National Association of 
Voluntary Services Managers

Lead, promote and develop best practice in 
Volunteer Management in the NHS and Healthcare

Recruitment of Volunteers

 

NHS Employment Checks

 
Volunteers must be recruited in line with NHS Employment check standards.
 

These standards cover the following 6 areas:

 

  • Verification of identity checks
  • Right to work checks
  • Registration and qualification checks
  • Employment history and reference checks
  • Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks
  • Occupational Health checks

 

More detailed information on this can be foundhttp://www.nhsemployers.org/recruitmentandretention/employment-checks/Em...

 

Verification of identity checks
 

Please note that if the role requires a DBS check then the identity checks listed below will form part of the DBS process and need not be duplicated.

 

The identity of anyone wishing to volunteer must be carefully checked (please note, the requirements may change and up to date requirements can be found on the above website).

 

  • Photographic ID such as a passport or current driving licence should be provided by the prospective volunteer as well as documents verifying current address.  Prospective volunteers can provide 2 forms of photo ID plus 1 document confirming their address OR 1 form of photo ID and 2 documents confirming their address
  • Recruiting managers are required to check original documentation to verify full name, signature, date of birth and permanent address details.
  • Face to face meeting is essential as part of the verification process.
  • Applicants should be asked at interview to provide a signature on their application form if they applied on line and this signature should be checked against other documentation provided. 
  • Copies of all documentation should be made and retained on file; the person taking the copy must sign and date the copy to show it has been certified.

 

In rare circumstances, if an individual is unable to provide any photo ID then 2 forms of non photo ID and 2 documents confirming address must be provided.  All four must be from a different source and in addition the prospective volunteer will need to provide a passport-sized photo of themselves, endorsed on the back with a signature of a ‘person of standing’ in their community who has known them for at least 3 years.   The photo should be accompanied by a signed statement from that person confirming the period of time that the individual has been known to them, copies should be retained on file and certified by person taking the copies.

 

Wherever possible check authenticity of documents supplied.

 

Right to work checks
 
Not everyone is entitled to volunteer in the NHS.

 

Those who can volunteer include:
 
  •  All UK citizens
  • All EU citizens
  • Refugees
  • Asylum seekers
  • All overseas visitors who have indefinite right to remain visa, work visa, student visa, volunteer visa, so long as they are currently undertaking the activity stated on their visa (for example someone with a student visa must be attending a study course)

 

Those who cannot volunteer:
 
  • Overseas visitors on a ‘visitors permit’ are not allowed to volunteer
  • Overseas visitors with no valid visa or whose visa has expired

 

When applicants are foreign nationals (non-EU) VSMs are legally obliged to check that prospective volunteers are entitled to volunteer in the UK.  

 

VSMs should therefore request right to work documents from these applicants, validate the documents and copy and retain the documents on file.

 

Applicants with a student visa may be limited in the number of hours of voluntary work that they can carry out.

 

Volunteering whilst on benefits
 

A myth persists that people on benefits are limited in the number of hours that they can volunteer, this is incorrect. Unfortunately, it is often Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) staff that believe this to be the case and so should be advised to refer to the DWP leaflet 'Volunteering while getting benefits' mentioned below.

 

The DWP official guidance states: “We know that volunteering can give you a much better chance of finding paid work.  So you can volunteer as many hours as you like while you’re getting benefits as long as you keep to the rules for getting them”

 

Further information can be found at the following:

 

Page 6 of the DWPs leaflet “Volunteering while getting benefits”http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/dwp1023.pdf

 

Volunteering England guidance:
http://www.volunteering.org.uk/NR/rdonlyres/D1C7064B-561C-4057-84ED-77AF8CEEDA93/0/VG12006.pdf

 

Registration and qualification checks
 

If qualifications / professional registration is required for the volunteer role (for example if you have volunteer complimentary therapists) then:

 

  • Registration must be checked with the relevant regulatory body (with the applicant’s consent) and original certificates of qualifications should be seen, checked and photocopied.
  • Registration if required must be throughout their time volunteering if registration lapses their volunteering will be deemed to have ended.
 
What happens if the applicant can’t supply registration / qualifications?
 

If the candidate is applying for a role which requires these checks then they will not be able to carry out that role until they have provided evidence of qualifications / professional registration.

 

Reference checks
 

 NHS Employment standards require that applicants should be asked for the names and contact details of two referees, who have known them for at least 3 years.  This might be through work or study, other volunteering or in another professional capacity.  If volunteers have worked in the last three years then one reference should be from their most recent employer.

 

Family members are not acceptable referees.

 

Please note – this is often not feasible when dealing with volunteers (particularly young students or refugees) and so the VSM should use their judgement when obtaining references.  It is important for your criteria to be flexible enough to include disadvantaged candidates, including those volunteering after an extended period of physical or mental ill health.  If the most common sources of a reference are not available, consider accepting personal references from sources such as: the candidate’s religious or faith leader, their GP or other healthcare professional, or their solicitor.

 

More information about other acceptable references can be found on the NHS Employers website:

http://www.nhsemployers.org/RecruitmentAndRetention/Employment-checks/Employment-Check-Standards/Pages/Employment-Check-Standards.aspx

 

References may be received in the post or via email but hard copies must be printed out and kept on the Volunteer's personal file.

 

A sample reference form / letter can be found attached below.

 

What happens if an applicant’s references are negative?
 

It is the responsibility of the VSM to review any references received, follow up and check any that you have suspicions about (for example make sure that work references are sent from an authentic email address or hard copy is on headed paper). 

 

If the references give cause for concern or are shown to be fraudulent, then it is up to the VSM to decide whether to reject the person’s application based on that information in consultation with HR.  HR should be consulted as there may be legal implications about what it said or implied in a reference.

 

Disclosure and barring service checks (DBS)
 

You will need to comply with your Trust's policies and procedures with regard to DBS Disclosures and should seek advice from the Trust Lead on this.  However, in principle,DBS Disclosures should only be requested where they are necessary for the intended role.

 

In general, most if not all, volunteer roles in the NHS will require an enhanced DBS. Patients are considered vulnerable adults and therefore any volunteer who has contact with patients as part of their role or access to patient notes are therefore required to have an enhanced DBS check.

 

Volunteers who do not have contact with patients or their notes (for example those working in offices) may not need a DBS check.

 

Guidance on DBS checks for volunteers can be found at the following website:http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/media/cabinetoffice/third_sector/assets/crb%20final.pdf

 

Portable Criminal Records Checks

 

The update service from the DBS was launched on 17June 2013. Once the volunteer is registered for the update service their DBS certificate will be kept up to date  so they can take it from role to role where the same level and type of checks are required.

 

With their permission, employers can check the status of the volunteers certificate on line for free. This will save time and money and the employer will have the results instantly. http://www.crb.homeoffice.gov.uk/portability.  In these circumstances you should follow the procedures laid down by your Trust.

 

Please note that a DBS check is only carried out to enable managers to make a decision about whether they should take on a volunteer and therefore copies of DBS disclosures cannot be kept beyond a reasonable ‘trial’ period which is considered to be no more than 6 months.  In addition, DBS disclosures should not be kept with personal files but should be kept separate in a secure filing cabinet.

 

Keep a record of all DBS's sent with the name of the candidate, date of birth, and form number, so that you can track progress and follow up on any disclosures that are taking longer than they should.  Disclosures can be tracked online on the DBS website.  If the disclosure is taking a particularly long time and you are a counter signatory for DBS disclosures, you can contact the DBS directly by telephone or you can ask HR (or whoever the counter signatory is) to do so on your behalf.  The DBS can chase the relevant organisation (for example the Police) in order to speed the process up.

 
What happens if the applicant’s DBS is not clear

 

Candidates should be given every opportunity (eg by the rehabilitation of offenders declaration or during interview) to declare anything that is likely to be disclosed on their DBS. Candidates who fail to declare significant offences or cautions should be rejected on the grounds that they have breached trust.  Please refer to your HR department for clarification on your Trust’s policy or for advice on what constitutes a serious offence.

 

If a police record of any sort has been declared then this should be discussed at interview stage, particularly if it would preclude the applicant from volunteering.  For example in an acute Trust, anyone who had been convicted of premeditated murder  or serious drug offences could not work or volunteer in the Trust.  Different Trusts will have different guidelines and you should always consult with your HR department or line manager

 

Further discussion may be necessary once the DBS has been returned.  Most Trusts will allow Managers a certain amount of discretion to judge whether a previous criminal record would preclude a volunteer or inform where they might be placed. 

 

When considering disclosure information managers should assess the nature of the offence, at what age it was committed, its relevance to the post applied for, whether the applicant has a pattern of offending behaviour, whether the applicant’s circumstances have changed since the offending behaviour and the circumstances surrounding the behaviour and the explanation offered by the individual concerned.

 

A  full and robust risk assessment must be undertaken to assess suitability to appoint a volunteer. This will depend on the nature of offence(s) and the position applied for weighed up against the level of risk, or the opportunity to cause harm or damage in that position.  In general, for minor offences (such as shoplifting, drunken & disorderly etc) where a significant amount of time has elapsed since the incident, the VSM would discuss the issue with the applicant and if the VSM is satisfied that this was something that was not likely to happen again and / or effect the volunteer work and / or effect patient safety then the application would be approved.

 

For more serious offences or ones that carry a greater potential risk (for example drug dealing) then the VSM should seek advice from HR and / or ask for an HR representative (or the volunteers care co-ordinator – particularly in the case of Mental Health Trusts) to attend a meeting with the applicant to discuss the issues and a decision will then be made whether or not the person can volunteer and if they can, where would be suitable / unsuitable.  For example, a volunteer with a history of drug abuse should not be put in a situation where they might have access to drugs but perhaps could volunteer elsewhere, for example in an administrative role.

 

Some Trusts (for example Mental Health Trusts where there is a history of recruiting current or previous service users) may have a more relaxed approach to criminal records but have in place tighter safeguards for volunteers working in the Trust.

 

If a disclosure comes back with items declared on it and a decision is made to accept the volunteer then documentation should be completed your decision and the outcome of the meeting with the volunteer to discuss.  This does not need to contain the details of any offences, it can just state that the disclosure was not clear but on discussion with the volunteer it was judged to raise no significant risk and therefore the applicant was offered the volunteer role.

 
Occupational Health Checks (OH)
 

Not every Trust requires volunteers to undergo Occupational Health checks.  For example Mental Health Trust volunteers do not tend to work with patients who are physically ill and therefore volunteers may not require OH checks.

 

Acute Hospitals will however require volunteers to undergo Occupational Health checks.

 

OH questionnaires are confidential and should not be seen by VSMs.  Applicants are therefore often advised to submit their forms in a sealed envelope which gets handed directly into the Occupational Health department.

 

In addition, new legislation means that you should not take receipt of an applicant’s occupational health form until after you have made a decision as to whether you wish to take them on as a volunteer (although you can send it to them in advance of the interview).  This is to prevent discrimination (for example if the OH form states that the applicant has a health problem).  You should not state that an offer of a place is ‘subject to OH clearance’.

 

The level of OH clearance will depend on the role of the volunteer but typically the level of clearance may be along the following lines:

 

High level– maternity, paediatrics, HIV and Intensive care wards
Medium level – general wards / reception and other patient facing roles
Low level – office and administration roles without patient contact

 

Trusts may require proof of immunity for various infectious diseases such as TB, Chicken pox and Measles.

 

It may be useful to consider the costs of Occupational Health referrals as they may be disproportionate to the volunteer role. Therefore, an agreement with the Occupational Health department should be made on the type of volunteer roles requiring OH checks.

 

What happens if Occupational Health clearance is not given for the role?
 

Occupational health will provide managers with advice about the sorts of roles that are suitable for volunteers whilst maintaining the confidentiality of the volunteer’s health record.  For example:

 

  • A volunteer with a history of mental health issues – the VSM may be advised to find a role that is low stress and advise regular meetings with the volunteer to check their progress.
  • A volunteer with a history of back problems – the VSM may be advised that the volunteer must not be expected to lift / carry / move items as part of their role
  • If the result of the health clearance means that the applicant cannot volunteer in their preferred area then this needs to be discussed with them and if possible an alternative role found.