Volunteering and Safer Recruiting at St Luke's Church, Eccleshill
In February 2017 the diocese asked us how we were "engaging with the (Safeguarding) Safer Recruitment guidance which requires [us] to follow similar procedures for the recruitment of volunteers as are necessary for the recruitment of paid employees, eg - use of confidential declaration forms, references, informal interviews"? and also "Would members of the PCC find training in this area useful?" The purpose of this page is to set out our response to these questions.
Our current position is as follows.
Following receipt of this question, on 2nd March 2017 the PCC considered the guidance as it is set out at:
and agreed to adopt the procedures it sets out. * (A summary of these procedures is set out immediately below this statement.)
Among other things this requires us to have a policy on the recruitment of ex-offenders, and a model is provided at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dbs-sample-policy-on-the-recruitment-of-ex-offenders ** (A summary of this is set out below). However, the vicar said he felt this to be inadequate by itself, as it ducks the key question, namely “When we discover that someone, who has applied to volunteer for a particular ministry, has a criminal conviction, what difference will that make to the question of whether we allow them to do this volunteering?". Answering this question must be the core of the policy which we adopt.
The PCC members felt we would wish to adopt a policy which says that in these circumstances, we will allow people to volunteer for posts which do not involve the kind of area for which the volunteer was convicted, but not to volunteer if the area of volunteering overlaps with the area of the conviction.
The vicar had written to the Diocesan adviser on the matter (Debbie Child), and it was agreed the actual resolution would be made when we had received further advice.
As to the question of how to implement the procedures, it was agree that a panel of 4, consisting of people who already had some experience in the field, would be appointed, and their names were agreed. In any particular instance of recruitment of a volunteer, two members of the panel plus others concerned would do the actual work. Of course diocesan training would be welcomed when available.
* The "Practice Guidance Document" above covers recruitments and appointments to paid posts and voluntary posts, and it says we have to:
- Be clear about who is responsible for appointments. (Q: Who is? A: The PCC is.)
- Have a policy statement on recruiting ex-offenders. (See below **)
- Have a safeguarding policy in place. (We have, see here.)
- Make sure that each postholder has a job description or role description which says what level of DBS check (if any) is needed.
- Make sure there is an application form for applicants to fill in (a sample form is provided).
- References should always be asked for and taken up, and read carefully to make sure the information is consistent and any gaps are explained.
- Make sure applicants for posts dealing with vulnerable people fill in “confidential declaration forms” (a sample is provided). (We have been using these.)
- There should always be an “interview” – a face-to-face discussion – which should include questions about the candidate’s values, attitudes to children and vulnerable adults, and motives for doing the job. The candidate must be asked if s/he knows any reason why s/he should not work with children and vulnerable adults, and if there are any pending cases / issues. (A sample interview / discussion template is provided).
- The interview panel needs to have the right to require the candidate to undertake a DBS check if the interview throws anything up. The candidate has the right to decline, in which case s/he must not be appointed.
- In the case of an applicant from overseas, additional checks of criminality must be made.
- The decision to appoint can only be made by the panel members, and no firm appointment or start date can be agreed until the checks have all come back.
- Postholders must receive diocesan safeguarding training after starting, and renew it every three years.
- People should be on a 6-month probation period to begin with.
- There should be supervision and regular review.
** The Policy Statement on recruiting ex-offenders which we have therefore adopted is as follows:
As an organisation assessing applicants’ suitability for positions which are included in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order using criminal record checks processed through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), We (St Luke’s Eccleshill PCC) will comply with the code of practice at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dbs-code-of-practice , and we undertake to treat all applicants for positions fairly.
- We undertake not to discriminate unfairly against any subject of a criminal record check on the basis of a conviction or other information revealed
- We can only ask an individual to provide details of convictions and cautions that we are legally entitled to know about. Where a DBS certificate at either standard or enhanced level can legally be requested (where the position is one that is included in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 as amended, and where appropriate Police Act Regulations as amended), we can only ask an individual about convictions and cautions that are not protected
- We are committed to the fair treatment of our staff, potential staff or users of our services, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, responsibilities for dependants, age, physical/mental disability or offending background
- We have a written policy on the recruitment of ex-offenders, which is made available to all DBS applicants at the start of the recruitment process
- We actively promote equality of opportunity for all with the right mix of talent, skills and potential and welcome applications from a wide range of candidates, including those with criminal records
- We select all candidates for interview based on their skills, qualifications and experience
- An application for a criminal record check is only submitted to DBS after a thorough risk assessment has indicated that one is both proportionate and relevant to the position concerned. For those positions where a criminal record check is identified as necessary, all application forms, job adverts and recruitment briefs will contain a statement that an application for a DBS certificate will be submitted in the event of the individual being offered the position
- We ensure that all those in our organisation who are involved in the recruitment process have been suitably trained to identify and assess the relevance and circumstances of offences
- We also ensures that they have received appropriate guidance and training in the relevant legislation relating to the employment of ex-offenders, e.g. the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974
- at interview, or in a separate discussion, We ensure that an open and measured discussion takes place on the subject of any offences or other matter that might be relevant to the position. Failure to reveal information that is directly relevant to the position sought could lead to withdrawal of an offer of employment
- We make every subject of a criminal record check submitted to DBS aware of the existence of the code of practice and make a copy available on request
- We undertake to discuss any matter revealed on a DBS certificate with the individual seeking the position before withdrawing a conditional offer of employment.
The fourth bullet-point of this "policy statement" makes it clear that it is not by itself a policy, and that we the PCC must have a written policy in place.
Since the meeting, Debbie Child (Joint Diocesan Secretary and, according to the diocesan web site, the person responsible for these matters) replied to the vicar to say (in essence) that she agreed with the vicar's diagnosis of the shortcomings of the document, namely that it did not answer the key question. The vicar then asked a question at Diocesan Synod (18th March 2017) about whether the Diocese would provide a model policy or policies on recruitment of ex-offenders, and the Diocesan Bishop replied that it wouldn't.
The matter will now be on the next PCC agenda, and at the time of writing this page the vicar is thinking of asking the PCC to approve a policy along the following lines.
Policy on the recruitment of ex-offenders
If someone who volunteers to undertake a particular ministry has an unspent criminal conviction, we will allow him/her to volunteer in an area which is unrelated to the area in which s/he was convicted; but not in an area which is related.
So, for example, if s/he applies for a voluntary post at our Day Centre and has been convicted of a motoring offence, then during the time this conviction remains unspent we will allow him/her to serve teas and coffees, and to act as an escort on the minibus as clients are being transported from and to their own homes; but not to drive the minibus, nor to drive to the shops to buy tea and coffee for the Day Centre. But at the point when the conviction becomes spent, these restrictions on his/her volunteering would be lifted (provided there are no other reasons why s/he should not drive).
This policy is still in draft at the time of writing, and we are attempting to find good advice from others in the field before we adopt a definite policy of our own.
DBS checking at St Luke's Church, Eccleshill
At the time of writing, Eccleshill PCC does any DBS checking through the diocese, which uses the services of the Churches Agency for Safeguarding (CAS) to provide access to the online system for DBS Checks. However, on 17th March we were notified by the Diocese that after a review of its DBS procedures and, coincidentally, after being informed that CAS will soon stop providing this service, it has been agreed that the Diocese will now start using the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS). All PCCs were required to register with CCPAS and the new system will be implemented on 3rd April 2017.
As part of the registration the PCC was asked to assent to the following declaration:
This organisation is responsible for appointing individuals that have regular contact with children and/or vulnerable adults. In registering with the CCPAS Disclosure Service, we agree to comply with all the requirements contained in the Disclosure and Barring Service Code of Practice and other DBS procedures and processes. In particular, we confirm that we have adopted policies for the recruitment of offenders and safe storage of information in line with DBS expectations. We will not communicate, disclose or make available all or any part of confidential information to any third party.
We confirm that we have read the CCPAS Statement of Fair Processing and the E-Bulk Recruiter Agreement Form (see www.ccpas.co.uk/Disclosure/FairProcessing.pdf). We as an organisation agree to abide by the terms and conditions set out in these documents in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the DBS Code of Practice.
We undertake to keep CCPAS informed of any changes in our organisation, personnel or practices which could materially affect our ability to work within these expectations.
and to appoint a Lead Recruiter (which is the term CCPAS uses for what CAS had called a "verifier") and possibly an Additional Recruiter (to assist the Lead Recruiter). The documentation included a paragraph (point 1 on page 7) stating that CCPAS accepted that an organisation might still be working on the documentation at the point of the application is made to join the service, and that signing the application was still permissible at that stage.
Because of the short time scale the vicar decided to consult the PCC's Standing Committee instead of calling a full PCC meeting, and the Standing Committee members agreed to assent to the declaration and to appoint Linda Gibson to the position of Lead Recruiter, and the vicar to the position of Additional Recruiter.