Table of Contents

1. Definition

All statutory and public organisations (including non-regulated activity) which employ staff and/or volunteers to work with or provide services for children have a duty to safeguard and promote the children’s welfare. This includes ensuring that safe recruitment and selection procedures are adopted.

Organisations who employ people who work with children, e.g. private or voluntary sector, who do not have access to advice in house or from other sources, may access helpful resources via the NSPCC safeguarding standards and guidance (England) Safeguarding children, young people and adults aged 0-25 in the voluntary and community sector

This procedure identifies good practice in safer recruitment and selection and is not intended to replace individual agencies’ policies and procedures.

To minimise the risk of employing an individual who poses a risk, all agencies should undertake rigorous scrutiny with respect to the candidates (including agency staff, students and volunteers) at all stages within the process.

It is a criminal offence for a barred individual to take part in Regulated Activity, or for an employer/voluntary organisation knowingly to employ a barred person in a Regulated Activity role.

Before an organisation considers asking a person to apply for a criminal record check through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), they are legally responsible for ensuring that they are entitled to submit an application for the job role. See DBS Guide to Eligibility.

For further detailed information on recruiting safely see

2. Recruitment process

Agencies should develop detailed internal procedures for recruitment to jobs and volunteer positions that involve working with children and young people, including ensuring that:

  • job descriptions and person specifications reflect professional practice requirements
  • previous employer references are based upon an accurate assessment of the individual’s qualities and includes any disciplinary action, known convictions or other grounds for concern
  • a statement reflecting the agency’s duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children is incorporated in any material associated with the recruitment process.

2.1 Job description and person specification preparation

All job descriptions and person specifications should clearly describe the role, responsibilities, accountability, knowledge, skills and experience required for the post. They should also reflect the applicant’s responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

The information should:

  • include the statement reflecting the agency’s duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children
  • explain how the requirements will be tested/assessed during the selection process
  • set out clearly the extent of the relationships and contact with children and the degree of responsibility for children that the person will have in the position to be filled
  • stress that the identity of the candidate, if successful, will need to be checked thoroughly, and that where a DBS check is appropriate the person will be required to complete an application for a DBS disclosure straight away.

2.2 Application forms

It is good practice for organisations to use an application form to obtain a common set of data in relation to the job.

The application should include the organisation’s statement to safeguarding and include the following aspects:

  • Identifying details of the applicant including current and former names, current address and National Insurance Number (ensuring compliance with the Equality Act 2010).
  • A statement of any academic and/ or vocational qualifications with details of awarding body and date of award.
  • A full history in chronological order since leaving secondary education, including periods of any post-secondary education/training and part-time and voluntary work as well as full time employment, with start dates, explanations for periods not in employment or education/training and reasons for leaving employment.
  • Details of referees (see below; normally two should be sufficient).
  • A statement of the skills and abilities, and competencies/experience that the applicant believes are relevant to his/her suitability for the post and how s/he meets the person specification.
  • There should be an explanation that the post is exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
  • Information should be requested about any previous (including spent) convictions, cautions, reprimands, warnings or bind-overs.

Where gaps in employment history since leaving education are recorded these should be clarified within the candidate in the interview process.

2.3 References

References are an important part of the safer recruitment process and the purpose is to obtain objective and factual information to support appointment decisions.

All agencies committed to these procedures should have explicit arrangements for references which should be followed. This should include a reference pro-forma with questions relating to the candidates suitability to work with children and focus on key criteria for effective performance in the specified post.

The application form should request both professional and character references, one of which should be from the applicant’s current or most recent employer. Where an applicant is not currently working with children, but has done so in the past, it is important that a reference is also obtained from the employer by whom the person was most recently employed in work with children in addition to the current or most recent employer.

It is recommended that references are requested prior to interview so that any issues/concerns raised by the reference can be explored with the candidate during interview.

References should be obtained directly from the referee and not rely on references/testimonials provided by the candidate, or open references/testimonials (i.e. ‘To whom it may concern’). References should not be accepted from relatives or friends.

All references must be taken up and received prior to offer of employment; this should also be the case for internal candidates.

All references should be scrutinised and any unsatisfactory gaps in employment identified from references and/or application forms should be investigated and checked.

2.4 References with respect to agency staff

When staff are engaged via specialist employment agencies it is important that there are systems in place to ensure that only agencies which can offer safe selection processes are used.

References should be sought as outlined above and requests to employment agencies must seek confirmation:

  • that the individual was registered with the agency in the period(s) claimed
  • of all assignments including dates, roles and name and address of all work places
  • of any cause for concern within the agency including any request by a client for the person to be withdrawn from an assignment which upon investigation was found to be justified.

The agency must also confirm in writing:

  • that it carries out appraisals of its workers and be invited to describe the most recent relevant to the role which is to be filled
  • the date of the last DBS check obtained on the individual in question, who obtained it, the level of disclosure and its unique reference number
  • from which previous employers references were obtained and whether or not these expressed any reservations about the individual in question
  • if its overall selection procedure complies with the recommendations made in the Warner report ‘Choosing with Care’.

2.5 Selection process

It is essential that the same selection panel should both short list and interview candidates. Members of the panel should not stand to gain from the appointment or have a personal relationship with any of the applicants.

At least one member of the panel must have undertaken safe recruitment and selection training and one who is knowledgeable and experiences in safeguarding and child protection issues.

Each agency will have a standard procedure for short listing and interviewing to ensure that it is fair and that applicants are assessed equally against the criteria contained within the job description/person specification.

Interviews are likely to be underpinned by practical exercises. Where staff will have direct and unsupervised contact with children, the candidate’s attitude toward children and young people in general should be tested and also their commitment to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in particular. The following areas should be explored where possible with applicants in the interview:

  • Their motivation and reasons for working with children.
  • Their attitudes and behaviour about control and punishment.
  • Their perceptions about the boundaries of acceptable behaviour towards children.
  • Their ability to form and maintain professional relationships.
  • Their understanding of safeguarding children.

Involvement of children and young people in selection processes needs to be well planned and supported in order to be effective and meaningful.

2.6 Offering appointments to successful candidates

An offer of appointment should be conditional upon pre-employment checks being satisfactorily completed, including:

  • A DBS check appropriate to the role and to ensure an individual is not the subject of Barring.
  • A check of the Teaching Agency’s list of Barred Teachers (where appropriate).
  • Verification of the candidate’s medical fitness if appropriate, e.g. an intrinsic part of the role.
  • Verification of any relevant professional status and whether any restrictions have been imposed by a regulatory body such as the General Teaching Council (GTC), Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and the General Medical Council (GMC).
  • Evidence of permission to work for those who are not nationals of a European Economic Area country.
  • Receipt of two satisfactory written references, if references were not obtained prior to the interview.

It is recommended that staff should not commence work with children until the DBS check has been returned. In exceptional circumstances where the service will be at risk without the required staffing levels (e.g. schools/day care) senior managers may undertake a full risk assessment to enable staff to work until such checks have been returned. This should always include ensuring the worker does not have any unsupervised contact with children.

3. Disclosure and Barring Checks (DBS)

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) provides two levels of disclosures which are of relevance to employers (standard and enhanced disclosures), and one or other must be sought with respect to all candidates who seek to work with children.

The requirement to seek an enhanced DBS disclosure currently applies to all those who employ, or use volunteers, in types of activity called ‘Regulated Activity and other Work with Children’.

The term covers anyone working closely with children or vulnerable adults, either paid or unpaid, on a frequent, intensive or overnight basis. Frequent means once a week or more (except in health or personal care services where frequent means once a month or more); intensive means on four days or more in a single month; and overnight means between 2am and 6am (even once).

Regulated activity can include, but is not limited to:

  • Teaching, training or instruction, care or supervision of children.
  • Providing advice or guidance wholly or mainly for children, which relates to their physical, emotional or educational wellbeing.
  • Any form of treatment or therapy provided to children.
  • Driving a vehicle that is being used only for the purposes of conveying children and their carers.
  • Working in a specified place (this may include catering, cleaning, administration and maintenance staff) in schools, pupil referral units, children’s homes, children’s hospitals, detention centres for children, children’s centres.
  • Roles providing personal care.
  • Registered childminding.
  • Fostering and private fostering.
  • Specified roles, i.e. an activity that involves people in certain defined positions of responsibility (e.g. school governor, trustees of certain charities).
  • Unsupervised activities: teaching, training, instructing, caring for or supervising children, or providing advice/guidance on well-being, or driving a vehicle only for children.
  • Work for a limited range of establishments (‘specified places’), with opportunity for contact: for example, schools, children’s homes, childcare premises. Not work by supervised volunteers.

Employers should make a judgement about suitability to work with children, taking into account only those offences which may be relevant to the post in question. In deciding the relevance the following should be considered:

  • The nature of the appointment.
  • The nature and the circumstances surrounding the offence.
  • The age at which the offence took place.
  • The frequency of the offence.
  • Whether the individual’s circumstances have changed since the offence.

The employer should have a written policy relating to the employment of ex-offenders and the risk assessment/judgment process in the light of positive DBS disclosures, i.e. offence or intelligence disclosure.

Each agency must have a nominated ‘human resource’ or service manager whose responsibilities include reporting to the DBS and the relevant professional body, any member of staff who (following an enquiry) it concludes to be unsuitable to work with children.

3.1 Criminal record disclosure for overseas staff

The same checks should be made on overseas staff as for all other staff, including DBS checks.

Where an individual has lived outside of the UK for a period of time it is important that employers take necessary steps to gather evidence to prove their good conduct whilst living outside of the UK. This may include obtaining a certificate of good conduct and any other reference and/or checking the individual’s overseas criminal record via the embassy or High Commission of the country in question.

It is possible to submit a DBS application while the applicant is overseas but it is important to remember that the DBS cannot access criminal records held overseas. Therefore a criminal record check may not provide a complete picture of an individual’s criminal record.

In a small number of cases, overseas criminal records are held on the Police National Computer and these would be revealed as part of a criminal record check. However it is still necessary to verify the identity of the overseas applicant.

Further information can be found on Home Office Guidance for employers about DBS checks for Overseas Applicants

3.2 Persons prohibited from working/seeking work with children

Anyone who is barred from work with children in a regulated position, as set out in Section 36 Criminal Justice and Court Act 2000, is committing an offence if they apply for, offers to do so or accept any work in any of the regulated positions as set out in the Act and the Police must be informed without delay of the individual’s attempt to seek employment.

It is also an offence for an employer knowingly to offer work in a regulated position, or to produce work in a regulated position for an individual who is disqualified from working with children, or fail to remove such an individual from such work.

4. Recording

All documentation relating to the recruitment of staff must be retained on file in line with each individual employer’s records retention practices and in line with the Data Protection Act 1998. Any check completed should be confirmed in writing and retained on the candidate’s personnel file, together with photocopies of and documents used to verify his/her identity and qualifications.

Under DBS regulations, DBS disclosure certificates should not be kept for longer than necessary. This is usually for a period of up to 6 months, to allow for the consideration and resolution of any disputes or complaints. However a record should be kept of the date the disclosure was obtained and who by, the level of the disclosure and the unique reference number. A record should be kept of evidence to show that such checks have been carried out in respect of supply staff and volunteers whether recruited directly or through an agency.

Satisfactory references must be kept on the candidates personnel file or, in the case of supply staff or volunteers not recruited through an agency, on a central record within the organisation.

5. Induction of newly appointed staff

For all new staff working with children, including agency staff, their induction must cover safeguarding and promoting children’s welfare as outlined in local training strategies. This must include:

  • an introduction to the organisation’s child protection policy and procedures
  • identifying staff with designated safeguarding responsibilities
  • information on safe practice
  • a full explanation of their role and responsibilities
  • the organisations standard of conduct and behaviour expected
  • the organisation’s personnel procedures including disciplinary and whistle blowing policies.
  • All new staff should attend child protection training at an appropriate level to the member of staff’s work with children.

It is good practice for organisations to have a written policy which details the nature and frequency of supervision of staff, whereby issues in relation to suitability to work with children can be promptly identified and addressed.

6. Supervision

Supervision enables workers to develop their capacity to use their experiences to review practice, receive feedback on their performance, build emotional resilience and think reflectively about the effectiveness of the professional relationships they have formed with children, adults and families. Regular, high quality safeguarding supervision is an essential element of effective arrangements to safeguard children.

It is recommended that supervision must:

  • keep a focus on the child
  • ensure that practice is consistent with the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Safeguarding Procedures and the organisation’s own procedures
  • provide a safe environment for reflection and professional challenge
  • acknowledge the emotional impact of the work
  • recognise and manage feelings and beliefs which may affect the safeguarding of children
  • identify when a case needs to be escalated due to concerns about case progress or other aspects of case management, including ineffective multi agency working
  • ensure that sufficient time is allocated for the supervision to be carried out effectively.

It is good practice that annual staff reviews are part of the organisation’s supervision policy and they should:

  • ensure staff are up to date with current safe practices
  • identify areas for development
  • openly address any concerns about behaviour and attitudes
  • put in place action plan and arrangements for review.

7. Further information