Summer is upon us, Covid restrictions are easing across the country and we are seeing many aspects of life return to a more ‘normal’ outlook. Many churches and charities are planning to recommence events over the summer are also forward planning their autumn/winter schedule. Over this last season, this has meant that most of our activities have been online and we have not always required the same level of volunteers to run our programmes. Many of our member organisations are now thinking through not only how they re-establish their various ministries and programmes, but also how they reconnect and recruit volunteers.
Volunteers are vital for the success of any activity, but have you considered how recruitment of volunteers impacts good safeguarding practice? Safer recruitment is much more than an administrative task, it is an essential tool for keeping people safe. Aside from ensuring that your volunteers are Access NI checked (Apply for an AccessNI check | nidirect) here are our top tips to ensure your volunteers are recruited safely:
- Before you advertise for volunteers, consider what it is you are expecting your volunteers to do, put in writing a person specification for the role.
- Once the role is advertised, give interested people the person specification, the role description and information about relevant policies/ procedures that will take place as part of the safer recruitment process.
- Consider how you will ‘interview’ potential volunteers. This is not a formal paid position so having a formal interview could well put potential volunteers off! Have a chat over coffee (or virtually) and use this as an opportunity to find out more about why they are interested in applying for the role, how they can help serve in the role etc. It is also an opportunity for the applicant to ask you questions – what the role will involve, who will they be volunteering with, what training and support will be given etc. Every volunteer brings something unique to your team, and their levels of experience will range from no experience at all to 30 years plus in similar roles. The purpose of this informal interview is to help establish their suitability to be on the team.
- Ask for references – this should be from someone who is not a relative and has known them for at least six months, an employer/ teacher (if recently left school) / church ministry leader are all suitable people who can provide references.
- Once you are satisfied that the person is suitable, you can offer them the post conditional to their AccessNI check.
- Be prepared that whilst most people will be suitable to volunteer, there will sometimes be people who are not suitable, you need to evidence why they are not appropriate and clearly explain this to them.
- Induction – initial training should equip volunteers for the role they are undertaking, this includes safeguarding training. Most people have not been involved in any face to face activities for 18 months, so perhaps this is a good opportunity to revisit safeguarding training with your existing volunteers as well as new volunteers.
- Ongoing reflective practice – offer your volunteers opportunities to debrief, especially if they become involved in safeguarding. As part of maintaining a healthy culture, keep safeguarding on your team’s agenda.
If you have any questions or queries about Safer Recruitment, our Helpline team are on hand to advise you – 0303 0031111. We also offer specialist training to equip those involved in recruitment, our next course is 15-16th September. Further details and booking can be found at Safer Recruitment Webinar (thirtyoneeight.org)
Did you know that we offer training specifically for the Northern Irish legislative and practice context? Safeguarding children and young people, 11th October 2021 and safeguarding adults at risk of harm, 20th October 2021. Further details and booking can be found at Webinars (thirtyoneeight.org)