It can be difficult to know when PTA volunteers need to have DBS checks (formerly CRB). So we asked the team at Safe Network for their advice on safeguarding - here's what they said...
What does 'safeguarding children' mean for our PTA?
Safeguarding is about organisations that work with children developing a child-friendly culture, taking responsibility for their safety. For example, making sure that staff and volunteers are recruited, supported and managed safely; ensuring policies and procedures are in place to keep children safe; ensuring staff and volunteers know how to behave towards children; and that they know what to do if they have concerns, taking steps to manage risks. The DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) carries out criminal record checks in England and Wales. Different rules apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland. DBS checks are just one part of safe volunteer recruitment - for more advice visit gov.uk.
Do all committee members need a DBS check?
There is no legal requirement for committee members to have DBS checks (not even the chair). The only people who legally need them are those involved in Regulated Activity with children. Regulated Activity is defined as regular, and where a person is generally unsupervised. It includes: caring for or supervising children; driving a vehicle for children; and personal care, even if only done once. Regular means at least once a week, four days over a 30-day period, or overnight between 2am and 6am. The supervision element relates to whether the volunteer is supervised by a person in Regulated Activity e.g. a teacher. If a volunteer is running an event for children where no DBS-checked adults are supervising, they would require a check. Essentially it means 'such supervision as is reasonable to protect the children concerned'. It is up to your association to assess whether the event, and supervision provided, falls under Regulated Activity. Further guidance is available on the gov.uk website. It is unlikely that all committee members will be undertaking Regulated Activities - if this is the case, there is no obligation to check them. However, the committee may decide that they would still like checks to be carried out, given that children at your school will trust PTA members as being in positions of authority. If this is the case, volunteers may still be eligible for a check. More information is available on the gov.uk website, or contact the DBS directly for advice.
How do we get checks done and how much does it cost?
You will need to arrange checks via an umbrella organisation - usually through your school or local authority. You can find a list of umbrella bodies at the government website. Decide whether to ask volunteers to join the DBS Update Service. This lets applicants keep their certificates up to date and allows organisations to check a certificate online. Individuals can often transfer checks from one role or organisation to another. DBS checks are free for volunteers, as is subscribing to the Update Service, although the umbrella organisation may charge. There is no charge for using the Update Service to make status checks.
Our head has asked that all committee members undergo a DBS check, but I'm worried that this will result in fewer volunteers. What should I do?
First consider if a check is required, and if so, why. Organisations must be able to justify the check - if the DBS deems the situation inappropriate, they may refuse to carry it out. We recommend someone should be checked - if eligible - as part of providing a safe environment for children. DBS checks shouldn't discourage most volunteers if they understand why they are necessary. We recommend that you:
- Make clear why the checks are needed - it is part of your association's commitment to keep children safe
- Reassure volunteers that you will help make the process as easy as possible
- Explain that checks can be transferred to other roles/organisations if they subscribe to the Update Service. In addition, if they are already subscribed and their check is up to date, they don't need a new one
- Ensure that volunteers understand that the check is free.
For what types of event would volunteers need a DBS check?
Unless volunteers are involved in Regulated Activity, there is no legal requirement. If a person helps out regularly they may be subject to a check. One-off events - children's fashion shows, school discos, bingo, beetle drives - may not be regular enough. You can use unchecked volunteers for these, but if this is the case, be careful what you ask them to do e.g. avoid situations where they take children to the toilet. Helping out at overnight events (even if parents are present) may count as Regulated Activity, depending on the level of supervision provided to volunteers. Volunteers who regularly help out at one-off events should be considered for a check - contact the DBS for advice on eligibility.
For more information
- For the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) go to gov.uk/disclosure-barring-service-check, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0300 0200 190.
- NSPCC (nspcc.org.uk) runs a free, 24/7 helpline: 0808 800 5000, or email email@example.com, giving UK-wide advice on safeguarding and child protection.
The above is intended as guidance only. We recommend that you contact the relevant organisations with specific reference to insurance, legal, health and safety and child protection requirements. Community Inspired Ltd cannot be held responsible for any decisions or actions taken by a PTA, based on the guidance provided.