skip to Main Content

1. Introduction

All statutory and public organisations 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 which deter, reject or identify people who might abuse children or are otherwise unsuitable to work with them.

Cambridgeshire Safeguarding Children Board has a key function to establish effective policies and procedures for checking the suitability of people applying for work with children.  However, it is the responsibility of each organisation to consult with their human resources adviser, develop and review their own procedure and ensure that their practice satisfies the requirements of employment law.

Making safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children an integral factor in human resources management is an essential part of creating safe environments for children and young people. Safer practice in recruitment means thinking about and including issues to do with child protection at every stage of the process.

To ensure that those involved in recruiting and selecting staff are able to successfully test the candidates’ ability and experience against a clearly defined person specification, each agency must offer them:

  • Specific training in respect of safe recruitment and selection;
  • Supervised/supported experience of recruitment;
  • Periodic evaluation of performance by their supervisors.

Any organisation commissioned to provide services to children must be required as part of the commissioning process to comply with the safe recruitment, selection and supervision procedures set out in this chapter, and any service level agreement or contract must contain a safeguarding statement which clarifies the standards expected. This must include a requirement that the organisation must not sub-contract to any personnel who have not been part of a safe recruitment process.

Where private or voluntary organisations come into contact with or offer services to children otherwise than under contract with a statutory or public body, in recognition of their commitment to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, they should as a matter of good practice take account of this procedure and follow it as far as possible, although not under a statutory obligation to do so.

2. Choice of Candidate

2.1 Quality of Job Advertisement, Job Description and Person Specification

Organisations must have an explicit written recruitment and selection policy statement and detailed procedures that comply with the requirements set out in this chapter. This should include an explicit statement about the organisations commitment to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. This statement should be included in:

  • Publicity materials;
  • Recruitment websites;
  • Advertisements;
  • Candidate information packs;
  • Person specifications;
  • Job descriptions;
  • Competency frameworks;
  • Induction training.

Once a post becomes vacant or a new post is created, the job description and person specification need to be agreed and/or reviewed to ensure compliance with the safe recruitment guidance set out in this procedure. This will apply whatever the level of responsibility or duration of the appointment.

Job advertisements should include reference to the need for the successful applicant to undertake an Enhanced Disclosure via the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), where appropriate, as well as the usual details of the post, salary, qualifications required etc.

The level of information to be sent to potential applicants in the candidates’ information pack will depend on the level of the post. A copy of the organisations Child Protection Statement should always be included in the information pack, as well as the application form, job description and person specification. The information should also 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. The information will stress that the identity of the candidate, if successful, will need to be checked thoroughly and will refer to the need for a DBS check.

Job descriptions must state:

  • The main duties and responsibilities of the post; and
  • The post holder’s responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of children with whom s/he has contact or for whom s/he is responsible.

Person specifications should:

  • Include the qualifications and experience, and any other requirements needed to perform the role in relation to working with children;
  • Describe the competencies and qualities that the successful candidate should be able to demonstrate;
  • Explain that if the applicant is short-listed any relevant issues arising from the references will be taken up at interview;
  • Explain how these requirements will be tested and assessed during the selection process including:
    • Motivation to work with children;
    • Ability to form and maintain appropriate relationships and personal boundaries with children;
    • Emotional resilience in working with challenging behaviours;
    • Attitudes to use of authority and maintaining discipline.

Both job descriptions and person specifications must be completed at the same time and before the job is advertised. Under no circumstances should the person specification be completed or revised after the selection panel has had access to the applications received.

All organisations should develop a standard application form which is used for all staff vacancies. The application form should ask for:

  • Full identifying details of the applicant, including current and former names, date of birth, current address and National Insurance number;
  • Details of any relevant academic and/or vocational qualifications with details of the awarding body and date of the award;
  • A full history in chronological order since leaving secondary education, including periods of any post-secondary education or training and part-time or voluntary work as well as full-time employment with start and end dates, explanations for periods not in employment, education or training and reasons for leaving each employment.

A declaration of any family or close relationship to any existing employees or employers.

Details of referees, one of whom must be from the applicants current or most recent employer. Referees should not be accepted from relatives or persons writing solely in the capacity of friends. Where an applicant who is not currently working with children 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. Careful consideration needs to be given where the applicant has been working as a locum or on a series of temporary contracts. The need to request an additional reference from the last permanent employer should be considered. (See also Section 2.2 References).

A statement of the personal qualities and experiences that the applicant believes are relevant to his or her suitability for the post advertised and how s/he meets the person specification.

A signed declaration by the applicant that s/he is not disqualified from work with children, on the Disclosure and Barring Service’s Barred Lists or subject to sanctions imposed by a Regulatory Authority and that s/he has no convictions, cautions and bind-overs, including those regarded as ‘spent’, or has attached details of his or her criminal record in a sealed envelope marked ‘confidential’.

Incomplete applications must not be accepted and must be returned to the applicant for completion.

It is not good practice to accept CVs drawn up by applicants in place of an application form because these will only contain the information the applicant wishes to present and may omit relevant details.

The application form should also record that:

  • Where appropriate, the successful candidate will be required to provide a DBS Disclosure at the appropriate level for the post;
  • The prospective employer will seek references on short-listed candidates and may approach previous employers to verify particular experience or qualifications, before interview;
  • If the applicant is working with children, either paid or unpaid, his or her current employer will be asked about disciplinary offences relating to children, including any for which the penalty is time expired, and whether the candidate has been the subject of any child protection concerns and if so, the outcome of any enquiry or disciplinary procedure. If the applicant is nor currently working with children but has done so in the past, that previous employer will be asked about these issues; and
  • Providing false information is an offence and could result in the application being rejected, or summary dismissal if the applicant has been selected, and possible referral to the Police.

2.2 References

The purpose of seeking reference is to obtain objective and factual information to support appointment decision.

References must not be accepted except where they have been sought directly from a previous employer or other referee. Open “To whom it may concern” references must never be accepted.

A copy of the job description and the person specifications should be included with all reference requests.

All requests for references should ask (and a pro forma may be used for this purpose):

  • About the referees relationship with the candidate, e.g. did they have a working relationship; if so, what; how long has the referee known the candidate, and in what capacity;
  • Whether the referee is satisfied that the person has the ability and is suitable to undertake the job;
  • Whether the referee is completely satisfied that the candidate is suitable to work with children and if not, for specific details of the referees concerns and the reasons why the referee believes the person might be unsuitable;

And should remind the referee that:

  • They have a responsibility to ensure that the reference is accurate and does not contain any material misstatement or omission;
  • Relevant factual content of the reference may be discussed with the applicant.

In addition to the above, requests addressed to a candidates current or previous employer in work with children should also seek:

  • Confirmation of details of the candidates current post, salary and sickness record;
  • Specific verifiable comments about the candidates performance history and conduct;
  • Details of any disciplinary procedures the candidate has been subject to in which the disciplinary sanction is current;
  • Details of any disciplinary procedures the candidate has been subject to involving issues related to the safety and welfare of children, including any in which the disciplinary sanction has expired, and the outcome of those;
  • Details of any allegations or concerns that have been raised about the candidate that relate either to the safety and welfare of children or behaviour towards children and the outcome of those concerns, e.g. whether the allegations or concerns were investigated, the conclusions reached, and how the matter was resolved.

An employer reference must also be obtained in respect of internal candidates for posts involving direct contact with children.

So that information of comparable weight is obtained for all candidates, references on all short-listed candidates (including internal ones) should wherever possible be obtained prior to interview so that any issues of concern they raise can be explored further with a referee and taken up with the candidate at interview.

Written references must be checked carefully with the application form to identify any possible discrepancies; in all cases, any discrepancy should be taken up with the candidate before the persons appointment is confirmed.

2.3 References and Checks with Respect to Agency Staff

Where members of staff are engaged via specialist employment agencies, it is important that there are systems in place to ensure that only employment agencies which can offer safe selection processes are used.  It is expected that agency staff provide verification of their identity prior to starting work in the same as any directly employed member of staff – see Paragraph 2.4.3 Interviews.

References from any previous substantive employers must be sought as described 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 the quantity and pattern of any absences from their assignments;
  • 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 employment agency must also be asked to confirm in writing that the required checks have been undertaken and the results received, including the date of the last DBS Disclosure and whether it included any disclosed information (See also, Section 3, Disclosure and Barring Service Checks). Where there is disclosed information, the employer must obtain a copy of the DBS Disclosure from the agency. If the DBS Disclosure has not yet been received from the agency, the employer must require the agency to inform them of the content as soon as it is received. In the meantime the requirements set out in Paragraph 2.4.3 Interviews must be adhered to.

If the DBS Disclosure refers to the existence of information additional to what is on the face of the Disclosure, the agency cannot provide the employer with a copy of that information. If the employer still wants to engage the person, the employer should carry out a repeat DBS Disclosure and not employ the person until they receive the new disclosure.

2.4 Selection Methods

2.4.1 The Selection Panel

It is best practice for Selection Panels to comprise a minimum of two interviewers. It is essential that the same selection panel should both short-list and interview candidates. Panel members should not stand to gain from the appointment or have a personal relationship with any of the applicants.

Interview panels should be balanced wherever possible by gender and race and at least one panel member must have experience and an understanding of working with children and one panel member (who can be the same person) must have had specific training in safe recruitment and selection methods.

2.4.2 Scrutinising and Short-Listing

All applications should be scrutinised to ensure that they are fully and properly completed, that the information provided is consistent and does not contain any discrepancies, and to identify any gaps in employment.

In drawing up a short-list there should be a systematic and consistent approach. All applicants should be assessed equally against the criteria contained in the person specification without exception or variation. Information provided in application forms must be cross checked with other sources of information prior to short-listing and interview so that any discrepancy can be explored with the candidate at interview.  The criteria for personal qualities and skills must be used as well as those in relation to qualifications and experience. If greater emphasis is placed on one or more important skill and competency for the job, this must be clear from the outset.

2.4.3 Interviews

Candidates must be asked to bring documentary evidence of their identity that will satisfy DBS requirements – i.e. a full birth certificate or a passport/photo driving licence or some form of photograph identification, together with an additional document such as a utility bill that verifies the candidates name and address. Where appropriate, change of name documentation should also be brought to the interview.

Candidates should also be asked to bring original or certified copies of documents confirming any necessary or relevant educational and professional qualifications. If the successful candidate cannot produce original documents or certified copies, written confirmation of his/her relevant qualifications must be obtained from the awarding body.

Interviews must be face to face even where there is only one candidate. All questions must be prepared in advance by the Selection Panel and must not be discriminatory with regard to sex, marital status, race or ethnic origin, disability, religion, age, sexual orientation or political belief. Poorly structured interviews will not be reliable.

The candidates’ attitude towards children and commitment to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children should be tested. The following areas should be explored with the candidates 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 personal belief systems including attitudes to, perception of and sensitivity to sexual images of children;
  • Their understanding of safeguarding children.

Any gaps in the candidate’s employment history must be fully explored during the interview as should any discrepancies arising from the information supplied by the candidate or a referee.

In appropriate cases, for example interviews for residential social care settings, there may be pre-interviews (see the Warner report ‘Choosing with Care: The report of the Committee of Enquiry into Selection, Development and Management of Staff in Children’s Homes’) and interviews may usefully be underpinned by practical exercises, which simulate the working environment e.g. anonymised real-life situation (with precautions taken to ensure no unfair advantage to internal candidates).

Notes of questions asked and answers given at the interview must be made and retained, usually by the human resources officer in attendance.

After the interview, Panel members should separately score the candidates. They should then share their scores and discuss their reasons for reaching the scores. This discussion should result in a joint agreed score for each candidate.

A decision as to whether to appoint an individual to a role working with children must be based upon an evaluation of the information obtained from all of the above stages. Appointments must be made on the basis of a person’s experiences, ability and suitability to perform the role rather than on the urgency of the need or the availability of the applicant.

Offer of Appointment to Successful Candidate

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

  • Receipt of two satisfactory references – if references have not been obtained before the interview, it is vital that they are obtained and scrutinised before a person’s appointment is confirmed;
  • Verification of the candidate’s identity (if this has not been verified straight after the interview);
  • A DBS Disclosure appropriate to the role (but see also Paragraph below);
  • A check of the Disclosure and Barring Service’s Barred Lists is completed as part of the DBS Disclosure and therefore separate checks will not be required except where the DBS Disclosure remains outstanding at the point where the person starts work;
  • Verification of the candidates medical fitness;
  • Verification of any relevant qualifications and professional status (if not verified straight after the interview) and whether any restrictions have been imposed by a regulatory body such as the General Medical Council;
  • Evidence of right to work in the UK for those who are not nationals of a European Economic Area country.

All checks should be confirmed in writing, documented and retained on the personnel file and followed up where they are unsatisfactory or where there are discrepancies in the information provided (see Section 3.5, Evaluation and Management of Disclosed Information). All employers should also keep and maintain a single central record of recruitment and vetting checks of staff and volunteers – see Section 4, Recording.

Ideally, where a DBS Disclosure is required, it should be obtained before an individual begins work. It must in any case be obtained as soon as practicable after the individual’s appointment and the request for a DBS Disclosure should be submitted in advance of the individual starting work. There is discretion to allow an individual to begin work pending receipt of the DBS Disclosure. However, in such cases, the individual must be appropriately supervised and all other checks, including the DBS’s Barred List, should have been completed.

Appropriate supervision for individuals who start work prior to the result of a DBS Disclosure being known needs to reflect what is known about the person concerned, their experience, the nature of their duties and the level of responsibility they will carry.  For those with limited experience and where references have provided limited information the level of supervision required may be high. For those with more experience and where the references are detailed and provide strong evidence of good conduct in previous relevant work a lower level of supervision may be appropriate. For all staff without completed DBS Disclosures it should be made clear that they are subject to this additional supervision. The nature of the supervision should be specified and the roles of staff in undertaking the supervision spelt out. The arrangements should be reviewed regularly at least every two weeks until the DBS Disclosure is received.

Where a DBS Disclosure indicates cause for concern for agency or directly employed staff, the member of staff must immediately be withdrawn pending further enquiries.

3. Disclosure and Barring Service Checks

The 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.

3.1 Standard Disclosure

A standard disclosure is available for posts involving regular contact with children (and vulnerable adults), certain professions in health, pharmacy and the law.

Standard disclosures indicate if there is nothing on record or show details drawn from the police national computer of:

  • Spent and unspent convictions;
  • Cautions;
  • Formal reprimands; and
  • Final warnings.

Standard disclosures are issued to the individual and copied to the body registered to seek them.

3.2 Enhanced Disclosures

The enhanced disclosure, in addition to the information provided by a standard disclosure, may contain non-conviction information from local police records, which a chief police officer reasonably believes it to be relevant to the position sought.

The enhanced disclosure is available for Regulated Activity positions involving regular caring for, training, supervision or being in sole charge of children (or vulnerable adults).

Enhanced disclosures are issued to the individual and copied to the body registered to seek them.

As a result of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, copies of standard or enhanced DBS certificates will generally be issued to the applicant only, and not copied to the body countersigning the application at the same time. This allows the applicant to make representations to the DBS regarding the information released, without the disputed information already having been seen by the employer.

If the applicant believes that any of the information included on an enhanced DBS certificate should not be there, they can ask the Independent Monitor to review it. The Independent Monitor can ask the DBS to issue a new certificate, either without that information or with amendments to it. Applicants should be encouraged to inform prospective employers when they request such a review and to update them about the outcome.

3.3 Persons Prohibited from Working/Seeking Work with Children

If a disclosure reveals that an applicant is prohibited from seeking or working with children, as set out in Section 36 of the Criminal Justice and Court Act 2000, it is an offence for a person to apply for or accept any work in a position that includes Regulated Activity 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 organisation knowingly to offer work in a position of Regulated Activity to an individual who is disqualified from working with children or fail to remove such a person from work.

3.4 Limitations of Disclosures

The same checks must be made on all overseas staff, including DBS checks but disclosures may not provide information on people convicted abroad and with respect to individuals who have little residence in the UK, caution must be exercised.

Where an applicant has worked or been resident overseas in the previous 5 years, the employer should where possible obtain a check of the applicant’s criminal record from the relevant authority in that country. Not all countries, however, provide this service. The advice of the DBS Overseas Information Service should be sought about criminal record checking overseas – see the Disclosure and Barring Service website.

Occasionally, an enhanced disclosure check may result in the local police disclosing non-conviction information to the registered body only and not to the applicant e.g. a current investigation about the individual. Such information must not be passed on to her/him.

3.5 Police information held locally – more rigorous relevancy test and new right of review

Prior to the Protection of Freedom Act, the police provided information held locally on enhanced DBS disclosures when they consider it to be relevant to the purpose for which the certificate was requested. The police now have to apply a more rigorous test before deciding whether to disclose information. At the moment they include information if it ‘might be relevant’ and ought to be disclosed. They also include it if they ‘reasonably believe it to be relevant’ and consider that it ought to be disclosed.

In addition, if any of that information is included on an enhanced DBS certificate and the applicant does not think that it should be, they will now be able to ask the Independent Monitor to review it, and the Independent Monitor can ask the DBS to issue a new certificate, either without that information or with amendments to it. Applicants should be encouraged to inform you when they request such a review and to update you about what happens with their certificate.

3.6 Evaluation and Management of Disclosure Information

Any concerns raised as a result of DBS checks must be followed up. Where information is disclosed, employers must carry out an initial evaluation and make a judgment about the person’s suitability to work with children taking into account only those offences that may be relevant to the post in question. Where further information is required, the applicant’s consent must be sought and the information should be obtained by a person with an understanding of child protection matters.

In deciding the relevance of disclosure information, the following should be considered:

  • The nature of the appointment;
  • The nature and circumstances of the offence;
  • The age at which the offence took place;
  • The frequency of the offence.

3.7 Challenges to Information on DBS Certificates

Currently, an applicant for a DBS check who believes that information disclosed on their certificate is inaccurate can apply to the DBS for a decision about whether it is accurate. The Protection of Freedoms Act allows people other than the applicant to do that too.

3.8 Disclosure and Barring Service Update Service

With effect from June 2013, an optional online Update Service is operated by the Disclosure and Barring Service, designed to reduce the number of DBS checks requested. Instead of a new criminal records/Barred Lists check being necessary whenever an individual applies for a new paid or voluntary role working with children/Vulnerable Adults, individuals can opt to subscribe to the online Update Service. This will allow them to keep their criminal record certificate up to date, so that they can take it with them from role to role, within the same workforce.

For further information please see the Disclosure and Barring Service website.

4. Recording

All documentation relating to the recruitment of staff must be retained on file, including notes made of candidates’ responses to questions at interview. Any check completed must be confirmed in writing and retained on the candidates personnel file, together with photocopies of and documents used to verify his/her identity and qualifications. Under DBS regulations, DBS disclosures should be destroyed as soon as it is no longer needed, but a record must be kept of the date the disclosure was obtained and who by, the level of the disclosure and the unique reference number.

A record must 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.

Where information gained by the employer from either references or other checks calls into question the candidates suitability to work with children, or where the candidate has provided false information in support of the application, the facts must be reported to the Safeguarding Unit and/or to the Police.

5. Induction and Review

For all new staff working with children, including locum and agency staff, their induction must cover safeguarding and promoting children’s welfare as outlined in the Cambridgeshire Safeguarding Children Board’s Training Strategy. This must include an introduction to the organisations Child Protection policy and procedures. They must also be made aware of the identity and specific responsibilities of those staff with designated safeguarding responsibilities.

New staff members must be provided with information about safe practice and a full explanation of their role and responsibilities and the standard of conduct and behaviour expected. They must also be provided with information about the organisation’s disciplinary procedures and the relevant whistleblowing policy.

The induction programme must also include attendance at child protection training at a level appropriate to the member of staffs work with children.

Where appropriate, supplementary induction, supervision training and appraisal with respect to their new role must be provided. Information gleaned from the selection process must be used to inform a personalised induction and support programme.

Regular supervision and review meetings between the appointee and his/her line manager must be convened by the manager throughout the induction period to address areas where further support, guidance and training may be required.

6. Supervision and Support

Agencies should ensure that all staff members working with vulnerable children have access to effective management and supervision.

In many agencies, supervision and management will be provided by the same person. Where the roles are split it is vital that there is clarity about lines of accountability and how issues of performance management will be dealt with.

It is the role of a line manager to:

  • Be accountable for the quality of work carried out;
  • Monitor quality through regular case file audit;
  • Endorse decisions made at key points in the process of work with children and their families;
  • Ensure that staff have access to regular supervision;
  • Ensure that senior managers are kept informed of any factors that may adversely affect the ability of staff to deliver quality services, e.g. workload, resource deficits, gaps in knowledge and skills.

It is the role of the supervisor to:

  • Provide a safe environment where staff working with vulnerable children can reflect on their work;
  • Be a source of advice and expertise;
  • Scrutinise and challenge practice in order to assess the competence of the worker;
  • Provide an opportunity for the practitioner to explore cases in depth in order to promote objectivity, evidence based analysis and sound professional judgement. There should be consideration of the way in which feelings about the work might affect both thoughts and actions;
  • Enable practitioners to clarify their roles and responsibilities and how these relate to the roles of others in the professional network;
  • Assess training and development needs and ensure that these are met.

All staff working with vulnerable children should have a named supervisor who is able to provide the necessary advice, expertise and support.

Agencies should have in place a supervision policy which specifically addresses the process of supervision for staff involved in safeguarding children. This policy should specify how the roles identified above will be carried out.

Staff should have the opportunity to discuss with a supervisor all children who are causing them concern or who are receiving enhanced service provision, not only children who are subject to a Child Protection Plan.

All decisions made by supervisors and line managers should be recorded in the child’s case file, with reasons for the decision clearly specified. This includes both formal and informal supervision discussions.

7. Reporting Systems for Unsuitable Staff

Any concerns that arise that call into question a person’s suitability to work with children must be managed according to the Managing Allegations or Serious Concerns in Respect of Any Adult who Works or Volunteers with Children Procedure.

Managing Allegations or Serious Concerns in Respect of Any Adult who Works or Volunteers with Children Procedure, Roles and Responsibilities describes how each agency must have a Named Senior Officer whose responsibilities include reporting in appropriate cases to the relevant professional body and / or the DBS Barred List any member of staff who (following an enquiry) it concludes to be unsuitable to work with children.

8. Whistleblowing

Staff, through fears about repercussions, may find it difficult to raise child protection concerns about colleagues or managers.

Each agency must ensure the provision of a well-publicised ‘whistleblowing’ or ‘speak out’ procedure that provides alternative methods of reporting concerns relating to conduct which is in breach of the law, compromises health and safety provisions or falls below established standards of childcare practice.


Back To Top
Translate »
Skip to content