Part of the fall-out from the revelations about abuse by overseas aid workers was concerns raised about the potential for abuse to be repeated in charity shops up and down the UK. Many of the larger charities pride themselves on being inclusive, and welcoming volunteers who are under the age of 16 or classed as vulnerable adults. So, what is the current situation in the UK, and should you be asking if your local charity shop staff are DBS checked?
Charity Shop Sector
There are around 11,200 charity shops in the UK, from the big household names with hundreds of branches across the country, to small local shops supporting a lesser-known cause. Although many of the shops in larger chains will have at least one paid member of staff, the overwhelming majority of people working in charity shops are volunteers. There are an estimated 250,000 people working in charity shops as volunteers. Unlike other retailers, charity shops are happy to take volunteers who are either below school leaving age or over state pension age.
Retail and DBS Checking
People working in shops generally do not require any type of DBS checking. DBS checks (or PVG in Scotland and AccessNI in Northern Ireland) are only applicable to people working in specific sectors and enhanced checks are only done on people working with vulnerable adults and children. Some roles in retail, such as those involving handling substantial sums of money, might require a basic level of checking. However, in the vast majority of retail settings, enhanced DBS checking will not be needed.
Charity Shops and DBS Checking
Each charity varies in its approach to DBS checking. Some will choose not to have young people under the age of 16 in their stores at all in order to completely sidestep the issue. Others will not have put much thought into their policies at all until some of the recent revelations. In many of the big chains, paid staff will have undergone DBS checking already as part of the recruitment process. There are however some real issues associated with checking every shop volunteer. A large store might have 50 volunteers or more over the course of a week, and although many volunteers stay for years, some might only last a few shifts. Many volunteers might not ever come into contact with young people or vulnerable adults during the course of their volunteering. Often, the most important factor is the frequency test; someone who is working on an irregular basis with a young person doesn’t need a DBS check, whereas someone working every week probably will.
Too Hung Up on DBS Checks?
There have also been accusations that the UK as a whole is too hung up on the idea of DBS checks. Many people have the perception that DBS is some sort of character guarantee, which is not the case. Any organisation, whatever the sector, should have a clear policy designed to enable both employees and volunteers to raise any concerns they may have.