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Safeguarding & health and safety

We've compiled a series of questions and answers below that you may find useful on the topic of volunteering, safeguarding and health and safety. 

If you can't find an answer to your question, you can also get in touch with our volunteering team.

Volunteering rugby coaches helping out
  • 1. Do all volunteers need a DBS check?

    Not all volunteering roles require a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check. However, clubs are legally required to assess volunteering roles and determine whether it’s one that requires a DBS check.

    For more information on this, visit the National Council for Voluntary Organisations

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  • 2. How do I carry out a DBS check if a volunteer is not a UK national or is British and has lived abroad?

    If you have a potential volunteer from overseas and their role requires a DBS check, you'll need:

    • A DBS check which covers the time they’ve spent in the UK (if any)
    • A check carried out by the authorities in their previous country/countries of residence.

    If a potential volunteer is British but has lived abroad and their role requires a DBS check, they’ll need:

    • A DBS check which covers the time they’ve spent in the UK
    • A police check that covers the period they were overseas.

    The procedures for obtaining police checks for foreign nationals differ from country to country – click here to learn more.

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  • 3. I've had a DBS check carried out on a prospective volunteer and it has not come back clear. What should we do?

    This will depend on the nature of the information that the DBS check reveals and the role that the volunteer would be performing.

    A spent criminal conviction shouldn’t necessarily prevent someone volunteering. However, if someone is applying to volunteer with children or vulnerable adults and a DBS check reveals they’ve been convicted or suspected of offences against them, this will rule them out of the position.

    Prospective volunteers can appeal the outcome of DBS checks in certain circumstances – click here for more information.

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  • 4. I’m concerned about the welfare of one of the children at the club. What should I do?

    If you have any concerns about the welfare of a child at your club, you should report this appropriately. Child protection should be part of your club’s safeguarding procedures, and you should follow the procedures outlined by your club.

    If you believe a child is in immediate danger, you need to contact the police.

    If your club does not have the appropriate procedures in place regarding child protection, there are other organisations you can contact:

    • National governing bodies: If your club or activity is affiliated with a national governing body, you can contact them with your concerns. They'll have a procedure in place on how to deal with your concern. The Child Protection in Sport Unit has a list of relevant governing body contacts – click here to see it
    • Active Partnerships: If your sport is not associated with a national governing body, you can instead contact your local Active Partnership. The Child Protection in Sport Unit also has a list of relevant Active Partnership contacts – click here to see it
    • Social services: You can also contact your local social services - your local authority will have a contact number for social services in your area. Click here to find your local authority.
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  • 5. I’m concerned that one of our volunteers may have done something to harm someone else. What should I do? Do I need to refer them to the DBS?

    If the harm you’re concerned about would mean that the person has broken the law, then this makes it a matter for the police.

    If you’re concerned about harm to children or vulnerable adults, this should be covered by your club’s safeguarding policy, which should outline the procedure you should follow.

    If your volunteer has been involved in regulated activity with children or vulnerable adults, then you do need to refer your concerns to the DBS, but they should be investigated first before a referral is made.

    For more information, click on the below links:

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  • 6. Do we need extra safeguards if we have volunteers who are under 18?

    If you have volunteers under 18, this may affect the screening, training and support you need to provide the other volunteers who work with them.

    For example, if another volunteer is likely to have close and unsupervised contact with someone under 18, they should go through a DBS check and your club should have a safeguarding policy. Make it clear to volunteers over 18 that these safeguarding procedures apply to some of the volunteers they’re working alongside, as well as the participants at your club.

    For more information on safeguarding see the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ website.

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  • 7. Do we need extra safeguards if volunteers work with children or vulnerable adults?

    If your club supports children, young people or vulnerable adults as participants or volunteers, then it should have a safeguarding policy and procedures. These should include checking anyone applying for a volunteer role that involves close and unsupervised contact with children or vulnerable adults.

    For more information on safeguarding see the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ website.

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  • 8. How do I assess and manage the risks in relation to volunteering?

    When considering risk in relation to volunteering, you need to consider how volunteers themselves should be protected in their roles, as well as the risk that involving volunteers poses to your organisation.

    Consider volunteer risk alongside other areas of risk for your club or group and as part of an overall risk assessment.

    For example, if you were carrying out a risk assessment for a sports event your club was organising, you’d consider volunteers alongside sports participants, the general public and any staff.

    A potential and often unrealised risk organisations face is that they unintentionally give volunteers the same rights as employees by treating them in certain ways. Click here to learn more about the differences.

    You can find out more information about how sports clubs and groups can assess risk using the links below:

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  • 9. How can we fulfil our responsibilities for the health and safety of our club’s volunteers?

    Your club has a responsibility for the health and safety of people who visit, work, or are affected by your club’s activities.

    This includes:

    • Players and competitors
    • Volunteers and staff
    • Members and supporters
    • Parents or other visitors
    • Competition support staff
    • Contractors.

    Undertaking risk assessments and having a clear sports health and safety policy will help you to manage this obligation.

    Additionally, if your club has paid employees, you’ll be required to meet further health and safety standards. These clubs fall within the main scope of the Health and Safety at Work Act. They're required to ensure safe systems of work and a safe working environment for their staff and others using the premises where the work takes place.

    Our Club Matters website has a wide range of information on sports health and safety for clubs. If you register, you can also access downloadable guides and checklists to help you further.

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No one involved in sport and physical activity, whether they’re a volunteer, participant, spectator or an elite athlete, should ever have to worry about abuse or harassment.

Find out more about safeguarding

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