Safer recruitment

About safer recruitment

If you're a school, club, business or organisation whose staff or volunteers work with children, you must make sure everyone in your team has the right attitude and behaviours.

What is safer recruitment?

Safer recruitment is a set of practices to help make sure your staff and volunteers are suitable to work with children and young people. It's a vital part of creating a safe and positive environment in your organisation and keeping children safe from harm. Safer recruitment should be a continuing process of improvement and the resources on this page will help you set up, review and embed safer recruitment processes in your organisation.

The steps on this page will help you set up and review your organisation's safe recruitment processes.

Take one of our online courses for scenario examples, film interviews and more to help develop your understanding and confidence in recruiting safely.

Safer recruitment in education online course

Safer Recruitment (non-education) online course

Writing a safer recruitment policy statement

What is a safer recruitment policy statement?

A safer recruitment policy statement sets out your organisation's commitment to ensuring the staff and volunteers you recruit are suitable to work with children.

It sends a clear message to staff, volunteers and potential applicants that your organisation prioritises the safety of children.

What to include

Your safer recruitment policy statement should set out:

  • your organisation's commitment to protecting all children and young people by making sure you employ the right people (on a paid and/or voluntary basis)
  • what you will do to make sure everyone who works or volunteers with you is suitable to do so
  • how you will respond to concerns raised about anyone who works or volunteers with you
  • a list of the supporting procedures that accompany the policy
  • the date the policy comes into force and when you will review it.

Your safer recruitment policy statement should work alongside other policies within your organisation. It should sit under a wider safeguarding policy statement.

Aim to keep your policy statement under two sides of A4 paper. You could consider incorporating safer recruitment statements into existing policies on recruitment, selection, induction, equality and diversity. 

Safer recruitment procedures

Safer recruitment procedures

Having a safer recruitment policy statement in place is a vital first step towards making sure everyone who works with children is suitable. But it's also important to establish clear written procedures and make sure everyone who is involved with any form of recruitment knows how to follow them.

These will ensure that staff and volunteers are recruited safely and fairly, and that children’s safety is being considered at every stage of the process.

Plan the recruitment process

Plan the whole of your recruitment process in advance to make sure you have a consistent approach every time you recruit a new staff member or volunteer.

Following a written procedure means you’re less likely to miss anything out.

Think about the resources that you'll need and how you are going to make them available.

This includes making sure enough people will be available to help conduct the interviews.

Define the role

For any role working with children and young people, both the job description and the person specification should highlight the importance of understanding safeguarding issues.

Advertising the job

The job advertisement is your first opportunity to send out a clear safeguarding message. It should include the right information to attract high quality candidates and deter unsuitable applicants such as those who may present a risk to children.

Applicant information pack

An application pack ensures that people interested in applying for a job have all the information they need about your organisation and the advertised role. We recommend you use a standard application form to make sure you get all the information you need from each candidate.

See our interactive elearning courses for scenario examples and more on how to prepare a successful recruitment process

Safer recruitment in education online course

Safer recruitment (non-education) online course

Self-disclosure form

A self-disclosure form gives candidates the opportunity to tell you confidentially about any unspent criminal convictions, child protection investigations or disciplinary procedures they have on their record. If the role requires an enhanced criminal records check , you should also ask applicants to disclose any unprotected spent convictions and cautions.

  • In England, Scotland and Wales, you can only ask for information about cautions or convictions which are not designated as 'protected' under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

Applicants should complete self-disclosure forms before interview and bring them in a separate, sealed envelope marked 'Confidential'. You should only open the self-disclosure forms of candidates who have accepted a conditional offer, and review the information inside as part of your vetting checks.

You must securely dispose of all unopened self-disclosure forms.

The self-disclosure form does not replace the need for a criminal records check. Criminal records checks should always be carried out as appropriate.

> See our example self-disclosure forms 

References

You should ask applicants to provide the details of referees and check references as part of your vetting, disclosure and barring checks.

It's a good idea to give an overview of the questions you'll be asking referees, so the candidate can consent to the referee providing this information. 

Selecting applicants for interview

Shortlisting should be carried out by at least two people. They should each be clear about what their role involves, and should assess each application form according to how well it meets the criteria set out in the person specification.

Preparing for interview

Panel

At least two people should be on the interview panel and you should have a chair.

Children's participation

Involving children, young people and their families in recruitment can be a really useful way of finding the right people for the job.

Questions

Questions should relate to items in the person specification and should be designed to allow candidates to demonstrate the attitudes and values that people working with children and young people need to have. You should ask each candidate the same questions so that they are all treated equally.

Practical test

A question and answer format may not be the best way to test a particular requirement or competency. You may want to consider other methods such as a practical test.

Interview

Interviews to recruit people to work with children should always be conducted face-to-face.

Make sure you ask candidates in advance whether they have any access requirements for the interview, and provide what they need.

Make notes so that you can remember what each candidate said after the interview has finished.

During the interview candidates should show that they:

  • understand children’s needs and perspectives
  • have realistic expectations of children
  • recognise that children's needs come first
  • uses appropriate language when talking about children
  • are clear about boundaries when working with children.

Checking identity

Check the candidate's identity and certificates at the time of interview.

Making an offer

When you contact the successful candidate, make it clear that the offer is still subject to satisfactory completion of all the vetting processes you need to undertake.


See our interactive elearning courses for scenario examples and more on how to prepare a successful recruitment process

Safer recruitment in education online course

Safer Recruitment (non-education) online course

Induction and training

A consistent induction process will make sure everyone in your organisation fully understands and knows how to follow your safeguarding policies and procedures.

You should also consider putting a mentoring and/or supervision process in place for new staff and/or having a probationary/trial period. This will allow concerns on either side to be raised and responded to appropriately.

Training

All organisations working with children must provide appropriate safeguarding training for staff and volunteers.

Training should be regular and ongoing to ensure all staff are kept up-to-date with changes in policies and procedures and to keep safeguarding at the front of their minds.

Find out more about our range of elearning and face-to-face training courses, as well as our child protection consultancy for anyone working or volunteering with children and young people.

Temporary or agency staff including school supply staff

It’s just as important to ensure you recruit temporary or agency staff who are suitable to work with children, as it is with permanent staff.

You should only use agencies that have robust safer recruitment policies and procedures.

Schools should obtain written proof that the relevant disclosure and barring checks have been made for each supply staff member. When supply staff arrive on site, you should check their ID.

> Find out more about our Safer recruitment in education training

Vetting, disclosure and barring checks

Vetting, disclosure and barring checks

Vetting is the process of making sure that candidates are suitable for a role.

There are a variety of recommended processes and checks to ensure you employ the right people to work or volunteer with children.

References

References can help you make an informed decision about an applicant’s suitability to work with children.

Ask referees about the candidate's:

  • suitability and ability to work with children and young people
  • knowledge and understanding of child protection and safeguarding.

Make sure information provided in the reference is consistent with what the applicant gave you and follow up any discrepancies.

After advice on how to approach referees and checking and following up references? Take one of our interactive online courses

Safer recruitment in education online course

Safer Recruitment (non-education) online course

Criminal records checks

Criminal records checks enable you to ensure that people aged 16 or over have nothing on their record that makes them unsuitable to work with children.

Each nation in the UK uses a different criminal records scheme, but they are all aligned and recognise each other’s decisions. A person who is barred from working with children in one nation will be barred across the UK.

You can apply for a criminal records check directly or use an umbrella body. More information about how to apply is available from each criminal records agency.

A criminal records check is only valid on the date stated on the certificate but:

  • people joining the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme in Scotland will have their suitability to work with children checked regularly
  • in England and Wales, individuals who have a new DBS check can subscribe to the update service, which means they can keep their certificate up to date and take it with them to a new employer.

Enhanced with barred list checks

There are different types of criminal record checks depending on the nature of the work being carried out.

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, if someone is doing "regulated activity" they need to undergo an "enhanced with barred list check". 

This provides information about police convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings; information about whether the person has been barred from working with children; and any other relevant information.

In Scotland, if someone is doing "regulated work" they need to undergo a Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) check.

What is "regulated activity"/"regulated work"?

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, regulated activity with children means carrying out any of the below activities frequently or with intensity (more than 3 days in a 30 day period or overnight).

  • Unsupervised activities: teaching, training, instructing, caring for or supervising children; providing advice/guidance on wellbeing, or driving a vehicle only for children.
  • Working for a limited range of "specified places" with the opportunity for contact with children and young people, for example schools, children’s homes, childcare premises.

These are also examples of regulated activity if unsupervised:

  • engaging in intimate or personal care of children.
  • health care (including by a registered health care professional).

In Scotland, regulated work with children can be paid or voluntary. It usually involves:

  • working directly with children
  • teaching or supervising children
  • providing personal services to children
  • caring responsibilities.

The frequency and intensity requirement does not apply.

Regulated work can also apply to certain positions of trust within organisations, for example being a trustee of a children's charity.

For more information about the definitions of regulated activity and regulated work, please see the Legislation and guidance tab.

Other checks

There are a range of other checks you should carry out.

Right to work checks

Even if the role is not paid, you may need to carry out a right to work check. The Home Office has published guidance on right to work checks (Home Office, 2019).

Overseas checks

If a candidate has been resident overseas for three months or more over the past five years, you should check the candidate’s criminal record in that country. The Home Office provides guidance on applying for criminal records checks for overseas applicants (Home Office, 2017).

Any documents not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

Disqualification from working with children

Organisations are responsible for making sure the people they employ as staff and volunteers have not been disqualified from working with children. This includes ensuring they are not disqualified by association (in England and Wales) because they live in the same household as someone who has been disqualified.

The Department for Education (DfE) has published statutory guidance to help organisations comply with their responsibilities.

Pre-employment checks for schools

Teachers can be prohibited from teaching children and young people for various reasons, including unacceptable professional conduct or a conviction of a relevant criminal offence.

Before appointing teachers you must check their qualifications, qualified teaching status and their eligibility to work as a teacher.

Non-teaching staff, school managers and governors should also undergo vetting and barring checks.

Temporary or agency staff

It's just as important to ensure you recruit temporary or agency staff who are suitable to work with children as it is with permanent staff.

You should only use agencies that have robust safer recruitment policies and procedures.

Supply teachers, student teachers and contractors in schools are all in regulated activity.

Obtain written proof that the relevant disclosure and barring checks have been made for each temporary staff member. When supply staff arrive on site you should check their ID.

After scenario examples and more information on completing pre-appointment checks? Take our interactive elearning courses

Safer recruitment in education online course

Safer Recruitment (non-education) online course

What to do if vetting checks raise concerns

What to do if vetting checks raise concerns

If references, vetting, disclosure and barring checks reveal concerns about a person’s history, your organisation needs to assess whether or not they are suitable to work with children and young people.

It’s important to have clear procedures in place for making these decisions.

You may need to put any formal offer of an appointment on hold to make sure you’ve got time to consider everything thoroughly.

If necessary, you must pass on information to the relevant authorities, such as the criminal records agency, professional bodies or police.

References

A reference should provide you with all the information you’ve asked for and the responses should be clear and direct.

  • If a reference expresses concerns, is incomplete or vague, contact the referee directly to address these issues. Keep a written record of any telephone conversations.
  • If the issue is significant, ask the referee for further details in writing.
  • You should not consider information about unsubstantiated concerns or allegations that have been proven to be false when deciding whether to interview or employ a candidate.

Self-disclosure form

If a candidate discloses a caution or conviction on their self-disclosure form, you need to carry out a risk assessment to decide if this is relevant to the post. 

Criminal records checks

People on the barred list must not be given a role that requires them to work or volunteer with children or young people in regulated activity.

It is illegal for an employer to knowingly employ somebody to carry out regulated activity whilst they are on the barred list.

If you find that someone who has applied to work with children is barred, you should notify the police.

You cannot use 'spent' or 'protected' convictions as a reason not to employ somebody (unless the conviction makes them unsuitable to work with children).

If the applicant has not been barred from working with children but the checks have raised concerns (for example if they have a criminal record), you need to carry out a risk assessment to ascertain whether the applicant is suitable to work with children and young people.

After scenario examples and more on completing pre-appointment checks, including when to pass on concerns?

See our Safer recruitment in education online course

See our Safer recruitment (non-education) online course

Carrying out the risk assessment

Decisions about whether or not to employ someone whose vetting checks raised concerns should be made on a case-by-case basis. A risk assessment will help you work out whether they are suitable to work with children and young people.

You should only share information about an applicant’s criminal record with those who need to know. The applicant should be told who in the organisation knows about his/her record.

The applicant will usually know about any information revealed during the course of a vetting or barring check. You should discuss any concerns with them as part of the risk assessment process.

  • Past convictions might be a great source of anxiety and embarrassment for the person concerned, so you need to act with sensitivity and empathy.
  • Take all reasonable steps to gather as much relevant information as possible.
  • Make sure a third party is present during the discussions. Ask a colleague who was involved in the recruitment process to support you and take notes.
  • Carefully plan the questions you need to ask in advance and keep the discussion focused on the individual, their feelings and attitudes.
  • It is not your responsibility to decide whether a legal decision was right or fair – you need to decide whether the applicant is suitable to work or volunteer with children and young people.

Making the decision

Follow your organisation’s procedures to make sure all recruitment decisions are consistent. 

The reasons for your decision should be objective, rational and easy to understand. Write these down and keep them in a securely lockable cabinet, along with the notes you made during your investigations.

Things to consider include:

  • the nature of the offence and its seriousness
  • the relevance of the offence to other staff, volunteers, children and their families
  • the length of time since the offence took place
  • the length of the sentence
  • whether the offence was an isolated incident or part of a pattern or history of offending
  • the circumstances which led to the offence being committed
  • whether these circumstances have changed (if so, do these changes increase or reduce the likelihood of similar offences happening in future?)
  • whether the individual has changed since the offence (if so, what has led to the change and does this reduce or increase the likelihood of them committing further offences?)
  • the level of remorse expressed by the applicant and/or any efforts to change
  • whether the new role provides opportunities to re-offend
  • any legal constraints relevant to the role, for example if the person has lost their driving licence and the role requires driving.

Confidential information

If the vetting and barring check includes additional information that is marked "in confidence", you should not discuss it with the applicant. This could compromise a criminal investigation or the safety of another person, and may in itself constitute a criminal offence under the Police Act 1997.

If you decide not to appoint someone on the basis of confidential information, you need to be careful when you inform them that the offer is withdrawn. It is sufficient to tell the applicant that, on the basis of checks and references that have been made, you have had to withdraw the provisional job offer.

Storing disclosure and barring checks

You should not store copies of disclosure and barring check certificates unless there is a dispute about the results of the check. Instead, you should keep a confidential record of:

  • the date the check was completed
  • the level and type of check
  • the reference number of the certificate
  • the decision made about whether the person was employed (with reasons).

If there is a dispute about the results of a check, you may keep a copy of the certificate for no longer than six months. 

See our online courses for scenario examples and more to help develop your confidence and understanding in pre-appointment checks

Safer recruitment in education online course

Safer recruitment (non-education) online course

Induction

Creating a safer culture

The commitment to safeguarding children should be an ongoing process and have a high profile in your organisation.

All staff and volunteers should feel responsible for helping to make a safer culture and empowered to speak out if they have concerns.

To help develop a safe environment for speaking out, it’s important to make child protection a key part of your induction for new staff and volunteers.

Induction

Having a consistent induction process will make sure everyone in your organisation fully understands and knows how to follow your safeguarding policies and procedures.

Make sure all new staff and volunteers:

  • have read and understand your safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures
  • know how to spot the signs that a child may be experiencing abuse
  • know how to respond appropriately if a child makes a disclosure about abuse
  • know what to do if they have concerns about a child’s wellbeing.

All staff and volunteers should complete child protection training as part of their induction – even if they say they have done this before. It’s important to make sure everyone has up-to-date knowledge and skills and understands how child protection works in your organisation.

You should also consider putting a mentoring and/or supervision process in place for new staff and/or having a probationary/trial period. This will allow concerns on either side to be raised and responded to appropriately.

Ongoing supervision and training

Supervision and training should be regular and ongoing. This gives everyone a chance to reflect on and improve their child protection practice and keeps safeguarding at the front of their minds.

Ensure everyone is kept up-to-date with any changes that are made to your safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures.

Find out more about our range of elearning and face-to-face training courses 

Legislation and guidance

England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each have specific legislation and guidance relating to safer recruitment.

Safer recruitment procedures

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, 2018c). This highlights the responsibility of all organisations working with children to have safe recruitment practices in place.

English schools and colleges must follow Keeping children safe in education: Statutory guidance for schools and colleges (Department for Education, 2018b).

  • This gives school governing bodies the responsibility to ensure safer recruitment practices are put into place.
  • Part 3 gives guidance on safer recruitment.

The Department for Education (DfE) has provided statutory guidance about disqualification under the Childcare Act 2006 for local authorities, maintained schools, academies and free schools (DfE, 2018a).

In Northern Ireland, the key guidance is Co-operating to safeguard children and young people in Northern Ireland (Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, 2017). This states that:

  • organisations providing services specifically to children and young people must have robust recruitment, selection and training procedures for staff and volunteers
  • this includes making sure staff and volunteers have an early induction in safeguarding training before they have contact with children.

Schools in Northern Ireland must follow Safeguarding and child protection in schools: a guide for schools (PDF) (Department for Education, 2017). This states that the designated governor for child protection is responsible for the recruitment, selection, vetting and induction of staff. It gives guidance on recruiting and vetting staff and volunteers, as well as dealing with allegations of abuse made against a member of staff.

In Scotland the Care Inspectorate has published guidance on safer recruitment to help employers meet safer recruitment requirements (Care Inspectorate, 2016). The guidance is aimed at those in:

  • social care
  • early education and childcare
  • social work.

The principles will be helpful to any employer who needs to make sure they are recruiting the right people to work with children.

In Wales, the All Wales child protection procedures highlights the responsibility of all agencies working with children to have robust recruitment and selection procedures that create a high threshold of entry to deter abusers from seeking employment or voluntary work with children and families (All Wales Child Protection Procedures Review Group, 2008).

Welsh schools must follow Keeping learners safe: the role of local authorities, governing bodies and proprietors of independent schools under the Education Act 2002 (PDF) (Welsh Government, 2015). It states that is the role of school governing bodies to ensure safer recruitment practices are put into place.

Regulated activity and regulated work

In England and Wales, Section 5 of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 sets out what is “regulated activity”.

In addition, Section 64 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 restricts the scope of certain activities, so that activities which are supervised by another person who has undergone all the relevant disclosure and barring checks do not count as “regulated”.

The DfE has published a factual note on regulated activity in relation to children (PDF) (DfE, 2012). 

In Northern Ireland, “regulated activity” is defined in Article 9 of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (NI) Order 2007.

The Department of Education Northern Ireland (DENI) published a circular (PDF) in 2012 which states that volunteers working in schools are not working in “regulated activity” as long as a school can ensure they are being reasonably supervised on a regular basis (DENI, 2012).

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Department for Education has provided statutory guidance for schools, childcare establishments, colleges, youth groups, sports clubs and other organisations working with children and young people about how to supervise activities which would be classed as ‘regulated activity’ if they were unsupervised (PDF) (Department for Education, 2013).

In Scotland “regulated activity” is defined in Schedule 2 of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007.

Vetting and barring checks

The Disclosure and Barring Service provides detailed guidance for employers in England and Wales on the process of applying for DBS checks.

nidirect provides guidance, forms and templates for AccessNI employers carrying out checks in Northern Ireland .

Guidance on using the Protecting vulnerable groups (PVG) scheme (PDF) in Scotland is available from Disclosure Scotland (2010).

Information about how to apply to foreign countries for criminal records checks is available from the Home Office (2017).

Disqualification

Across the UK, it is an offence for an individual who has been barred to apply for a regulated position. It is also an offence for an employer to knowingly employ someone in a regulated position if they are barred from doing so. Employers must refer any information about employees or volunteers who (may) have harmed children while working for them to the relevant barring service for their nation.

In England and Wales, the legislation for this is the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.

The Department for Education (DfE) has provided statutory guidance about disqualification under the Childcare Act 2006 (Department for Education, 2018a).

In Northern Ireland, the legislation for this is the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (Northern Ireland) Order 2007.

In Scotland, the legislation for this is the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007.

Disqualification by association

In England, Regulation 9 of the Childcare (Disqualification) and Childcare (Early Years Provision Free of Charge) (Extended Entitlement) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 states that if somebody lives in the same household as another person who has been disqualified from working with children, they can be disqualified from working with children in domestic premises. The Department for Education’s statutory guidance for schools and local authorities on disqualification under the Childcare Act 2006 covers disqualification by association (Department for Education, 2018a).

In Wales, if somebody lives in the same household as another person who has been disqualified from working with children, they can be disqualified from working with children regardless of the setting under Regulation 8 of The Child Minding and Day Care (Disqualification) (Wales) Regulations 2010.

Keep up to date with new legislation and guidance by signing up to CASPAR, our current awareness service for policy, practice and research 

Sign up to CASPAR

References and resources

References and resources for safer recruitment

Care Inspectorate (2016) Safer recruitment through better recruitment (PDF). [Dundee]: Care Inspectorate. 

Children in Wales (2008) All Wales child protection procedures [Accessed 25/05/2017].

Department for Education (DfE) (2012) Regulated activity in relation to children: scope. Factual note by HM Government (PDF). [London]: Department for Education (DfE).

Department for Education (DfE) (2013) Statutory guidance: regulated activity (children) - supervision of activity with children which is regulated activity when unsupervised (PDF). [London]: Department for Education (DfE).

Department for Education (DfE) (2018a) Statutory guidance: Disqualification under the Childcare Act 2006. [London]: Department for Education (DfE).

Department for Education (DfE) (2018b) Keeping children safe in education: statutory guidance for schools and colleges. London: Department for Education (DfE).

Department for Education (DfE) (2018c) Working together to safeguard children: a guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (PDF). [London]: Department for Education (DfE).

Department of Education Northern Ireland (DENI) (2012) Disclosure and barring arrangements: changes to pre-employment vetting checks for volunteers working in schools from 10 September 2012 (PDF). [Bangor]: DENI

Department of Education Northern Ireland (DENI) (2017), Safeguarding and child protection – a guide for schools (PDF). [Bangor]: DENI

Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) (2017) Co-operating to safeguard children and young people in Northern Ireland. Belfast: DHSSPS

Disclosure Scotland (2010) Protecting vulnerable groups scheme: guidance for individuals, organisations and personal employers (PDF). [Edinburgh] Scottish Government.

Home Office (2017) Criminal records checks for overseas applicants [Accessed 24/09/18].

Home Office (2019) Right to work checks: an employer's guide. London: Home Office.

Welsh Government (2015) Keeping learners safe: the role of local authorities, governing bodies and proprietors of independent schools under the Education Act 2002 (PDF). [Cardiff]: Welsh Government.

Welsh Government (2018) Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014: Working together to safeguard people volume 5 – handling individual cases to protect children at risk (PDF). [Cardiff]: Welsh Government.

Further reading

For further reading about safer recruitment, search the NSPCC Library catalogue using the keyword "recruitment".

If you need more specific information, please contact our Information Service