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    Safeguarding and volunteers

    Do you use volunteers? How do you communicate your vision, values and expectations in relation to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI)? Are you clear on what you need to do in relation to your safeguarding responsibilities?

    Many providers rely on the use of volunteers who undertake regular support roles in the education sector. Volunteers are often a valuable resource. However, providers need to make sure that they communicate effectively, their vision and values of EDI to this group of people.

    Providers will also want to communicate their expectations. For example, you will want to ensure that volunteers know that they are expected to consistently report any incidents of discrimination or harassment, including the use of inappropriate equality language.

    Communicating your vision, values and expectations is likely to involve several activities including, for example:

    • Integrating the process meaningfully in induction
    • Providing information leaflets with a robust check mechanism to ensure volunteers have read these and understood their roles
    • Displays reinforcing key vision, values and expectation messages

    This month, I came across an interesting article on safeguarding responsibilities in relation to volunteers. Although primarily written for schools, it will be of interest to college staff. Below is an adapted version of this article together with relevant links that you might find useful.

    ‘Keeping children safe in education’ is a useful website for schools and colleges, which you can access here.

    The website states that governing bodies and proprietors should prevent people who pose a risk of harm from working with children by adhering to statutory responsibilities to check staff who work with children, taking proportionate decisions on whether to ask for any checks beyond what is required and ensuring volunteers are appropriately supervised (paragraph 92).

    Whilst there is no requirement that volunteers who are not in regulated activity should have a DBS check, in 'certain circumstances...schools and colleges may obtain an enhanced DBS certificate (not including barred list information)' (Keeping Children Safe in Education paragraph 169).

    Schools are busy places and inevitably volunteers could easily be unsupervised; not least because supervised means 'by someone in regulated activity'; this means that supervision doesn't simply mean not working alone. Keeping Children Safe in Education recognises this potential loophole and says 'under no circumstances should a volunteer in respect of whom no checks have been obtained be left unsupervised or allowed to work in regulated activity (paragraph 167).'

    'All schools should undertake a risk assessment on all volunteers and use their professional judgement and experience to decide whether or not to obtain an enhanced DBS certificate for any volunteer not engaging in regulated activity' (KCSIE, paragraph 170). In doing so they should consider:

    • the nature of the work with children
    • what the establishment knows about the volunteer, including formal or informal information offered by staff, parents and other volunteers
    • whether the volunteer has other employment or undertakes voluntary activities where referees can advise on suitability
    • whether the role is eligible for an enhanced DBS check. 

    Without undertaking an Enhanced DBS check, schools would not know whether a person had committed offences that could mean they were unsuitable to work with children. In 2015, a teacher who had been jailed after being convicted for grooming a teenage girl was able to work as a volunteer in an infant school after his release. The school had no idea about his past because they had not carried out any checks.

    Although not a statutory requirement in itself to complete an Enhanced DBS on volunteers, it is a statutory requirement to carry out a risk assessment on volunteers to ascertain whether there are 'certain circumstances' where an Enhanced DBS would be needed. Therefore it is most sensible to complete an Enhanced DBS on volunteers, especially if they regularly come into school, in addition to completing the mandatory risk assessment.

    What schools should do:

    1. Complete a risk assessment for each volunteer
    2. Obtain an Enhanced DBS Check with Barred List if the person is in Regulated Activity
    3. Obtain an Enhanced DBS Check without Barred List if the person may be left unsupervised by someone who is themselves in Regulated Activity

     A draft risk assessment to provide a starting point can be downloaded here

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