored.
All decisions must be recorded and retained for 6 months after the closing date. Should you receive a request for feedback you should be able to respond with an objective reason(s) as to why the candidate was not shortlisted.
Interviews are two way processes. They are as much about you assessing whether a candidate is appropriate for a role as the candidate deciding if they want to come and work for your organisation. It is imperative that you present yourself and your Church well, the key to which is planning!
Points to note:
Ensure that at least one person on the interview pannel has completed the online safer recruitment trainign in accordance with the 2022 Church of England Practice Guidelines
Decide in advance whether you would like to include a task or a presentation, ensure that you inform the candidate of any additional requirements in their invitation to attend the interview
Make sure that the room you are using is appropriate (quiet, private), do you need to provide any technology (a laptop) or additional equipment (pen and paper)
Ensure each of the panel members knows their responsibility on the day, it is good practice to name your panel members on the invitation and introduce everyone at the start of the interview
Decide on your questions in advance – they should be open ended, not leading and specific to the role. Avoid any questions about candidate’s personal lives or interests
Score the candidate as soon as possible after their interview and prior to meeting the next person – interview days are often long and tiring and you will not remember details as well by the end of the day!
Specifically for Safer Recruitment, interview questions and assessments should be able to discern:
Skills, abilities and motivation
Experience with appropriate groups
Ability to maintain appropriate boundaries and relationships
Attitudes to authority and discipline
Awareness of safeguarding and its importance
Always ask if an applicant knows of any issues that may effect their ability to carry out the role.
When the interview and assessment process has been completed you should be in a position to offer the role subject to pre-employment checks. These checks should include the following:
Receipt of references that are satisfactory to the parish Various reference request templates are available and are especially important if the individual is working with children or vulnerable adults
Evidence of right to work in the UK (see the Home Office guidance for which documents are suitable). If evidence cannot be provided then you may need to sponsor the individual under the Home Office immigration requirements- speak to the HR department at the Diocese for more information
Occupational Health assessment There are many occupational health providers available who will tell you whether an individual is fit for the role or whether reasonable adjustments may be necessary
Evidence of qualifications that may be required for the role For example, an accountancy qualification may be needed for a Finance Manager role
Disclosure and Barring Service check and confidential declaration (if required) This may be required for roles that involve regulated activity with children or vulnerable adults.
You can make the offer verbally but always follow up in writing. You will also need to provide a contract of employment before the start of a person’s employment.
Ensure that all checks are completed before the individual starts work with you and before the appointment is confirmed.
You must also communicate back to the other candidates to confirm that they unfortunately have not been successful this time.
For the most up-to-date information on DBS checks in the Diocese please visit our Safeguarding pages.
Discerning which level of check to complete is a complicated and often confusing process, the Diocese of London processes all Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) applications online using the eBulk system, which is managed by Thirtyone:eight. The website provides a useful interactive eligibility guide based on the tasks carried out to help determine what level of checks are required. This is free to use but you will need to create a user profile.
Please do bear in mind that it is an offence to over check a candidate so extra care should be taken when determining eligibility.
There are four levels of DBS check that will provide different information about an individual’s criminal record. The levels are:
Basic – can be used for any position or purpose and gives details of convictions/cautions that are considered unspent under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974
Standard – A standard level certificate contains details of all spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands, and final warnings from the Police National Computer (PNC) which have not been filtered in line with legislation.
Enhanced – for roles and duties included in Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions Order 1975) and the Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) regulations, for example, regularly caring for, training, supervising or being solely in charge of children, specified activities with adults in receipt of health care or social care services. An enhanced level certificate contains the same PNC information as the standard level certificate but also includes a check of information held by police forces.
Enhanced with Barring – for those carrying out regulated activity (dependent upon frequency) and a small number of positions listed in Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) regulations. An enhanced level certificate with barred list check(s) contains the same PNC information and check of information held by police forces as an enhanced level check but in addition will check against the children’s and/or adult’s barred lists. The barred list tells us whether an individual has been prohibited from working with either Children or Adults. If an individual has been barred, it is a criminal offence to apply for a role that would have them working with vulnerable groups.
Appointment and Contracts
The RP should be satisfied that all the checks have been completed to a satisfactory level and give sign off on the staff employment file. An appointment letter is another opportunity to re-enforce the value of, and commitment to, safeguarding.
As of April 2020, all workers and employees are entitled to a written statement of terms from day one of employment and regardless of the contract duration. For more details on what to include and for templates please see the ACAS guidance.
Further guidance on employment status and types of contracts can be found here.
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