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2nd Oct 2017 - Recruiting volunteers with criminal convictions

A recent meeting of the Volunteering Wales network heard how the experience of Macmillan Cancer Support has led them to make changes in their approach to volunteer recruitment, in order to remove barriers for applications from individuals who have a criminal record.

Previously, applicants were asked about convictions on the volunteer application form and how these were processed was inconsistent.  Macmillan's safeguarding officer and volunteering policy lead worked together to develop a new policy and process for staff and volunteers, with advice from NACRO.

In line with the Ban the Box campaign, a request for declaration of criminal convictions has been taken off staff and volunteer application forms. Individuals are instead asked to declare convictions at the job or voluntary role offer stage, as part of Macmillan's screening process at the same that they request references.

For volunteers, the policy is posted on the Volunteering FAQs page of the Macmillan website.  It is made clear on the volunteer application form that volunteers will be asked about unspent criminal convictions, and a link to the policy is given.  The role advert and role description make it clear if a criminal records check (DBS) is also needed.

After interview, once a volunteer role offer has been made, the individual is sent a criminal record declaration form. This form is returned to Macmillan's safeguarding team, rather than to the volunteer manager. They take a risk assessment approach, taking into consideration the role applied for, the type of conviction, when it took place, the circumstances around it and other factors. They make a decision as to whether action is needed and if so, what.  As yet they have not turned anyone away but sometimes adaptations to the role are made.  The volunteer manager is only informed if some action is needed. This approach allows Macmillan to collect the same information about convictions just at a different point of the recruitment process; and at the same time, it minimises the possibility of prejudice.

Rachel Thompson-Biggs, Volunteering Policy Lead for Macmillan Cancer Support said: 'It is estimated that around 30% of the UK population has a criminal conviction and we had noticed a large drop off rate on our online volunteer application form when people reached this question. As an organisation committed to equality and diversity, we recognise the contribution that all people can make as volunteers, and so we developed this policy and process to remove this barrier whilst at the same time collecting the information we need to safeguard all of our stakeholders.

The safeguarding team is receiving forms weekly, which suggests that this barrier has been reduced and the process is working well in practice. The policy has been in place for almost two years and is currently being reviewed to make further improvements.'

If you are interested in joining the Volunteering Wales Network or would like further information, contact Fiona fliddell@wcva.org.uk

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