2020 has turned into the year of the Zoom call, with everyone turning to video conferencing technology to communicate when confined to home. Many clubs and activities have switched to offering virtual sessions, with others combining face to face meetings with smaller groups with online sessions for others. Many parents mistakenly believe that online is zero risk, but this is not the case. Several law enforcement and child protection charities have warned that exactly the same rules apply to online meetings as they do to face to face gatherings.
DBS Check Rules
The rules regarding DBS, or criminal records checks, are straightforward. Any adult over the age of 16, who is working or volunteering with children, needs an enhanced DBS check. The law covers people working with children such as nursery teachers or sports coaches, as well as people involved in organisations such as Scouts or Brownies. Most major organisations will have safeguarding policies and procedures on their website which parents can consult. Adults leading sessions with young people need a enhanced DBS check, even when meetings are online.
Getting a DBS Check
If you are thinking about volunteering with one of these organisations, or perhaps starting up a new business to teach skills online, then you might need a DBS check too. The good news is that if you are joining a large, established youth organisation, then there will be plenty of guidance and help to get you through the process. If you’re working for yourself then your options may be more limited. If you are affiliated to a larger national body such as Sport England or similar, then they might be able to help you get an enhanced DBS check.
If however you are setting up on your own, with no umbrella body to be affiliated with, then you can’t get an enhanced disclosure. Your only option is to try to get a basic disclosure, which is a statement of your current and unspent criminal record only. It’s a lot less detailed than a basic disclosure but should still provide an indication of your good character to potential customers, or their parents. In addition, anyone working with young people is advised to have some written safeguarding policies, which force you to think about how you are going to manage any potential risks in your business model.
Advice for Parents
If you’re considering signing the kids up for a digital drama class, or online singing class, then don’t be afraid to ask the provider about what safeguards and checks they have put in place. If you don’t like the answers you are given, then just look for a different provider who has put more effort into thinking about the issues. One of the benefits about virtual, online lessons as a parent is that you can easily be in the space with your child as they interact online and see exactly what is going on at all times. Remember that as a parent you are in the position of power and are usually free to stop paying for classes at any point.