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Volunteering and working with children and adults at risk


This information applies to all those in the Diocese of London who are to be appointed to roles which involve working, either paid or on a voluntary basis, with vulnerable groups – children/young people and/or adults at risk.

All those in this position need to be carefully selected and trained in line with Safer Recruitment principles, including the use of criminal records disclosures and registration with the relevant vetting and barring schemes through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

This guidance should be read in conjunction with the Diocesan safeguarding policies and associated guidance contained within ‘Safeguarding in the Diocese of London’, (2012).

The full national guidelines are available for further information – ‘Safeguarding Guidelines Relating to Safer Recruitment: For all who work on behalf of the Church of England’ 2010.

Volunteers make up a huge part of the ‘workforce’ within a parish and need to be treated in the same way as paid employees in relation to these guidelines.

Where a volunteer’s role is very limited, for example accompanying children on a day’s outing once a year or helping at a one-off event, a DBS check would not be necessary providing that they are not left alone with vulnerable people at any time and are supervised by someone who does have a DBS disclosure that has been carried out by the Diocese. A Confidential Declaration form should always be completed and assessed.

Volunteers under the age of 18 and in education must provide their head teacher’s details as one of their references.

N.B. Those under the age of 18 cannot be left with sole responsibility for vulnerable people and must count as a child in the ratio of adults to children (see Guidance on Staffing for further information on ratios). They must at all times be supervised by someone who does have a DBS disclosure that has been carried out by the Diocese.

Recruitment and Selection – best practice

Parishes should have clear, effective appointment procedures and practices. The following checklists are to guide you through the process at each stage.

1. Before you advertise the post

Action Done
Ensure that you have an up to date job or role description which includes a person specification for the post
This clarifies the role and helps to avoid misunderstanding. The Person Specification shows the kind of person likely to be suited to the role. Together they describe the essential and desirable skills and experience required to fulfill the role competently. Role descriptions should be provided for both paid and voluntary positions and a copy should accompany every application for a DBS disclosure.
Ensure you know where the post will be advertised and that you have all of the relevant information for the advert, including a closing deadline.
For a paid role, the position is likely to be advertised more widely than for a voluntary role which may just be advertised within the parish i.e. in weekly notices.
Ensure that you have an up-to-date safeguarding policy statement and that a statement about the parish’s commitment to safeguarding is included in all recruitment and selection materials.
This statement could read: “The parish of ………….. is committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of all those who are vulnerable. We expect all of our staff and volunteers to share this commitment. This post is subject to a Disclosure and Barring Service disclosure and identity check.”
Ensure that you have a candidate information pack ready to send to any applicants, including: an application form, a job or role description, a copy of your safeguarding policy statement etc. 

2. Before you interview

Interviews should take place for all those ‘working’ in the parish whether paid or voluntary. They could be less formal for those in a voluntary role but it is important that you ascertain that they are the right person for the role.

Action Done
Ensure that each application received is scrutinised in a systematic way by the short listing panel in order to agree a shortlist before sending out invitations to interview. 
Ensure the Confidential Declaration form (in section 5 of ‘Safeguarding in the Diocese of London’) has been completed by the shortlisted candidates. 
Ensure that all candidates know when and where the interview is and what it will entail. 

3. Before selecting the preferred candidate

Action Done
Ensure a face-to-face interview is conducted (by at least two people) for all suitable candidates based on an objective assessment of their ability to meet the person specification and role description.
For any role or work in the parish involving contact with children/young people or adults at risk (whether paid or voluntary) the potential candidates should be interviewed. If appropriate, a practical element can be included in the interview, for example a presentation or ask them to plan a children’s club session.
Ensure that all questions are designed to gain the required information and to assess the person’s suitability for the role.
Interview questions should be evidentially based i.e. “Give me an example when you . . .” (not hypothetical) and should cover areas such as: motivation, resilience and attitudes to working with children or adults at risk; professional boundaries and professional integrity, taking action to protect children, young people or adults at risk and developing and maintaining positive relationships with young people.
Verify the applicant’s identity.
Sight of an applicant’s original birth certificate (or passport) provides verification of full name and date of birth and so ensures that the data used in other checks is accurate. If the individual does not have the right to work or volunteer in the UK then further identity checks and sponsorship through the UK Border Agency may be required.

4. Before you formally appoint

Action Done
Ensure that you are able to confidently select a candidate. If you can’t, do not appoint. 
Ensure that two references have been requested for the chosen candidate.
References are valuable when made to work. Two references should provide two perspectives. These should give an independent opinion on the suitability of the candidate so should not be from relatives or partners, close friends or the current parish priest. If the role involves working with vulnerable groups, at least one of the referees should be in the position to comment on the candidate’s suitability to work with such groups specifically. Where the applicant is, or has worked in another setting, one reference should be from that employer or supervisor. Reference requests must include specific questions that the referee has to address. Where replies seem unclear or vague, the reference should be always be followed up by telephone. A standard reference request template which must be used for all roles that work with children, young people or adults at risk is available in Section 5 of ‘Safeguarding in the Diocese of London’.
Carry out other necessary checks including a DBS disclosure where applicable and follow up references.
If appropriate, the person should be asked to go through the Disclosure process. A risk assessment must be undertaken by the DST if a Disclosure reveals any offence or information provided by the police. Parishes will be required to confirm that they have taken up references on the ‘Personal Details Form’ when applying for a DBS disclosure.
Ensure that your preferred candidate knows that the offer of employment is conditional on receiving satisfactory information from all necessary checks. You should not allow anyone to be in post until all the elements of safer recruitment are complete including, when necessary, the receipt of a DBS disclosure. 

5. Once appointed

Action Done
Ensure that the individual receives a written contract (paid staff) or a Church Volunteer Agreement (voluntary staff) which includes a probationary period, keeping a signed copy on file.
In any appointment (paid or voluntary), good practice suggests an explicit probationary period followed by a review and appraisal before the appointment is confirmed. Six months is a common standard for probationary periods and monthly supervisory meetings are recommended as best practice when the individual is working regularly with children, young people or adults at risk. The Church Volunteer Agreement can be found in Section 5 of ‘Safeguarding in the Diocese of London’.
In accordance with the contract/agreement, provide a named supervisor and make sure that regular review meetings are set up. Induction should include: understanding of the disciplinary procedures and behaviour which may result in disciplinary action being taken; understanding of the parish and Diocesan policies relating to safeguarding, health and safety etc; understanding of the conduct expected of them (see below); understanding what good practice is for the work they are involved in – including boundaries etc; organising both safeguarding and any other training identified as necessary. 
Ensure that the Code of Conduct is signed and a copy kept on file (see section 5 of ‘Safeguarding in the Diocese of London’). 

When someone leaves a position, they should be offered an exit interview/conversation. They should be thanked for their services and encouraged to share any comments on how any aspect of the role and service could be improved.

If in doubt about any element of safer recruitment, please contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Team on safeguarding@nulllondon.anglican.org

Encouraging Volunteers

Below are some principles for your parish to reflect on that may help recruit and retain members to your team of volunteers.

  1. Get the thinking right – if you are planning to employ a paid worker, ensure that the voluntary workers know their services are very much needed still but they will have the additional support of a paid worker.
  2. People volunteer for many reasons – not always for the reasons we think! If we know what our volunteers are hoping to experience, hear or feel as part of their volunteering, we’ll know how to better approach people who we think would be good for the team.
  3. Communicating vision – work out your vision and communicate it enthusiastically so others catch it. It’s the way that a leader communicates this vision that makes the difference – people need to feel they are doing more than just babysitting which ‘anyone can do’.
  4. Know what kind of volunteer you need – have a very clear idea of what you want a volunteer to do before recruiting. In children’s work this is likely to be someone who is committed to your vision and motivated to achieve it, passionate about children and developing their faith, enthusiastic, a team player with a desire to ‘inspire a generation’.
  5. Know what needs to be done – once you know what sort of person you need, think about the skills they should have.
  6. Make volunteering easy for people – make the process as easy as possible, offering help at each step so that it isn’t too overwhelming. It may take time to visit a potential volunteer to help them complete their DBS disclosure application form but if it gives you a volunteer who stays for a few years, it’s worth it.
  7. Give potential volunteers a chance to see what’s involved – consider open days where they visit and sit alongside a permanent volunteer.


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