Safer recruitment

Last updated: 08 Jan 2021
Why safer recruitment is important

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

Across the UK, statutory guidance highlights the responsibility of those in the education, community and care sectors to have policies and procedures in place that ensure they only employ suitable people to work or volunteer with children.

In England, the statutory guidance is Working together to safeguard children (PDF) (Department for Education, 2018). This highlights the responsibility of all organisations working with children to have safe recruitment practices in place.

Sport relies on thousands of well-motivated staff and volunteers without whom most clubs, activities and events would not exist. It is essential that your sports club or activity has effective recruitment and selection procedures. This will help to create a safe workforce for both paid staff and volunteers, as well as helping to screen out and discourage those who are not suitable from joining your club or organisation.

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 national governing bodiesactive 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.

What are the benefits?

Here are some of the benefits of having recruitment and selection procedures in place in your club or activity:

  • staff and volunteers will have clearly defined roles and responsibilities
  • parents are assured that measures are taken to recruit only suitable people to work with children and young people
  • there is a reduced risk to your organisation's reputation

Key things to consider

The same procedures should be adopted whether staff are paid or unpaid, full or part-time and that the individual has the right skills, knowledge and attitude for the role you are looking to recruit to.

Its important to ensure your organisation is doing all that it can to recruit the most suitable person for a role and one that will best suit your setting. Gaps in employment history, or any previous concerns raised within references about the applicant's conduct, will affect the applicants suitability to work with children and young people.

Further information and resources

Safely recruiting staff and volunteers

To select the right people for your sports club, activity or organisation, it’s essential to produce an application pack and any supporting information about your organisation.

This application pack and supporting information, should be made available to any person interested in applying for a role, whether it’s paid or voluntary. Information supplied during the application process will help when it comes to shortlisting applicants and identifying any concern that need following up. 

Who is eligible for a DBS check?

Only individuals in eligible posts or roles (e.g. which provide significant levels of responsibility for children) are eligible to be checked through the DBS. For further information about eligibility visit the DBS website and Enhanced DBS check

Self declaration

We have developed a self-declaration forms for sport and activity providers to use and develop your own version to suit your organisation's needs.

This form should state that failure to disclose unspent criminal convictions, including police cautions, children's social care investigations and disciplinary investigations, may result in their role being withdrawn from the club, organisation or event. It should capture relevant information about the person’s experience, qualifications and employment history, both for paid and voluntary roles.

Advertising a role

Prior to recruiting to your chosen role, it’s important to plan and prepare for the hiring process, so that your organisation's values and ethos is clear.

It’s the first opportunity to set out that your organisation takes their safeguarding responsibilities seriously. 

It’s important to indicate that the post involves working with children, and that other relevant safer recruitment processes such as self-declaration, references, criminal records check will be undertaken during this process. This will hopefully discourage any potential candidates who are not suitable to work with children or adults at risk. 

What should be included in the hiring process?

Write a clear job role or job description 

A job or role description should describe the full range of tasks, duties and responsibilities within the role and helps everyone to understand the extent and nature of the role. This is essential in establishing whether the role is eligible for Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

Write a person specification 

This should describe the skills, values, experience and attributes that the successful candidate needs to carry out the role, such as:

  • specific experience of working with children
  • being child-centred
  • required sport, or other, qualifications

Advertise the job or role 

Advertise or promote the role to attract the widest response and demonstrate an open recruitment process. This could be done through the club newsletters, website, notice boards (including online), local papers and job websites.

Interviews and records checks

Choosing wisely and conducting an effective interview and selection process will help you to select the most suitable person for the role.

Here we have detailed some key points to include in your interview and induction process to aid your safer recruitment and selection procedures.

Interview the applicant

  • ensure you have at least 2 people interview or meet with the applicant 
  • check out any gaps in the application form, including any gaps in employment history
  • 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. This will assess their commitment to promoting good practice and their ability to communicate with children and young people

Verify identity, qualifications and experience

Take relevant steps to confirm the candidate’s identity. Request to see original copies of their ID, qualifications, experience and right to work in the UK.

Written references

It's important to obtain at least 2 written references, including the applicants last employer. Referees should include someone who can comment on the applicant’s previous work with children. Ideally, references should be sought on all shortlisted candidates and obtained before an interview takes place.

It is best practice to directly contact the references via telephone to confirm they gave the reference, it is an accurate reflection of the candidate and give them the opportunity to raise any concerns.

It's important to consider the following:

  • clarify whose responsibility this task is (local or club level or at national governing body or organisational level)
  • take care to ensure that information from all sources is provided to those with responsibility for making a decision on the individual’s suitability for the role

For further information see our template reference form for positions working with children.

Record recruitment decisions

Check thoroughly that the applicant has undergone the relevant pre-employment checks and risk assessment. References, ID, right to work, vetting check and self-disclosure should be recorded alongside the interview outcome and stored securely.

For further information, take a look at the NSPCC child protection records retention and storage guidelines.

Criminal records checks

Organisations should have clear guidelines to establish which roles are eligible for criminal records checks, and ensure that applicants for eligible posts comply. Information about previous criminal convictions or other concerns should be risk assessed.

The Disclosure and Barring Service provide criminal records checks for England and Wales. In Northern Ireland and Scotland these functions are provided by AccessNI and Disclosure Scotland respectively.

For further information about the criminal records check process, types of checks, eligibility and assessing and referring information please visit the relevant organisations' website.


It’s advisable to provide space within the application to allow the person applying for the role to self-declare any relevant convictions or information, and give their consent for a criminal record check to be undertaken.

For further information about eligibility visit the links above to DBS, AccessNI or Disclosure Scotland. 

Risk assess information

If any concerning information arising during the recruitment process, a risk assessment should be undertaken by an appropriately experienced and trained individual, this could be the person with lead safeguarding responsibility within the organisation.

Case management 

Establishing a case management group, or similar system, within your organisation can help to risk assess information returned from vetting checks and written references. It's important to not employ or deploy an individual until a risk assessment process is complete.

For help with the decision making process visit the Direct Gov website for Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) filtering guidance and see NACRO's Practical guidance on DBS filtering.

For further information, see our case management tool. This model provides guidance, templates and good practice examples which will help your organisation manage safeguarding cases more effectively.

Many sport national governing bodies, active partnerships and Local authorities have guidance and can provide support to help your club or activity to risk assess criminal records checks, as well as assisting with the vetting process.

Related documents

New starters

It's important to maintain a culture of vigilance and support once an individual is in post.

This can be done by giving your new starter an effective induction. This includes suitable and relevant training,  supervision meetings, appraisals and organisational safeguarding culture guidance and resources.

All new recruits should go through an induction process as soon as possible. This process will introduce them to all important aspects of their new environment and role.

Key areas to cover in your induction process

Clubs and organisations should familiarise new recruits with the following:

Establish training needs

By looking at the individual needs of your new starter, and establishing what training might be useful, this will not only benefit the new recruit but also your club or organisation. Here are some things to consider:

  • what training would be useful or required for the new recruit, based on their role and experience?
  • has your new recruit recently undertaken adequate safeguarding training (if appropriate in line with any relevant national governing body requirements)? If not, they should do so as soon as possible and no later than 6 months after taking up their post

For further information on choosing the right safeguarding training for you will depend upon your role within sport, as well as your safeguarding experience and knowledge, see our choose the right training guidance.

Probationary and trial periods                         

Setting a probationary or trial period (usually 6 months) allows your organisation to review the post holder’s performance against the job description after this time. All appointments you make should not be made in isolation. Depending on the size of your organisations this can be made by a panel, committee or executive committee, not by any individual member or members of the organisation or club. This ensures the process in fair and unbiased.

Related documents


Here are links to a variety of resources to support your sports club or activity when recruiting and vetting potential candidates.  

CPSU resources

Wider NSPCC resources

Other useful resources and websites