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13th Apr 2017 - Recruitment of ex-offenders as volunteers

The February meeting of the Volunteering Wales Network talked about volunteering and social housing landlords, recruitment of ex-offenders volunteering and benefits and of course Brexit.

Our conversations on risk and the involvement of ex-offender was an introductory one, which is likely to continue.

This item was brought to our attention by Macmillan Cancer Support, which has developed a policy for the recruitment of ex-offenders and is a supporter of the Ban the Box campaign

Members at the meeting were interested to hear of the campaign, which '...believes that asking applicants about a criminal record at the job or voluntary role offer stage is a more appropriate time in the recruitment process to consider criminal convictions than at the initial application stage. At Macmillan, we do not ask candidates questions about previous convictions at the time that they apply. This ensures that we consider applicants first and foremost on the grounds of their skills, experience and ability to do the job or volunteer role. We only ask applicants about criminal records when we make a job/ voluntary role offer; we then ask them to make a confidential declaration in the form of a written disclosure statement. All information disclosed will be treated in the strictest confidence.  We do this at the same time we take references. We reserve the right to withdraw job or volunteer role offers should a disclosure be made that we feel places Macmillan, or those related to the charity, at risk.

Failure to disclose unspent convictions could result in disciplinary proceedings or dismissal and volunteers may be asked to leave their role.'

We were reminded that the only legal requirement for a DBS check is the enhanced check plus check against barring lists, for someone intending to undertake regulated activity. It follows that the only person you are required to exclude would be one who is found to be on the relevant barring list (for work with children (including young people) or for work with vulnerable adults) and who is seeking to work in regulated activity with the relevant group (which is an offence). Everything else is a matter of reasonable and proportionate risk assessment, and depends on what the person is being recruited to do.

A risk assessment document helps you to think "what should I be asking about this person?" You may want to know how old is a criminal record, who does it affect, what is the person's attitude towards it and what additional safeguards are needed. Questions about criminal history should be tailored to be relevant to the activity concerned, for example you might ask about driving convictions for a driving role.

Managing a disclosure is tricky and more information was given on this.  The DBS website is a useful source of guidance. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act is based on the principle that once a conviction is spent (after rehabilitation - periods set down in the revised Act) no-one has any right to know/ask about it UNLESS they are entitled to ask the 'excepted' question because the applicant is being recruited into work listed in  legisl ifation  (The Police Act, Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act or revised under Protection of Freedoms Act); ie roles which have certain levels of contact with people who are vulnerable (children or adults at risk).

The Network is keen to gather and to publish examples of organisations successfully recruiting and involving volunteers who have a criminal record It was felt that often organisations are so risk averse that  this group of potential volunteers is excluded needlessly.

If you have examples to share, or if you are interested in joining the Volunteering Wales Network contact Fiona fliddell@wcva.org.uk

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