Published: 17 Nov 2021  |  Category: Group management  |  Stage: We are writing our application

Managing your group safely

How to ensure volunteers are suitable to deliver your integration support

There are some key things to think about when you start organising your group.  We have outlined some of the measures that you will need to put in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your group members.  You need to give careful consideration to all of these measures because the safety and wellbeing of your group members is paramount.

If you are partnering with another charity or organisation who are acting as your Lead Sponsor, it’s essential that you check with them whether they would like you to manage your group’s safety procedures or whether they will take charge of this aspect of sponsorship. Your Lead Sponsor might also ask you to carry out checks in a specific way.

Volunteer registration

As part of your sponsor agreement, you will be asked to demonstrate that you have insurance in place for your organisation that provides cover should anything happen to your volunteers whilst they are carrying out activities relating to your work.  Your insurance provider may ask you to register your volunteers in order for your insurance to be valid.  Registering volunteers need not be an onerous task, but it’s important to ensure you have records of who your volunteers are, their contact details, and any important information such as medical information and emergency contact details.  Ensure that any records you keep are shared only with those who need them and are kept securely.    

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and Disclosure Scotland checks

When you are putting your group together and discussing the roles and responsibilities that volunteers will take on, it will be necessary to decide which volunteers you will submit to DBS/Disclosure checks, and whether these should be basic or enhanced checks. These checks help to prevent unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups by checking a person’s criminal record.

When making a decision about who you will require to be checked, there are some points that it may be useful to consider:

  • The Eligibility Checker (England and Wales , Scotland and Northern Ireland) may be useful in assisting with your decision as to whether these are required 
  • Think through which of your volunteers will have the most to do with the family; it may be that some of your volunteers will never meet the family on a formal basis
  • Consider how regularly your volunteers will be in contact with the family, will their role mean that they build up an ongoing relationship? (This may be particularly relevant to interpreters and ESOL volunteers)
  • Ask what are the things that you can do to ensure that those working directly with the resettled family are suitable to do so; you might want to consider taking up references for your volunteers
  • The refugees you will be supporting through Community Sponsorship will be considered as vulnerable adults and children for the purposes of DBS/Disclosure check
  • Ensure that you keep a record of how you reached your decision: in the unlikely event that something goes wrong, this will help you to make sure that this does not happen again

Carrying out checks

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales there are many organisations who are registered to carry out DBS checks, and can help to guide you through the process.  Checks for volunteers are free of charge, but administration charges often apply.  Ask your local volunteer centre or local authority if they carry out DBS checks for groups such as yours. In Scotland Disclosure checks are carried out by Disclosure Scotland, there is a cost associated with each check.

Volunteer drivers

It may be that as part of the support you offer a family, members of your Group may use their own cars to drive the family to appointments to support their integration.  

It is important that volunteers and organisations are aware of their responsibilities with regard to insurance for volunteers who drive as part of their volunteer role. If the organisation owns the vehicles that volunteers use in the course of their volunteering then it is the organisation’s responsibility to arrange insurance cover and see evidence of the driver’s credentials. If the volunteer uses his/her own vehicle then they must arrange insurance cover.

If volunteers are required to use their own cars in the course of their volunteering the Group should inform the volunteer that it is essential for them to let their insurance company know that they will be using their car in the course of volunteering. Most insurers will list their volunteering as ‘business use’ on policies. This is a list of insurance providers who have signed up to not charge for adding volunteering to policies: ABI guide to volunteer driving

Lone working

Some Groups do not have any lone working as part of their arrangement when working to support a family; this may be because the Lead Sponsor or Group feel this to be a safer way of managing their support, because insurance does not allow this, or because they want to ensure that the family they support is comfortable with this.  This may be something that will change over time. 

However, for some Groups, they do mitigate against the risks of lone working so long as all family members and the Group are comfortable with this.  If this is something your Group will do, it’s important to ensure that you have the right structure in place to make this work. As a group, you should decide how you would like to manage the risk of harm or damage to the safety and/or wellbeing of both the volunteer and the family you are supporting.  Your volunteers should feel comfortable that measures are taken to ensure their safety. You should ensure that the public liability insurance that you must have in place prior to a family arriving does not have stipulations around volunteers working on their own.  Groups have mitigated risks by implementing a text message notification system, informing where they are and progress with other Group members; they assess why lone working for that task is needed/preferable and what type of activity will take place in this time. 

Some groups have introduced a buddy system, whereby if a group member is visiting a family they make sure they let another group member know they are going, have arrived, and returned home. Others have decided that all volunteers will work in pairs.  How you manage this is up to your group, but it’s an important conversation to have.  Once the family has arrived and you build a relationship with them, make sure you include them in planning for visits. As they become more independent they may not wish to have such a formalised arrangement.

Reporting concerns

As you carry out your safeguarding planning you will need to think through how the resettled family will be able to report any concerns regarding your group or the support that they receive.  It’s equally important to have a clear way in which volunteers can report their concerns, whether this be about a task they have been asked to carry out, another group member, or the family themselves.  Make sure all volunteers and all family members are clear on how they can raise concerns, and how these will be addressed. 

Protecting sensitive information

Members of your group will come into contact with sensitive information at times, and you’ll need to ensure that you are clear on what can be shared, with whom, and why.  When you are sharing information about the family you are supporting it is particularly important to restrict what is being shared.  Remember to respect the independence of the family you are supporting; they may not want others to know where they are living, or details about their background.  You must ensure that it is the family that chooses if, how, and when their information is shared with others. 

When sharing information within your group, and with interpreters, it is good practice to share as much information as is necessary for people to do their job properly, but remember that it may not be that everyone in the group will need to know everything about the family in order to perform their roles.

Further resources