Safer recruitment

Last updated: 14 Jul 2014
Safer recruitment
Shot 9 2417

Anyone undertaking a role that involves contact with or responsibility for children (or other vulnerable groups) should be taken through a safer recruitment process.

Most people who want to work in a paid or unpaid capacity with children within sport are well motivated. Without them, sports clubs and organisations could not operate.

But whether the role is paid or not, it's important that the individual has the right skills, knowledge and attitude for the role.

Some individuals may not be suitable to work with children due to gaps in these or due to previous concerns about conduct.

It is therefore essential that you have effective recruitment and selection procedures for both paid staff and volunteers. These will help to screen out and discourage those who are not suitable from joining your club/organisation.

Safer recruitment checklist

Key parts of a safe-recruitment procedure include:

  • writing a clear job or role description (what tasks will be involved)
  • also writing a person specification (what experience or attributes the successful candidate needs in order to carry out the role)
  • creating an advertisement for the post
  • using an application form to gather relevant information about each applicant
  • requiring specific written references
  • interviewing the applicant
  • for eligible posts, undertaking a criminal records check:
    • Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) – England and Wales
    • Disclosure Scotland – Scotland
    • AccessNI – Northern Ireland
  • risk assessment of any concerning information
  • verifying qualifications and experience
  • recording recruitment decision
  • induction to the role (including safeguarding policies and procedures, safeguarding training, sign up to Code of Conduct)
  • probationary period

In some instances, you may feel that it is not practical to include all these steps in a recruitment process, but you are strongly recommended to build in as many elements as you can.

Many sports governing bodies, County Sports Partnerships, Local Authorities and other organisations have clear recruitment requirements that you may need to comply with.

They can also offer guidance and practical support (for example, in providing access to and risk assessment of criminal records checks) to assist the vetting process.

Further information and resources

DBS FAQs

DBS FAQs

Answers to the most common questions about records checks in England and Wales.

  1. What is the difference between the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) and the CRB (Criminal Records Bureau)?
  2. What is the difference between an enhanced DBS check and a barred list check?
  3. What is the difference between a standard and an enhanced DBS check?
  4. Where can I get more information about processing and administrating DBS checks?
  5. What is Regulated Activity and why is it important?
  6. Who decides if a role should be regulated activity or not?
  7. How do I determine whether my staff/volunteers are supervised or unsupervised?
  8. Can we DBS check someone if they are not deemed to be in regulated activity?
  9. Who received the DBS disclosure forms?
  10. When a check is undertaken through the DBS in England or Wales does this automatically involve checks against information held in Scotland and Northern Ireland (and vice versa)?
  11. Is a person barred in one part of the UK automatically barred in all?
  12. There is information on an individual’s disclosure form. How can I assess whether this person is suitable for the role?
  13. Can we now accept a single DBS check as opposed to multiple ones as used to be required for CRB? What is the online updating service?
  14. What should I consider when deciding whether to accept applications from the online updating service?
  15. If someone is not eligible for a DBS check, how else can I ensure that they are safe to work with children?
  16. At the moment we have a DBS renewal schedule of 3 years. Is this still appropriate?
  17. When should we refer individuals to the DBS and what is the ‘harm test’?
  18. Do we get to hear about the outcome of an application to DBS for barring after making a referral to the DBS?
  19. When it is stated that you must not knowingly employ a barred individual before taking them on in regulated activity, what is meant by 'knowingly'?

  

1. What is the difference between the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) and the CRB (Criminal Records Bureau)?

The DBS was formed in December 2012 when the CRB and ISA (Independent Safeguarding Authority) were merged. Since then criminal records checks have been undertaken by the DBS, which issues DBS certificates in place of the original CRB disclosures. In this respect there is no difference between a DBS and CRB certificate.

Existing CRB certificates can still be used and accepted providing the organisation considers them sufficiently ‘in date’ for use in determining an individual’s suitability for a role involving contact with children or vulnerable adults. 

2. What is the difference between an enhanced DBS check and a barred list check?

Individuals deemed to be in regulated activity are eligible for an enhanced DBS check with a check against the barred list (for that activity).

Those who fulfil all criteria for regulated activity but are supervised are only being eligible for an enhanced DBS check without a barred list check.

An enhanced DBS check provides criminal information from PNC (the Police National Computer.) PNC including concerning cautions, convictions, and intelligence information as deemed relevant to their application by the Police. 

The barred list check looks at the people who have been barred from working in regulated activity with adults, children or both and makes sure that your applicant is not among them. People may be barred for non-criminal behaviour.

A barred list check also indicates a barring notification. The majority of people with criminal histories that you may feel makes them unsuitable to work with children may not be legally barred from doing so.

3. What is the difference between a standard and an enhanced DBS check?

Standard check
Details of an individual’s convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings recorded on police central records and includes both filtered ‘spent’ and ‘unspent’ convictions.

Enhanced checks
These are for posts that involve a far greater degree of contact with vulnerable groups, including children. In general this will involve regularly caring for, supervising, training or being in sole charge of such people. Examples may include a junior coach, welfare officer or youth team manager.

Enhanced disclosures include information held on the Police National Computer (PNC) about an individual’s convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings and includes both filtered ‘spent’ and ‘unspent’ convictions, plus any local police records that it is reasonably considered might be relevant to the post applied for.

Enhanced checks with a barred list check
As above, together with information about the individual’s barred status. Child barred list information is only available for those individuals engaged in regulated activity with children. Enhanced level checks are strongly recommended for posts that will involve significant contact with and/or responsibility for children.

Who is eligible for a DBS check?
Only individuals in eligible posts or roles (which provide significant levels of contact with or responsibility for children) are eligible to be checked through the DBS.

4. Where can I get more information about processing and administrating DBS checks?

Guidance about the DBS process can be found on the DBS website

5. What is Regulated Activity and why is it important?

Regulated activity is defined as, work which an individual who is barred from working with vulnerable groups including children must not do.

In summary, this includes:

  • Unsupervised activities: teaching, training, instructing, caring for or supervising children, or providing advice/ guidance on well-being, or driving a vehicle only for children.
  • Work being carried out regularly (at least weekly), frequently (four times a month or more) or overnight (between 2am and 6am) or work in a limited range of establishments ('specified places'), with opportunity for contact: e.g. schools, children’s homes, and childcare premises.

It is important for employers of staff or volunteers to determine which roles are considered to be regulated activity. It is an offence for a barred person to seek to work in regulated activity, and for an employer knowingly to employ a barred person in regulated activity. The government plans to introduce aspects of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 that will legally require employers to have established whether an individual is barred before placing them in regulated activity.

For further information, see our sport and recreation sector guidance, Defining supervision and regulated activity

6. Who decides if a role should be regulated activity or not?

It is the employer’s responsibility to decide which roles are eligible for DBS checks and which of these are considered to be in Regulated Activity. This decision should be based on information and guidance provided by DBS.  

7. How do I determine whether my staff and volunteers are supervised or unsupervised?

Most NGBs and other sports organisation have developed guidance for clubs and individuals to help determine which posts or roles are considered to be regulated activity, and therefore what level of DBS checks these posts require.

For further information, see our sport and recreation sector guidance, Defining supervision and regulated activity.  

8. Can we DBS check someone if they are not deemed to be in regulated activity?

Yes, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act makes provision for an employer to opt to require a DBS disclosure (without a barred list check) for someone not in Regulated Activity:

‘Any position which otherwise involves regularly caring for, training, supervising or being solely in charge of children’.

The word ‘regularly’ in this eligibility code is not linked to the requirements in the definition of ‘Regulated Activity’. Therefore open to be defined by the organisation. It is suggested annual activity would not be enough however; an argument could be made for eligibility if an individual does an activity, for example, eight times over a summer period or once a month.

For further information, see our sport and recreation sector guidance, Defining supervision and regulated activity.

9. Who received the DBS disclosure forms?

Since 2013, DBS disclosures are only sent to the individual applicant. Organisations no longer receive their own copy.  Arrangements therefore have to be established to ensure that applicants provide access to the disclosure for eligible posts and roles. 

10. When a check is undertaken through the DBS in England or Wales does this automatically involve checks against information held in Scotland and Northern Ireland (and vice versa)?

Generally they do. DBS checks include a search of most convictions held on the Police National Computer (PNC) which covers the UK. A conviction arising in Glasgow would therefore appear on a DBS disclosure certificate.

However there are some differences in legislation and how the three schemes operate. For example the DBS filtering rules (link) mean that some convictions considered spent in England and Wales would remain unspent in Scotland for criminal records purposes.

11. Is a person barred in one part of the UK automatically barred in all?

DBS operates the barring scheme for England and Wales and on behalf of Northern Ireland. The Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme in Scotland is managed by Disclosure Scotland. The two schemes are aligned and recognise each other’s barring decisions. So a person barred in one jurisdiction will be barred across the UK.

12. There is information on an individual’s disclosure form. How can I assess whether this person is suitable for the role?

DBS disclosure information should be considered alongside all other relevant information when making a decision about an individual’s suitability to work with children. This may include references, application information, qualifications, experience and previous training.

A risk assessment is required of any DBS disclosure information which will include: 

  • Clarification of the nature and significance of convictions or previous recorded behaviour (ideally information from the applicant and from a reliable third party).
  • A decision about the significance of this and other information for the person’s suitability to work with children.

It is essential that this decision is made in conjunction with someone with appropriate safeguarding knowledge, experience and preferably training. Has your organisation got good practice guidance for safe recruitment? If so, this will provide relevant support.

For further guidance, see our safer recruitment resources.

13. Can we now accept a single DBS check as opposed to multiple ones as used to be required for CRB? What is the online updating service?

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) update service lets applicants keep their DBS certificates up to date online and allows employers to check a certificate online.  

If an individual has subscribed to the Update Service then their DBS check can be taken from role to role where the same level and type of check are required. With the permission of the individual the employing organisation are able to go online for an instant check to find out whether the individual’s DBS certificate is still up to date (this is called a status check). The organisation simply enters a number of details for the applicant onto the system which includes their DBS certificate number. This is only relevant for applications submitted after 17 June 2013. 

14. What should I consider when deciding whether to accept applications from the online updating service? 

The DBS Update Service allows a DBS certificate to be kept up-to-date and taken from role to role, within the same workforce (e.g. children, vulnerable adults, or both), where the same type and level of check (for regulated activity or not) is required. An employer is able to make a free online instant status check to see if a certificate shown to them is up to date. If it isn’t then a new check should be applied for. An individual has to pay to subscribe to the updating service (£13 per year but free for volunteers); for employers the service is free. Issues to consider include:

  • The robustness of the identity verifying processes applied by the organisation responsible for seeking the individual’s initial DBS disclosure recruitment, which are essential for this system to work. To safeguard children there must be no doubt that the identity of a person making the initial application is verified beyond doubt, otherwise an unsafe person is able to move from role to role.
  • Non-conviction data provided on DBS disclosures is only guaranteed to be updated by the police every 9 months – therefore potentially relevant information may exist but not be indicated a ‘clear’ Update Service check.
  • Challenges ensuring that applicants receive their DBS disclosure within the 14 days from issue that represent the time limit for them subscribing to the Update Service.
  • Potential data protection issues around correctly identifying the level and relevant workforce of a presented certificate; e.g. an employer does not have the right to see barring list information if an individual moves from regulated activity into non-regulated activity).
  • Organisation’s systems need to be robust and adequate to use the service effectively – including security, digital inclusion, accessibility etc.

The status check will show if there is a status change for that individual – this means that the certificate is out of date and that the organisation should apply for a new certificate to see any new information that exists. If you are employing someone in regulated activity and you see that the status has changed you need to find out if the change came as a result of the individual being placed on one of the DBS barred lists. You are able to do this by carrying out an early confirmation check (with applicant consent) by filling in a form on the DBS website.

The information remains a snap-shot in time and onus is on the organisation to check against it routinely. The status check will not provide information concerning criminal record details presented on a DBS check which might affect recruitment decisions. The system simply indicates a change in the barring or conviction information (PNC)

Not all organisations promote the updating system and some continue to require a separate DBS check.

15. If someone is not eligible for a DBS check, how else can I ensure that they are safe to work with children?

CPSU have developed a wealth of information to assist your organisation with safe recruitment, visit CPSU Safer recruitment page for further information.

Additional questions

These additional questions arose from our DBS webinar, Practical application of DBS disclosures.

16. At the moment we have a DBS renewal schedule of 3 years. Is this still appropriate?

Unless an organisation is subject to the renewal criteria of a registration body the renewal is at the discretion of the organisation.

Of course since the Update Service was launched renewal has become less important – if an individual has subscribed to the Update Service then the employing organisation is able to carry out status checks and with the individual’s permission could carry these out on an annual basis.

17. When should we refer individuals to the DBS and what is the ‘harm test’?

There are two main criteria for referring individuals to the DBS.  The referring body believes that the person has either:

  • Engaged in relevant conduct or
  • Satisfied the harm test or
  • Received a caution for, or been convicted of, a relevant offence

What is the harm test?
The harm test is where the actions or lack of actions on the part of the person could have resulted in harm to a vulnerable group but where no-one was actually harmed e.g. the waking night staff planning to sleep through their shift.

18. Do we get to hear about the outcome of an application to DBS for barring after making a referral to the DBS?

An organisation will only find out the result of a DBS decision about barring if the individual is still within regulated activity in their organisation.

19. When it is stated that you must not knowingly employ a barred individual before taking them on in regulated activity, what is meant by 'knowingly'?

This refers to being clear which roles are in regulated activity and ensuring that these individuals are checked against the barred list(s) before employing or deploying them. You can only really “know” if you carry out a DBS check on an individual. Should an organisation choose not to do this they could be deemed to be in breach of duty of care as the tool was readily available.

AccessNI FAQs

AccessNI FAQs

Answers to the most common questions about records checks in Northern Ireland.

  1. What is the difference between AccessNI and DBS/CRBs checks?
  2. What is the difference between a standard and an enhanced AccessNI check?
  3. Where can I get more information about processing and administrating AccessNI checks?
  4. What is Regulated Activity and why is it important?
  5. Who decides if a role should be Regulated Activity or not?
  6. How do I determine whether my staff/volunteers are supervised or unsupervised?
  7. How should the voluntary sector interpret the guidance on what is supervised activity?
  8. Can we AccessNI check someone if they are not deemed to be in Regulated Activity?
  9. Who receives the AccessNI disclosure certificates?
  10. I have information on a disclosure form about an individual. How can I assess whether this person is suitable for the role?
  11. If someone is not eligible for an AccessNI check, how else can I ensure that they are safe to work with children?

 

1. What is the difference between AccessNI and DBS checks?

An AccessNI disclosure certificate will check the same information as a DBS check. But if the individual has had an address on their application in the Republic of Ireland, then a check will also be made with the Garda Central Vetting Unit (this does not happen if the application is made through DBS).

Currently, AccessNI do not offer a portability scheme but this should be in place by the end of 2016.

2. What is the difference between a standard and an enhanced AccessNI check?

Standard checks 
Details of an individual’s convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings recorded on police central records, and includes both filtered ‘spent’ and ‘unspent’ convictions.

Enhanced checks 
These are for posts that involve a far greater degree of contact with vulnerable groups, including children. In general, this will involve regularly caring for, supervising, training or being in sole charge of such people. Examples may include a junior coach, welfare officer or youth team manager.

Enhanced disclosures include information held on the Police National Computer (PNC) about an individual’s convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings and includes both filtered ‘spent’ and ‘unspent’ convictions, plus any local police records that it is reasonably considered might be relevant to the post applied for enhanced checks.

Enhanced checks with a barred list check 
As above, together with information about the individual’s barred status.

(Note: Child barred list information is only available for those individuals engaged in regulated activity with children.)

Enhanced level checks are strongly recommended for posts that will involve significant contact with and/or responsibility for children.

3. Where can I get more info about processing and administrating AccessNI checks?

Guidance about the AccessNI process can be found on the NI Direct website.

4. What is Regulated Activity?

Regulated activity - for those working with children and young people is: Working in a paid or voluntary capacity with children is regulated activity if:

  1. It is one of the activities listed; and 
  2. Is done “regularly”, with the exception of health care and relevant personal care which is regulated activity even if carried out once; or
  3. It is carried out in a specified place.

1. The activities include:

  • Teaching, training or instruction;
  • Care or supervision, including health care and relevant personal care;
  • Advice or guidance provided wholly or mainly for children relating to their physical, emotional or educational well-being;
  • moderating a public electronic interactive communication service likely to be used wholly or mainly by children;
  • driving a vehicle being used only for conveying children and carers or supervisors.

Day to day management or supervision on a regular basis of a person carrying out one of the activities listed above is also a regulated activity.

Activities that are excluded from the definition of regulated activity are:

  • Activity or participation of children that is merely incidental to what would normally be an adult activity;
  • “supervised activity”* - an individual who is under reasonable day to day supervision by another person engaging in regulated activity; and 
  • activity by a person in a group assisting or acting on behalf of, or under direction of, another person engaging in regulated activity in relation to children. This is the “peer exemption”.

2. ‘Regularly’ is defined as:

Carried out by the same person frequently (once a week or more often), or on 4 or more days in a 30-day period, or overnight.

(Note: Definition of “overnight” - In relation to teaching, training or instruction; care or supervision; or advice or guidance, it is also regulated activity if carried out (even once) at any time between 2am and 6am and with an opportunity for face-to-face contact with children.)

3. The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (NI) Order 2007

Lists specified places, including schools and day care premises, where an activity with children is a regulated activity if it is carried out regularly by the same person in connection with the purposes of the place where it is carried out.  This could include, for example, sports coaching in a school.  The supervised exemption also applies in a specified place but only where the activity is carried out by a volunteer.

5. Who decides if a role should be Regulated Activity or not?

It is the employer’s responsibility to decide which roles are eligible for an AccessNI checks and which of these are considered to be in Regulated Activity. This decision should be based on information and guidance provided by AccessNI. 

6. How do I determine whether my staff/volunteers are supervised or unsupervised?

When an organisation decides to supervise a person with the aim that the supervised work will not be regulated activity (when it would be, if not so supervised), in such a case, the law makes three main points: 

  1. There must be supervision by a person who is in regulated activity; 
  2. The supervision must be regular and day to day; and 
  3. The supervision must be “reasonable” in all the circumstances to ensure the protection of children.

7. How should the voluntary sector interpret the above guidance on what is supervised activity?

The organisation must have regard to the statutory guidance, and may wish to consider the points below in relation to supervision issues in the voluntary sector.  The introduction of the term supervision is intended to give local leaders the flexibility to determine what is reasonable and regular for their circumstances.

Umbrella/registered bodies need to ensure they are able to give advice to organisations/clubs when requested and to provide consistency in how those involved in their activity in certain roles are checked. While the precise nature and level of supervision will vary from case to case, guidance on the main legal points above is outlined as follows.

  • Supervision of the individual is provided by a person in regulated activity in a more senior position than the individual. Peer to peer supervision does not mean the individual is in a formally supervised position.
  • Supervision is regular and day to day, i.e. that supervision must take place “on a regular basis”. This means that supervision must not, for example, be concentrated during the first few weeks of an activity and then tail off thereafter, becoming the exception rather than the rule. It must take place on an on-going basis, whether the worker has just started or has been doing the activity for some time.  It must be consistent and on every occasion the individual is working/volunteering.
  • Supervision must be reasonable in the circumstances for the purposes of child protection. Your organisation must consider if you can ensure a consistent level of supervision at all times to ensure that it would not impact on the safety of children in your care if a barred individual was in this “supervised” position.

8. Can we AccessNI check someone if they are not deemed to be in Regulated Activity?

Yes – the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act makes provision for an employer to opt to require an AccessNI disclosure (without a barred list check) for someone not in Regulated Activity: ‘Any position which otherwise involves regularly caring for, training, supervising or being solely in charge of children’.

The word ‘regularly’ in this eligibility code is not linked to the requirements in the definition of ‘Regulated Activity’ – it is therefore open to define by the organisation. It is suggested annual activity would not be enough but an argument could be made for eligibility if an individual does an activity, say, eight times over a summer period or once a month.

9. Who receives the AccessNI disclosure certificate?

The applicant and the organisation administering the check will receive a copy of the disclosure certificate. This is due to change to the applicant only receiving the certificate in spring 2015.

10. I have information on a disclosure form about an individual. How can I assess whether this person is suitable for the role?

AccessNI disclosure information should be considered alongside all other relevant information when making a decision about an individual’s suitability to work with children. This may include references, application information, qualifications, experience and previous training.

A risk assessment is required of any AccessNI disclosure information which will include: clarification of the nature and significance of convictions or previous recorded behaviour (ideally information from the applicant and from a reliable third party); a judgement about the significance of this and other information for the person’s suitability to work with children. It is essential that this judgement is made at least in conjunction with someone with appropriate safeguarding knowledge, experience and preferably training.

11. If someone is not eligible for an AccessNI check, how else can I ensure that they are safe to work with children?

If an individual is working with children on a regular basis, they should be eligible for an AccessNI check. But organisations should be aware of best-practice advice on safe recruitment by having the following in place:

Have a job role description
Describes the full range of tasks, duties and responsibilities of the role and helps everyone to understand the extent and nature of the role.

Create a person specification
Describes the type of skills, experience and attributes required for this role. For example: specific experience; sports or other qualifications; and other requirements, such as effective communication with children.

Openly advertise the job or role
Advertise or promote paid jobs or volunteer roles to attract the widest response and demonstrate an open recruitment process. This could be through: the club’s or sport’s newsletters or notice boards (including online); in local papers; local newsagents; church bulletins. Indicate that the post involves working with children, and (if appropriate) that a criminal records check will be undertaken.

Have a standard application form
Require all applicants to complete an application form (many governing bodies have developed standard application forms that include all relevant questions – affiliated clubs or organisations should use these). A copy of this form should be retained by the local club or organisation.

For eligible posts, this form should include a section allowing the individual to self-declare relevant convictions or information, and give their consent for a criminal records check to be undertaken (if relevant). The form should state that failure to disclose information may result in their exclusion from the club, organisation or event. It should capture relevant information about the person’s experience, qualifications and employment history (paid and voluntary).

Requirement for references
Obtain at least 2 written references, preferably including their last employer (paid role) or deployer (voluntary role). Include someone who can comment on the applicant’s previous work with children.

Interview or meet
Ensure staff or volunteers undertake an interview or have a meeting with at least 2 representatives of the organisation. Check out any gaps in the application form and ensure the applicant has the ability and commitment to meet the standards required to adhere to the safeguarding policy.

You may want to explore the applicant’s attitude to power, authority and discipline, and ask for a response to a problem faced in your club or organisation to assess their commitment to promoting good practice and their ability to communicate with children and young people.

Identity and qualification checks 
Take steps to confirm the candidate’s identity (for instance, request photographic identification), qualifications, experience and right to work in the UK. Clarify any apparent gaps in employment Criminal Records Checks.

Probationary or trial period
Set a probationary or trial period (usually 6 months) and review the post holder’s performance against the job description. Every new post should be reviewed within an agreed period of time, varying depending on the nature of the post. It's good practice to have a review at the conclusion of the probationary period.

Appoint through the management committee
Ensure all appointments are made by the Executive Committee and not by any individual members of the organisation or club.

Resources

Use these resources to ensure you're completing records checks properly, and that your recruitment practices will keep children safe.

CPSU resources

Wider NSPCC resources

Other useful resources and websites