In line with our own humanity, we seek the perfect way to help during a global crisis. Traditionally we volunteer and also urge others to take up critical assistance roles. But how can you avoid accepting volunteers or workers with no proper vetting checks?
It's vital to firstly mention that the advice from the Government continues to be to stay home to protect the NHS and save lives, and we are now limited to very few purposes to leave our houses.
Many individuals will want to volunteer to support their local communities, either individually or as part of organised groups. There are many ways to help, but it is important it is done safely for all involved. It it vital to note that while you can still provide care or help to a vulnerable person, you must avoid all non-essential contact.
But what if people can, and do, want to help out in a safe manner – by providing childcare facilities to their community, or volunteering at the local school who is struggling to even stay open for children of key workers due to staff absence – and you want to hire them? In any case, you must remember to ensure they have come through appropriate channels and levels of background check, in order to maintain a high level of safeguarding.
Please don't use unregistered, non-DBS checked childcare. Keeping children safe is the most important thing in this difficult situation.— Ofsted (@Ofstednews) March 28, 2020
Ofsted have already warned institutions not to use unregistered, unchecked childcare, because it violates safeguarding regulations and fails to keep children safe.
The Chief Executive of the Disclosure and Barring Service, Eric Robinson, similarly issued the following statement on the 25th of March, recognising the huge increase in volunteer recruitment:
"Employers within the healthcare profession are starting to recruit huge numbers of staff and volunteers to help them deal with the significant demand. The role of DBS is to ensure we provide those employers and voluntary organisations with adequate information, to enable them to make safer recruitment decisions."
"Measures have been taken and systems put in place that will ensure we prioritise applications for DBS checks for those who are assisting in responding to this national emergency, making sure where possible, checks are carried out within 24 hours and also checking the Barred lists to make sure applicants are not already barred from working in regulated activity." - Eric Robinson
It is for this reason that the DBS has offered a new fast-track service completely free of charge, as of today (Monday the 30th of March). This is temporary, and is relevant to certain roles only. When an application for an enhanced DBS check is received and identified as an application for particular roles for COVID-19, the DBS will now check both barred lists within 24 hours. See more on these specific roles here.
Furthermore, as The Department for Health and Social Care has advised, if there is no match against the barred lists, the applicant can be recruited in advance of receiving the full DBS certificate.
If you are looking to recruit a new volunteer or paid worker, you must therefore first ensure that they are properly vetted according to the requirements of their role, which you can find a full guide for here.
Please see an extract of Frequently Asked Questions below, more can be accessed here.
"I’m organising a group of volunteers. I understand that there isn’t a legal requirement for me to have my volunteers DBS checked, but should I do so anyway?"
DBS: "Many of the roles that volunteers will carry out in their local communities do not raise safeguarding issues and do not need a DBS check. You can have a look at the DBS eligibility guidance to confirm whether the activities your group propose to do are captured.
If your group’s activities are captured, under normal circumstances we would advise that having volunteers DBS checked is a prudent safeguarding step. There is, however, no legal requirement for you to have a DBS check. Regardless of whether you choose to have volunteers DBS checked, you should ensure your group follow simple, practical precautions such as working safely in pairs, keeping records of money spent and providing shopping receipts to safeguard all involved.
If they are not from the same household, volunteers must stay two metres apart at all times. Please remember that gatherings of more than two people in public are currently banned, with these measures being enforced by the police."
"How long do DBS checks last for?"
DBS: "DBS checks do not have an expiry date. In the case of new voluntary or community groups, we suggest that if a check is older than three years a decision should be made based on the individual and the role they will be carrying out.
Please remember that gatherings of more than two people in public are currently banned, with these measures being enforced by the police."
"My DBS check has recently expired. Do I need to apply for a new one?"
DBS: "As DBS checks do not have an expiry date, you should speak with the organisation that you are going to be working or volunteering for. They may choose to accept the check that you already have."
Please stay up to date with the full guidance from Public Health England which is available here.