Safe Recruitment and Selection, and the Management of Adults who Work with Children

For a record of all amendments and updates, see the Amendments & Archives.

Specific definitions of key concepts used by safeguarding practitioners are available through the Glossary.

AMENDMENT

In January 2022 links to external guidance were updated and further information added on the responsibilities of providers of fostering/adoption services to maintain full personnel records on their staff (see Scope).

1. Safe Recruitment and Selection, and the Management of Adults who Work with Children

Caption: Safe recruitment and selection, and the management of adults who work with children
   

Scope

1.1

All organisations which employ staff or volunteers to work with children should adopt a consistent and thorough process of safe recruitment in order to ensure that those recruited are suitable. 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.

Each Local Safeguarding Children Partnership (LSCP) has a responsibility to:

  • Be satisfied with the arrangements made by each person or body represented in the Partnership for the purpose of Safeguarding and Promoting the Welfare of Children in the area of the authority through the safe recruitment of staff and volunteers;
  • Be satisfied of the effectiveness of what is done by each such person or body for that purpose.

1.2

These procedures are compliant with the recommendations of the Bichard Inquiry, 2004, but they do not cover all aspects of safe recruitment and employment processes. Local Safeguarding Children Partnerships (LSCPs) should, therefore, help and encourage all of their member organisations to implement safe recruitment and selection practices by providing access to relevant government guidance, examples of good practice guidance, and model policies and procedures where needed see, for example, NSPCC, Safer Recruitment.

1.3

Safe recruitment practice should include those persons who may not have direct contact with children, but because of the nature of their role will be seen as safe and trustworthy. The principles of safe recruitment should, therefore, be included in the terms of any contract drawn up between an organisation and contractors or agencies that provide services for, or adults to work with, children for whom the organisation is responsible. Agencies should then monitor compliance with the contract which should also include a requirement that the provider will not sub-contract to any personnel who have not been part of a safe recruitment process.

1.4

Schools and other education settings should also refer to Keeping Children Safe in Education. This is statutory guidance for schools and colleges. The Department for Education (DfE) has recommended that all schools, including non-maintained schools, independent schools, Free schools and academies, further education institutions, and local authorities exercising education functions, should use this guidance to review and, where appropriate, modify their practice and procedures for safeguarding children and dealing with allegations of abuse made against teachers and education staff (see also Allegations Against Staff or Volunteers (People in Positions of Trust), who Work with Children Procedure).


Training

1.5

All organisations involved in the selection of adults to work with children should ensure that designated staff undertake safe recruitment training as offered by the LSCP's training programme, and other training specific to their organisation where available (e.g. Teaching Regulation Agency online training for local authority designated staff, head teachers and governors). The LSCP should monitor the take up of such training to ensure that all organisations have appropriately trained staff involved in their recruitment processes. See paragraph 1.21, below.


Advertisements and information for applicants

1.6

Organisations should demonstrate their commitment to safeguarding and protecting children by ensuring that all recruitment advertising material contains a safe recruitment policy statement.

1.7

All information given to potential applicants should highlight the importance placed by the organisation on rigorous selection processes.

1.8

The information should stress that the successful candidate will be the subject of the following checks before commencing work:

  • A thorough identity check;
  • Employment checks;
  • Reference checks; and, where required
  • A Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check if required (see Disclosure and Barring Service Checks).

1.9

The job description should clearly set out the extent of the relationship with, and the degree of responsibility for, children that the person will have contact.

1.10

The person specification should explain:

  • The qualifications and experience needed for the role;
  • The competencies and qualities that the applicant should be able to demonstrate;
  • How these will be tested and assessed during the selection process.

1.11

The application form should ask for:

  • Full personal information, including any former names by which the person has been known in the past; and
  • A full history of employment, both paid and voluntary, since leaving school, including any periods of further education or training;
  • Details of any relevant academic and / or vocational qualifications;
  • A declaration, as appropriate for the position, concerning whether or not the applicant:
    • Has ever been known to any Children's Services Department or Police as being a risk or potential risk to children [1]?
    • Has ever been the subject of any investigation and/or sanction by any organisation or body due to concerns about their behaviour towards children [2]?
    • Has ever been the subject of disciplinary sanctions or been asked to leave employment or voluntary activity due to inappropriate behaviour towards children [3]?
    • Has any unspent convictions or conditional cautions [4]?
    • Has any spent adult cautions (simple or conditional) or convictions that are not 'protected' as defined by either [5]:
      • The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 as amended in England, Scotland and Wales Order 2020;
      • Or the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 as amended in Northern Ireland?
    • Has ever been convicted of an offence overseas [6]?
    • Has been "barred" from working with children [7]?
  • And if the answer to any of the above is yes, then the details thereof.

[1] Such information held by the Police concerning incidents that may not have resulted in a prosecution may be disclosed as part of the DBS process as may information about spent or protected offences if considered to be of relevance see Statutory Disclosure Guidance.
[2] Such information held by professional registration authorities may be disclosed.
[3] Such information should be contained within employment references.
[4] Whilst some convictions are never "spent", most will become so after a period of time, dependent upon the age when convicted or the disposal administered.
[5] Even though a conviction may be spent, it may not be protected and should still be disclosed.
[6] See Guidance on the application process for criminal records checks overseas (updated December 2021)
Note - From 01 January 2021 the TRA Teacher Services system ceased to maintain a list of those teachers who have been sanctioned in EEA member states.
[7] An enhanced DBS will include a check on the register of those that have been barred from working with children.

Applicants should be signposted to the guidance on the DBS Filtering Process:

If an employer takes into account a conviction or caution that should not have been disclosed, then they have acted unlawfully under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. Similarly, if an employer employs a person who is "barred from working with children" then they have committed an offence as has the person that applied for the position – see Barred Person not to engage in regulated activity and Persons disqualified from working with children: offences.


References

1.12

The application form should request both professional and character references, one of which should be from the applicant's current or most recent employer. Additional references may be asked for where appropriate. For example, where the applicant is not currently working with children, but has done so in the past, a reference from that employer should be asked for in addition to that from the current or most recent employer if this is different.

1.13

Wherever possible references should be obtained prior to the interview so that any issues of concern raised by the reference can be explored further with the referee and taken up with the candidate during interview. References should contain objective verifiable information and in order to achieve this, a reference pro-forma with questions relating to the candidate's suitability to work with children should be provided.

1.14

References must always be verified directly with the referee by telephone to ensure that they are valid.

1.15

The referee should be asked to confirm whether the applicant has been the subject of any disciplinary sanctions and whether the applicant has had any allegations made against him / her or concerns raised which relate to either the safety or welfare of children and young people or about the applicant's behaviour towards children or young people. Details about the outcome of any concerns or allegations should be sought.


Other checks before interview

1.16

If the applicant claims to have specific qualifications or experience relevant to working with children which may not be verified by a reference, the facts should be verified by making contact with the relevant body or previous employer and any discrepancy explored during the interview.


Selection of candidates - short listing

1.17

Agencies should have standard procedures for short listing to ensure that the best candidates are selected fairly. All applicants should be assessed equally against the criteria contained in the person specification without exception or variation.

1.18

Safe recruitment means that all applications should additionally be:

  • Checked to ensure that they are fully and properly completed. Incomplete applications should not be accepted and should either be returned to the candidate for completion or disregarded.
  • Scrutinised for any anomalies or discrepancies in the information provided.
  • Considered with regard to any history of gaps, or repeated changes, in employment, or moves to supply work, without clear and verifiable reasons.

1.19

All candidates should bring with them to interview documentary evidence of their right to work in the UK and their identity. Right to work evidence should be as prescribed by Home Office. Evidence of identity, either a full birth certificate, passport or photocard driving licence and additionally a document such as a utility bill that verifies the candidates name and address. Where appropriate, change of name documentation must also be brought to the interview.

1.20

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.


Interviewing short - listed candidates

1.21

At least one member of the interview panel should have undertaken safe recruitment training – see 1.5 above and recommendation 4.63, Bichard Inquiry, 2004

1.22

Questions should be set which test the candidate's specific skills and abilities to carry out the job applied for. 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. At least one member of the interview panel should be trained in how best this can be done.

1.23

Any gaps and changes in employment history should be fully explored during the interview, as should any discrepancies arising from information supplied by the candidate or by the referee.


Offer of Appointment to Successful Candidate 

1.24

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

  • Receipt of two or more 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);
  • Consideration of any information disclosed as in the declaration set out above – see 1.11;
  • A Disclosure and Barring Service Disclosure appropriate to the role [1];
  • A check of the Disclosure and Barring Service's Barred List; this is usually 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;
  • A check with the local authority children's services responsible for the area in which the candidate is resident may also be undertaken;
  • Verification of the candidate's 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 Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA), the General Medical Council or Social Work England;
  • Confirmation that the candidate has a right to work in the UK (see GOV.UK website for information on how to check a candidate is allowed to work in the UK).

[1] See DBS eligibility guidance determine what level of DBS check is required and below. Where the applicant has previously lived and / or worked in Scotland or the North of Ireland, then the disclosure appropriate to that region of the UK should be used; if the applicant if from overseas, then the overseas process should be followed – see 1.11, above

1.25

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. All employers should also keep and maintain a single central record of recruitment and vetting checks of staff and volunteers.

1.26

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. However, 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.

1.27

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.

1.28

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.

LSCPs should ensure that all employers (and those responsible for people undertaking work in a voluntary capacity) include within their contracts of employment (or volunteer agreement) a duty to declare any conviction, enquiry or investigation that would otherwise be disclosed in a DBS certificate at the time that it occurs. This duty should include any relevant convictions, enquiries or investigations undertaken in respect of those within whom the employee resides or has a close relationship.


Disclosure and Barring Service Checks

1.29

The DBS provides four levels of checks which are of relevance to employers: basic, standard, enhanced and enhanced disclosures with a check of the barred lists. One or other must be sought with respect to all candidates who seek to work with children – see DBS Eligibility Guidance.


Types of Disclosure

1.30

A basic check, which shows unspent convictions and conditional cautions.

1.31 A standard check, which shows spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings.

1.32

An enhanced check, which shows the same as a standard check plus any information held by local police that's considered relevant to the role.

1.33

An enhanced check with a check of the barred lists, which shows the same as an enhanced check plus whether the applicant is on the adults' barred list, children's barred list or both.

1.34

Many convictions will become "spent" after a set period of time - a spent conviction is a conviction which, under the terms of Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, can be effectively ignored after a specified amount of time. The amount of time for rehabilitation depends on the sentence imposed, not on the offence. Certain old or minor offences may not be disclosed on DBS certificates. These are known as 'protected' offences. See: Guidance on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and The Exceptions Order 1975.


Information about spent convictions

1.35

Overview of the DBS Filtering Process including protected offences. List of offences that will never be filtered from a DBS certificate.


Persons Prohibited from Working/Seeking Work with Children

1.36

If a disclosure reveals that an applicant is prohibited from seeking or working with children it is an offence for a person to apply for or accept any work in a position that includes Regulated Activity and the Police must be informed without delay of the individuals attempt to seek employment. It is also an offence for an organisation knowingly to offer work in a position that includes Regulated Activity to an individual who is disqualified from working with children or fail to remove such a person from work.


Limitations of Disclosures

1.37

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.

1.38

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.

1.39

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.


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

1.40

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. They will include it if they 'reasonably believe it to be relevant' and consider that it ought to be disclosed. See Statutory Disclosure Guidance (guidance to chief officers of police on providing information for inclusion in enhanced criminal record certificates, November 2021).

1.41

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.


Evaluation and Management of Disclosure Information

1.42

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.

1.43

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.


Challenges to Information on DBS Certificates

1.44

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.


Disclosure and Barring Service Update Service

1.45

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. Employers do not need to register, but can carry out free, instant, online status checks of a registered individual's status. However, am employer does need to have sight of the original DBS certificate when using the update service since the update service will only indicate whether there have any changes since the original certificate was issued. A new DBS check will only be necessary if the status check indicates a change in the individual's status (because new information has been added). An employer can also undertake multiple status checks at the same time.

For further information, visit the DBS Update Service: employer guide.

1.46 

The Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 makes it a criminal offence for anyone to seek or accept work in a regulated position knowing that they are barred from working with children; and for an employer to offer work to, or employ a person in a regulated position knowing that the person is barred from working with children.


Making Barring Referrals to the DBS

1.47

Regulated activity providers (employers or volunteer managers of people working in regulated activity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and personnel suppliers have a legal duty to refer to DBS where certain conditions are met. This applies even when a referral has also been made to a local authority safeguarding team or professional regulator.

In some other circumstances, an organisation may have the power to refer when it is not acting as a regulated activity provider. This will usually be when the organisation is undertaking their safeguarding role.

For further information, see Making barring referrals to the DBS.


The DBS Regional Safeguarding Outreach service

1.48

The DBS Regional Safeguarding Outreach service has been established to work with safeguarding organisations and organisations that are recruiting. Its aim is to build and develop relationships, and to act as a single point of contact for all DBS-related enquiries within their region.

See The DBS Regional Outreach service.


Retention of DBS Certificates

1.49

The DBS certificate is sent to the person that is the subject of the check who must then show the original certificate to the employer. The employer should record the date of the certificate, the reference number and the details of any information of relevance that is disclosed for subsequent discussion with the person concerned – see 1.42 above. An employer may make a copy of the certificate.

Employers can keep a copy of the certificate if they are required to do so for the purposes of evidencing safe recruitment by CQC or Ofsted. Both the DBS and the DfE suggest that this should only be for a period of 6 months. The ICO has advised that, if a person is not appointed as a consequence of the disclosure, then retaining a copy of the certificate for a period of 6 months would be prudent since that is the period within which the subject of the disclosure would be able to make a complaint to an employment tribunal. However, an employer may retain a copy of the certificate indefinitely with the consent of the employee.

1.50

Employers can retain keep a copy of the certificate if they are required to do so for the purposes of evidencing safe recruitment by CQC or Ofsted. Alternatively, employers may choose to do using one of the grounds provided by the Data Protection Act 2018 (the UK’s implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)) as a lawful basis for the retention of DBS certificates [1].

[1] The relevant grounds would be:

  • Contract – staff working with children are required to have DBS checks as a condition of employment;
  • Legal Obligation – employers are legally obliged to ensure that their staff are the subject of appropriate checks;
  • Legitimate interest – employers have a legitimate interest in ensuring that members of staff working with children and young people are of good character.
1.51

The London Safeguarding Children Partnership recommends that all agencies retain copies of DBS certificates for all members of staff for the duration of their period of employment and registers their employees for the DBS update service (see 1.45 above) thereby ensuring that all their staff can be the subject of contemporaneous vetting.


Staff recruited from overseas

1.52

Employers will also need to carry out criminal record checks when recruiting staff from abroad. Where the position meets the criteria for a disclosure, even if the applicant claims they have never lived in the UK before, a DBS disclosure should still be obtained in addition to the individual's overseas criminal records.

1.53

All overseas police checks must be in accordance with that country's justice system and UK requirements. See the DBS website for guidance on how to access information from a list of countries.

1.54

Some foreign embassies and high commissions in the UK initiate requests on behalf of applicants and liaise with the relevant issuing authority abroad. In cases where candidates have to apply to the issuing authority directly, the relevant UK-based embassy or high commission may still be able to provide advice on what to expect. If there is any doubt about the record produced, they may also be able to authenticate the search results.

If the country is not listed on the DBS website, the country's representative in the UK could be contacted, see the Foreign and Commonwealth website at: www.fco.gov.uk.

2. Induction and Supervision of Newly Appointed Staff

Caption: Induction and supervision of newly appointed staff
   

2.1

The induction of all newly appointed staff should include an introduction to the organisation's child protection policies and procedures. This should include being made aware of the identity and specific responsibilities of those staff with designated safeguarding responsibilities.

2.2

New staff members should be provided with information about safe practice and given a full explanation of their role and responsibilities and the standard of conduct and behaviour expected.

2.3

They should also be made aware of the organisation's personnel procedures relating to disciplinary issues and the relevant whistle blowing policy.

2.4

The programme of induction should also include attendance at child protection training at a level appropriate to the member of staff's work with children.

2.5

Senior managers should ensure that their staff are adequately and appropriately supervised and that they have ready access to advice, expertise and management support in all matters relating to safeguarding and child protection.


Scope

2.6

As part of the induction for staff working in fostering and / or adoption services, all providers of such services should ensure that the following documentation is held on the personnel files of each member of staff working in that service to comply with the relevant regulations [1]:

  • Proof of identity (passport or driving licence);
  • A recent photograph;
  • Documentary evidence of relevant qualifications;
  • Two written references;
  • Evidence of a DBS certificate having been issued;
  • A full employment history together with the reasons why that member of staff left their previous employment.

[1] The Fostering Services (England) Regulations 2011, Regulation 20 / Schedule 1;
The Local Authority Adoption Service (England) Regulations 2003, Regulations 6 & 11 / Schedule 3;
The Voluntary Adoption Agencies and the Adoption Agencies (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2003, Regulations 7 & 14 / Schedule 2;
The Adoption Support Agencies (England) and Adoption Agencies (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2005, Regulations 9 and 19 / Schedule 2.

2.7

Any concerns that arise through the process of continuing supervision, which call into question the person's suitability to work with children, should be managed according to local procedures such as capability, disciplinary and / or the procedures for the management of allegations against staff (including volunteers) as outlined in Allegations Against Staff or Volunteers (People in Positions of Trust), who Work with Children Procedure.