2.6 Safer Recruitment, Selection and Supervision of Staff
See also: Bichard Inquiry Report.
NOTE: In January 2021, the DfE issued a revised version of Keeping Children Safe in Education with changes strictly limited to those related to the UK leaving the EU.
AMENDMENTIn December 2023, this chapter was amended in line with revised Keeping Children Safe in Education. Section 2, Choice of Candidate was updated to note that Keeping Children Safe in Education provides that schools and colleges should only accept copies of a curriculum vitae alongside an application form. A curriculum vitae on its own will not provide adequate information. Information in relation to online searches was added into Section 2.4, Selection Methods.
|All statutory and public organisations which employ staff and/or volunteers to work with or provide services for children have a duty to safeguard and promote the children's welfare. This includes ensuring that safe recruitment and selection procedures are in place to deter, reject or identify people who might abuse children or are otherwise unsuitable to work with them.
|Organisations should have in place safe recruitment practices and ongoing safe working practices for individuals who work regularly with children, including policies on when to obtain a criminal record check.
|Ensuring that safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children an integral factor in human resources management is an essential part of creating safe environments for children and young people. Safer practice in recruitment means thinking about safeguarding children at every stage of the process.
To ensure that those involved in recruiting and selecting staff are able to successfully test the candidates' ability and experience against a clearly defined person specification, each organisation must offer them:
|Any organisation commissioned to provide services to children must be required as part of the commissioning process to comply with the safe recruitment, selection and supervision procedures set out in this chapter, and any service level agreement or contract must contain a safeguarding statement which clarifies the standards expected. This must include a requirement that the organisation must not sub-contract to any personnel who have not been part of a safe recruitment process.
|Where private or voluntary organisations come into contact with or offer services to children otherwise than under contract with a statutory or public body, in recognition of their commitment to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, they should as a matter of good practice take account of this procedure and follow it as far as possible, although not under a statutory obligation to do so.
2. Choice of Candidate
2.1 Quality of Job Advertisement, Job Description and Person Specification
Organisations must have an explicit written recruitment and selection policy statement and detailed procedures that comply with the requirements set out in this chapter. This should include an explicit statement about the organisations commitment to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. This statement should be included in:
|Once a post becomes vacant or a new post is created, the job description and person specification should be agreed and/or reviewed to ensure compliance with the safe recruitment guidance set out in this procedure. This will apply whatever the level of responsibility or duration of the appointment.
|Job advertisements should include reference to the need for the successful applicant to undertake disclosure via the Disclosure and Barring Service (where appropriate) as well as the usual details of the post, salary, qualifications required etc.
|The information to be sent to potential applicants in the candidate information pack will depend on the level of the post. A copy of the organisation's Safeguarding Children Policy / Statement should always be included in the information pack, as well as the application form, job description and person specification. The information should also set out clearly the extent of the relationships and contact with children and the degree of responsibility for children that the person will have in the position to be filled. The information will stress that the identity of the candidate, if successful, will need to be checked thoroughly and will refer to the need for a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check if appropriate.
Job descriptions must state:
Person specifications should:
|Both job descriptions and person specifications must be completed at the same time and before the job is advertised. Under no circumstances should the person specification be completed or revised after the selection panel has had access to the applications received.
All organisations should develop a standard application form which is used for all staff vacancies. The application form should ask for:
|Incomplete applications must not be accepted and must be returned to the applicant for completion.
|CVs drawn up by applicants should not be accepted in place of an application form because these will only contain the information the applicant wishes to present and may omit relevant details.
The application form should also record that:
|The purpose of seeking reference is to obtain objective and factual information to support appointment decision.
|References must not be accepted except where they have been sought directly from a previous employer or other referee. Open "To whom it may concern" references must never be accepted.
|A copy of the job description and the person specifications should be included with all reference requests.
All requests for references should ask (and a pro forma may be used for this purpose):
And should remind the referee that:
In addition to the above, requests addressed to a candidates current or previous employer in work with children should also seek:
|An employer reference must also be obtained in respect of internal candidates for posts involving direct contact with children.
|Employers should contact all referees to verify the authenticity and origin of all references.
|So that information of comparable weight is obtained for all candidates, references on all short-listed candidates (including internal ones) should be obtained prior to interview so that any issues of concern they raise can be explored further with a referee and taken up with the candidate at interview.
Written references must be checked carefully with the application form to identify any possible discrepancies; in all cases, any discrepancy should be taken up with the candidate before the person's appointment is confirmed.
Keeping Children Safe in Education is clear that schools and colleges should only provide substantiated safeguarding concerns/allegations that meet the harm threshold in references. Low-level concerns should not be included in references unless they relate to issues which would normally be included in a reference, for example, misconduct or poor performance. It follows that a low-level concern which relates exclusively to safeguarding (and not to misconduct or poor performance) should not be referred to in a reference. However, where a low-level concern (or group of concerns) meets the harm threshold for referral to the LADO and found to be substantiated, it should be referred to in a reference.
2.3 References and Checks with Respect to Agency Staff
|Where members of staff are engaged via specialist employment agencies, it is important that there are systems in place to ensure that only employment agencies which can offer safe selection processes are used. It is expected that agency staff provide verification of their identity prior to starting work in the same as any directly employed member of staff - see Paragraph 2.4.4.
References from any previous substantive employers must be sought as described above and requests to employment agencies must seek confirmation:
|The employment agency must also be asked to confirm in writing that the required checks have been undertaken and the results received, including the date of the last DBS Disclosure and whether it included any disclosed information. Where there is disclosed information, the employer must have sight of a copy of the DBS Disclosure from the individual. If the DBS Disclosure has not yet been received, the employer must require the agency to inform them of the content as soon as they have seen it. In the meantime the requirements set out in Paragraph 2.4.15 must be adhered to.
|If the DBS Disclosure refers to the existence of information additional to what is on the face of the Disclosure, the agency cannot provide the employer with that information. If the employer still wants to engage the person, the employer should carry out a repeat DBS Disclosure and not employ the person until they receive the new disclosure.
2.4 Selection Methods
The Selection Panel
It is best practice for Selection Panels to comprise a minimum of 3 interviewers. It is essential that the same selection panel should both short-list and interview candidates. Panel members should not stand to gain from the appointment or have a personal relationship with any of the applicants.
Interview panels should be balanced wherever possible by gender and race and at least one panel member must have experience and an understanding of working with children and one panel member (who can be the same person) must have had specific training in safe recruitment and selection methods.
Scrutinising and Short-Listing
All applications should be scrutinised to ensure that they are fully and properly completed, that the information provided is consistent and does not contain any discrepancies, and to identify any gaps in employment.
In drawing up a short-list there should be a systematic and consistent approach. All applicants should be assessed equally against the criteria contained in the person specification without exception or variation. Information provided in application forms must be cross checked with other sources of information prior to short-listing and interview so that any discrepancy can be explored with the candidate at interview. The criteria for personal qualities and skills must be used as well as those in relation to qualifications and experience. If greater emphasis is placed on one or more important skill and competency for the job, this must be clear from the outset.
Note that Keeping Children Safe in Education states:
‘In addition, as part of the shortlisting process schools and colleges should consider carrying out an online search as part of their due diligence on the shortlisted candidates. This may help identify any incidents or issues that have happened, and are publicly available online, which the school or college might want to explore with the applicant at interview’.HR/legal advice should be sought as appropriate in relation to use of online searches as part of recruitment processes.
Candidates must be asked to bring documentary evidence of their right to work in the UK and their identity. Right to work evidence should be as prescribed by UK Home Office. Evidence of identity can include a full birth certificate or a passport/photo driving licence or some form of photograph identification, together with an additional document such as a utility bill that verifies the candidate's name and address. Where appropriate, change of name documentation should also be brought to the interview. Some form of photographic ID must be seen.
|Candidates should also be asked to bring original or certified copies of documents confirming any necessary or relevant educational and professional qualifications. If the successful candidate cannot produce original documents or certified copies, written confirmation of their relevant qualifications must be obtained from the awarding body.
|Interviews must be face to face even where there is only one candidate. All questions must be prepared in advance by the Selection Panel and must not be discriminatory with regard to gender, marital status, ethnic origin, disability, religion, age, sexual orientation or political belief. Poorly structured interviews will not be reliable.
|The candidates' attitude towards children and commitment to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children should be tested.
|Any gaps in the candidate's employment history must be fully explored during the interview as should any discrepancies arising from the information supplied by the candidate or a referee.
For posts requiring the post holder to work with highly vulnerable children, e.g. Looked After children, children with disabilities, or posts where staff will have sole care of responsibility for a child/group of children, e.g. staff taking children on residential trips, consideration should be given to the need for an additional safeguarding (Warner) interview. Such interviews were a recommendation of The Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Selection, Development and Management of Staff in Children's Homes (Warner, 1992). The aim is to address areas that are more difficult to assess in the formal interview setting.As set out in regulations 31-33 of Chapter 4 of the Children's Homes Regulations and Quality Standards, the registered person must ensure that recruitment of staff safeguards children and minimises potential risk to them.
|Notes of questions asked and answers given at the interview must be made and retained (usually by the human resource department).
|After the interview, Panel members should separately score the candidates. They should then share their scores and discuss their reasons for reaching the scores. This discussion should result in a joint agreed score for each candidate.
|A decision as to whether to appoint an individual to a role working with children must be based upon an evaluation of the information obtained from all of the above stages. Appointments must be made on the basis of a person's experiences, ability and suitability to perform the role rather than on the urgency of the need or the availability of the applicant.
Offer of Appointment to Successful Candidate
An offer of appointment must be conditional upon pre-employment checks being satisfactorily completed, including:
|All checks should be confirmed in writing, documented and retained on the personnel file and followed up where they are unsatisfactory or where there are discrepancies in the information provided (see Section 3.9 Evaluation and Management of Disclosed Information). All employers should also keep and maintain a single central record of recruitment and checks of staff and volunteers see Section 4, Recording.
|Ideally, where a DBS Disclosure is required, it should be obtained before an individual begins work. It must in any case be obtained as soon as practicable after the individual's appointment and the request for a DBS Disclosure should be submitted in advance of the individual starting work. However, there is discretion to allow an individual to begin work pending receipt of the DBS Disclosure. However, in such cases, the individual must be appropriately supervised and all other checks, including of the Disclosure and Barring Service's Barred Lists, should have been completed.
|Appropriate supervision for individuals who start work prior to the result of a DBS Disclosure being known needs to reflect what is known about the person concerned, their experience, the nature of their duties and the level of responsibility they will carry. For those with limited experience and where references have provided limited information the level of supervision required may be high. For those with more experience and where the references are detailed and provide strong evidence of good conduct in previous relevant work a lower level of supervision may be appropriate. For all staff without completed DBS Disclosures it should be made clear that they are subject to this additional supervision. The nature of the supervision should be specified and the roles of staff in undertaking the supervision spelt out. The arrangements should be reviewed regularly at least every 2 weeks until the DBS Disclosure is received.
|Where a DBS Disclosure indicates cause for concern for agency or directly employed staff, the member of staff must immediately be withdrawn pending further enquiries.
3. Disclosure and Barring Service Checks
The DBS provides three levels of disclosures which are of relevance to employers (standard and enhanced disclosures and enhanced disclosure with check against the barred list), and should be sought with respect to all candidates who seek to work with children as appropriate to their role.
The level of disclosure requested, i.e. Standard or Enhanced, should reflect the nature of the duties of the post and degree of contact with children or young people or with sensitive, confidential information.
In considering asking a person to apply for a standard or enhanced DBS check, an employer is legally responsible for making sure the job role is eligible. This should be done before countersigning each DBS application form.
To determine which level of check a role is eligible for, refer to the DBS Eligibility Guidance.
Statutory Guidance: Keeping Children Safe in Education sets out detailed provisions on checks and levels of supervision for staff, volunteers, contractors and visitors in educational establishments.
3.1 Standard DBS Checks
|Primarily for positions of high responsibility (for example, accountancy and security). Standard certificates reveal details of any convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings the applicant has received, that do not qualify for filtering. A standard check may only be applied for if the applicant's job role is specified in the Exceptions Order to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
3.2 Enhanced DBS Checks
|For positions involving certain activities such as teaching children or treating adults and can also be obtained for certain other professions (for example, judicial appointments, RSPCA officers). An enhanced check may only be applied for if the applicant's job role is specified in both the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exception) order 1975 and the Police Act 1997.
|In addition to the information provided on a Standard certificate, the Enhanced certificate involves an additional check with the police, who check if any other information is held on file that may be relevant (for instance, information that has not led to a criminal conviction but may indicate a danger to vulnerable groups). The police decide what (if any) additional information will be added to the certificate using the Quality Assurance Framework.
3.3 Enhanced with Barred List Checks
|Includes all that Enhanced certificate does, plus a check of the appropriate DBS Barred List. There are two DBS Barred Lists: one for adults, and one for children. The lists contain information on whether the applicant is barred from working with either of the two groups. An individual may only be checked against one or both barred lists if their job role is classified as a 'Regulated Activity' with children and/or adults under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.
|In addition to the checks available through the DBS, Disclosure Scotland can provide a basic check to any individual (this is appropriate if a worker is not entitled to one of the checks available through the DBS as outlined above). Disclosure Scotland runs checks against the Scottish Criminal History System, the UK-wide Police National Computer and Access NI (Northern Ireland). For Basic level disclosures, only unspent convictions will be shown.
Regulated Activity (for working with children) includes:
|All disclosure certificates are now sent to the individual rather than the registered body. The individual must show the certificate to the employer/organisation.
3.4 Persons Prohibited from Working/Seeking Work with Children
|If a disclosure reveals that an applicant is prohibited (barred) from seeking or working with children, as set out in Section 36 of the Criminal Justice and Court Act 2000, it is an offence for a person to apply for or accept any work in any of the regulated positions as set out in the Act and the Police and DBS must be informed without delay of the individuals attempt to seek employment. It is also an offence for an organisation knowingly to offer work in a regulated position to an individual who is disqualified from working with children or fail to remove such a person from work.
3.5 Limitations of Disclosures
|The same checks must be made on all overseas staff, including DBS checks but disclosures may not provide information on people convicted abroad and with respect to individuals who have little residence in the UK, caution must be exercised.
|Where an applicant has worked or been resident overseas for 12 months or more (whether continuously or in total) in the last 10 years while aged 18 or over the employer should where possible obtain a check of the applicant's criminal record from the relevant authority in that country. Not all countries, however, provide this service and advice can be sought from the Disclosure and Barring Service. The application process for criminal records checks or 'Certificates of Good Character' for someone from overseas varies from country to country. For further information, see GOV.UK - Criminal records checks for overseas applicants.
Occasionally, an enhanced disclosure check may result in the local police disclosing non-conviction information to the registered body only and not to the applicant e.g. a current investigation about the individual. Such information must not be passed on to them.
As part of the DfE revised version of KCSIE 2020 updated in January 2021 to take into account the departure of the UK from the EU, the TRA (Teaching Regulation Agency) Teacher Services system will no longer maintain a list of those teachers who have been sanctioned in EEA member states. This came into effect on 1st January 2021 and therefore with immediate effect candidates from overseas must undergo the same checks as all other staff in schools, including obtaining an enhanced DBS certificate with barred list information. This still applies even if the candidate has never been to the UK.
|Any concerns raised as a result of DBS checks must be followed up. Where information is disclosed, employers must carry out an initial evaluation and make a judgment about the person's suitability to work with children taking into account only those offences that may be relevant to the post in question. Where further information is required, the applicants consent must be sought and the information should be obtained by a person with an understanding of safeguarding and child protection matters.
In deciding the relevance of disclosure information, the following should be considered:
For staff who work in childcare provision or who are directly concerned with the management of such provision, appropriate checks must be carried out to ensure that individuals are not disqualified under the Childcare (Disqualification) and Childcare (Early Years Provision Free of Charge) (Extended Entitlement) (Amendment) Regulations 2018. Further information on the staff to whom these Regulations apply, the checks that should be carried out, and the recording of those checks can be found in Statutory Guidance: Disqualification under the Childcare Act 2006.
These 2018 Regulations remove 'disqualification by association' (living in the same household where another person who is disqualified lives or is employed) for individuals working in childcare in non-domestic settings (e.g. schools and nurseries). Disqualification by association continues to apply for individuals providing and working in childcare in domestic settings (e.g. where childcare is provided in a childminder's home).
The arrangements continue to disqualify individuals working in domestic and non-domestic settings if they themselves have been found to have committed a relevant offence.
|All documentation relating to the recruitment of staff must be retained on file, including notes made of candidates' responses to questions at interview. Any check completed must be confirmed in writing and retained on the candidate's personnel file, together with photocopies of and documents used to verify their identity and qualifications. Under DBS regulations a record must be kept of the date the disclosure was obtained and who by, the level of the disclosure the unique reference number and who it was checked by.
|A record must be kept of evidence to show that such checks have been carried out in respect of supply staff and volunteers whether recruited directly or through an agency.
|Satisfactory references must be kept on the candidate's personnel file or, in the case of supply staff or volunteers not recruited through an agency, on a central record within the organisation.
|Where information gained by the employer from either references or other checks calls into question the candidate's suitability to work with children, or where the candidate has provided false information in support of the application, the facts must be reported to the Safeguarding and Reviewing Unit and/or to the Police and shared with any relevant professional body.
5. Induction and Review
|For all new staff working with children, including locum and agency staff, their induction must cover safeguarding and promoting children's welfare as outlined in the multi agency Safeguarding Partnership Training Strategy. This must include an introduction to the organisation's child protection policy and procedures. They must also be made aware of the identity and specific responsibilities of those staff with designated safeguarding responsibilities.
|New staff members must be provided with information about safe practice and a full explanation of their role and responsibilities and the standard of conduct and behaviour expected. They must also be provided with information about the organisations disciplinary procedures and the relevant whistleblowing policy.
|The induction programme must also include attendance at child protection training at a level appropriate to the member of staffs work with children.
|Where appropriate, supplementary induction, supervision training and appraisal with respect to their new role must be provided. Information gleaned from the selection process must be used to inform a personalised induction and support programme.
|Regular supervision and review meetings between the appointee and their line manager must be convened by the manager throughout the induction period to address areas where further support, guidance and training may be required.
6. Supervision and Support
Senior managers in all agencies for which this procedure is relevant have a duty to ensure the provision of:
|All agencies which have operational responsibility for child protection services must have a policy, which defines minimum levels of formal supervision of those staff who are accountable for child protection cases.
|Such supervision should ensure that practitioners fully understand their roles, responsibilities and the scope of their professional discretion and authority. All child protection cases must be regularly discussed in supervision and case files/records audited systematically by the line manager.
|Supervisors should be available to practitioners as an important source of advice and expertise, and may be required to endorse judgments at certain key points in time, which should then be recorded within the child's case records.
|On some occasions - e.g. enquiries about complex abuse or allegations against colleagues, agencies must consider the provision of additional individual or group staff support.
|Managers must develop local policies and systems to maximise staff safety including the need to carry out risk assessments as appropriate.
7. Reporting Systems for Unsuitable Staff
|Any concerns that arise that call into question a persons suitability to work with children must be managed according to the Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children Procedure.
|Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children Procedure, Roles and Responsibilities describes how each organisation must have a Named Senior Officer whose responsibilities include reporting in appropriate cases to the relevant professional body and the Disclosure and Barring Service any member of staff who (following an enquiry) it concludes to be unsuitable to work with children - see Allegations Against Persons who Work with Children Procedure, Action following a Criminal Investigation or a Prosecution.
|Staff, through fears about repercussions, may find it difficult to raise safeguarding or child protection concerns about colleagues or managers.
|Each organisation must ensure the provision of a well-publicised 'whistle blowing' or 'speak out' procedure that provides alternative methods of reporting concerns relating to conduct which is in breach of the law, compromises health and safety provisions or falls below established standards of childcare practice.
|Speak Up have produced a whistle blowing guidance for workers and employers in health and social care was published (see Raising Concerns at Work). Staff working in the NHS or social care can contact the whistleblowing helpline by calling 08000 724 725.