Most of us are used to going through a process of Police checking when applying for certain types of jobs, especially when working with children or vulnerable adults. Fewer people are aware that the same sort of checks can apply to voluntary organisations too, so if you have started to think about volunteering on a regular or ad hoc basis, what do you need to do and how long is the process going to take?

Does Everyone Need to be Police Checked?

Every organisation will have its own policy on whether volunteers need to be checked by the Disclosure and Barring Service, or by similar organisations in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Often, the group leaders will hold certificates, and other volunteers may not. If the volunteer is never in the situation where they are on their own with children or vulnerable adults, a full check may not be required. Large organisations such as the Scouts or registered charities will have policies regarding volunteers, child protection and protecting vulnerable adults and these are readily available online. Smaller organisations may not have a formal written policy but often come under a larger umbrella organisation which gives guidance on best practice.

Charges for Volunteers

Unlike employers who carry out checks on people who are going to be working for them, volunteers who are not being paid for their work get checks done free of charge. The same forms are completed in the same way as if the check is being charged for, so care must be taken to tick the correct box on the form to state that the applicant is a volunteer. Larger organisations and charities which carry out checks on their members will have approved people who can carry out the first part of the process which is verifying the applicant’s identity. The prospective volunteer will complete the form and will show the verifier their identity documents such as passport, driving licence or utility bills. The verifier will then sign the form to say that they have seen the originals of the documents to prove the volunteer’s identity, and send the form off to the Disclosure and Barring Service, who will then issue a report stating whether the applicant has any criminal convictions, or whether they are on the list of people banned from working with vulnerable groups.

Starting Volunteering Before the Disclosure is Issued

Receiving a reply from the Disclosure and Barring service stating any criminal past can take several weeks and charities and other voluntary organisations often allow volunteers to start helping while their application is pending. During this period, there may be restrictions on what they can and cannot do, especially if the role involves cash handling or contact with children or vulnerable adults. Many organisations pair up new volunteers with long standing volunteers who have been checked in the past, so that the new people can learn the ropes and be supervised at all times. Each organisation will have different policies and procedures which can be explained to new volunteers.