The challenge of training volunteers in essential safeguarding compliance
Any organisation that has a responsibility to safeguard children, young people and vulnerable adults needs to consider a robust safeguarding approach for all staff, including volunteers. It is extremely important that volunteers are trained adequately, and consideration should be given to the length, detail and amount of training required. This policy should demonstrate good practice and an organisation’s commitment to safeguarding, as well as all staff having a role to play in protecting vulnerable people from harm.
Safeguarding training for volunteers
Every organisation which works with children or vulnerable adults is required to have a safeguarding policy to ensure they are protected from harm. This starts from the offset, by ensuring the right volunteers are being recruited and that adequate training and supervision is in place to allow them to effectively carry out their role. A robust safeguarding policy will include the training that has been offered to the volunteers, examples of this could include:
- Safer recruitment training for the employees who are recruiting volunteers.
- Introductory safeguarding training for the volunteers.
- Awareness of child abuse and neglect – this may cover topics such as recognising when a child is in danger or at risk of serious harm or abuse, and should explain the procedures to be followed in order to protect them.
Often volunteers can be viewed separately to qualified professionals, which means friendship and trust can be built between volunteers and the individual accessing the support. However, this could mean that safeguarding concerns may be disclosed to volunteers, and they need to know what to do if this happens. Through adequate training, volunteers are more likely to take action and be able to identify and report incidents of abuse or harm.
Volunteers are often busy individuals with other commitments which may mean they struggle to find time to participate in the necessary training to help them address safeguarding issues. This is why the engagement levels of volunteers should also be considered. Providing essential safeguarding training via an e-learning method could be a preferable method. Ready-to-go training is accessible via smart phones and tablets, and offers the option to complete training in bite-sized chunks around other commitments, at a time suited to the learner.
Other safeguarding measures which need to be considered in order to mitigate risks are:
- Robust interviews – these should assess the candidate’s suitability for the role, and explore their attitude towards children and young people.
- References – ideally two references should be sought which support the candidate’s suitability to work with children or vulnerable adults.
- DBS checks for longer term volunteers – the level of disclosure requested, i.e. Standard or Enhanced, should reflect the nature of the duties of the post.
- Clear job descriptions – which outline expectations for promoting safeguarding, and detail the level of responsibility for children and young people involved.
- Clear safeguarding policy – must ensure all volunteers are clear how to identify and report safeguarding concerns and any incidents.
These topics should all be covered in the safer recruitment training which was identified as an important feature of every organisation’s safeguarding policy.
Ongoing measures which will support volunteers once in post are:
- Induction and training programmes – this should be at a level appropriate to the volunteer’s role and responsibilities with regard to children. This should include General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) training, to ensure volunteers are aware of their responsibilities when it comes to managing personal data.
- Supervision – regular reviews should be in place to ensure the volunteer feels supported in addressing any safeguarding issues which may arise as part of their role.
All organisations, regardless of their size, should ensure that there is a robust safeguarding policy in place among staff and volunteers, which they have access too. This should clearly highlight the organisation’s commitment to safeguarding, as well as the roles and responsibilities of everyone, including volunteers to deliver best safeguarding practice. This article has demonstrated the main features of a good approach to safeguarding and which training mechanisms should be put in place to adequately train volunteers.If you would like to discuss safeguarding training recommendations for your volunteers, please contact a member of the safeguarding team here