Safer recruitment: why does screening matter?

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Logo: Woodcraft Folk

Welcome to Woodcraft Folk

Woodcraft Folk is passionate about giving all children and young people opportunities to play in, learn about and take action to protect the environment.

Climbing at Biblins Youth Campsite (Jenny Thompson)
Climbing at Biblins Youth Campsite (Jenny Thompson)

Woodcraft Folk’s work is guided by a number of key principles which include equality, youth participation, education for social change, peace, co-operation, internationalism and sustainable development. Woodcraft Folk shares these principles with children, young people and families through co-operative play, social action opportunities, outdoor adventures and residential experiences.

As a UK charity we facilitate 300 local youth groups and 5 residential centres, all designed to support young people to learn about themselves, others and the world around them.

Woodcraft Folk’s workforce involves a small staff team of 25 employees on a mixture of permanent, fixed-term and sessional contracts. The team is roughly divided into a third who operate outdoor education centres, a third who lead inclusion projects and a third who keep the wheels of the organisation moving. The staff team supports a large dispersed team of over 2,000 volunteers, some of whom are also directly involved in supervising other volunteers.

Why safer recruitment?

The aim of safer recruitment is to ensure a fair process that attracts the right individuals for the role without creating unnecessary risks to beneficiaries or discriminating against potential employees or volunteers.

Policies and procedures

Litter picking at the seaside, Green Influencers Scheme (Elaine Brown)
Litter picking at the seaside, Green Influencers Scheme (Elaine Brown)

Woodcraft Folk’s safer recruitment is guided by a number of policy documents including Recruitment, Volunteering, Safeguarding, Training and Vetting & Screening procedures.

These documents are essential to ensuring:

  • Clear, consistent and transparent systems
  • Expectation management
  • Encouraging inclusion and diversity
  • Minimising the risk of appointing someone who is unsuitable

Woodcraft Folk have found guidance and information produced by the NSPCC helpful in mapping and developing appropriate documentation. There is a useful self-assessment tool available for free on their website.

Safer recruitment process

Woodcraft Folk’s safer recruitment process is divided into 5 key areas:

1   Planning the role and recruitment: Identifying the role and responsibilities, producing a role description and highlighting the safeguarding risks. As part of this process we confirm the level of screening and training required based on the level of contact with children, young people or responsibility for sensitive data.

Woodcraft Folk produces person specifications for all roles highlighting any skills, experience, qualification or aptitudes needed. Woodcraft Folk values lived experience and does not automatically require degree qualifications.

Creating an open and attractive recruitment process is important if you wish to attract a diverse and resilient team. Considering role title, level of flexibility, package of support or remuneration with the aim of attracting suitable candidates is a challenge - you will know when you get it wrong.

Woodcraft Folk uses recognised job boards for staff positions, but is more likely to use social media platforms to recruit volunteers. Getting the role in front of the most suitable candidates is important and we find it requires a targeted approach, such as using CJS.

2   Reviewing all candidates and making a selection against an agreed person specification using an application form, CV, covering letter and evidence of relevant qualifications.

Co-operative games at Biblins Youth Campsite (Jenny Thompson)
Co-operative games at Biblins Youth Campsite (Jenny Thompson)

Woodcraft Folk will welcome those candidates who meet the requirements of the person specification to an interview, using a standard set of questions to assess their skills and experience against the person specification. Interviews for volunteers are more informal, designed more as a conversation, but still seek to check understanding, expectations and suitability against the role.

3   Identity checks - is the individual who they say they are and do they have the right to work in the UK.

Woodcraft Folk will ask both paid staff and volunteers to share proof of identity e.g. passport, driving licence, birth certificate.

4   Screening and reference checks, including Disclosure & Barring Service checks and membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme.

As part of this process both paid and voluntary team members will share proof of their address.

A minimum of two referees are also sought for both staff and volunteers, in which we ask directly if the referee deems the applicant to be suitable to work with children and young people. Referees can not be related and we require them to be from individuals outside our organisation. It is essential for current employers to provide a reference for all paid roles.

The screening decision is then recorded.

Woodcraft Folk engages a third party to provide online DBS applications. As our work involves direct care and supervision of children and young people we undertake enhanced disclosures on the majority of our staff and volunteers. To ensure that we don’t undertake any unnecessary checks Woodcraft Folk created a template highlighting different roles, tasks, safeguarding risks and their training needs.

If a criminal record is disclosed our safeguarding team will complete a suitability risk assessment which will consider the nature of the criminal record and any risk it poses to children, volunteers and the organisation's reputation. As part of the risk assessment the team will review:

  • The nature of the offence, those offences involving children or violence are considered high risk
  • Whether or not the conviction is spent
  • The age of the applicant at the time of the offence, reducing risk in the case of juvenile offences
  • Whether or not the offence is a repeat offence or part of a pattern of offences, one off offences are deemed lower risk
  • From time to time the risk assessment will identify an individual as unsuitable.

 Induction, probation, supervision and training.

Safer recruitment doesn’t end at the appointment of an individual to a role, but continues as part of your ongoing workforce management; induction, probationary periods, training, regular supervision and ongoing management.

The level of training and supervision varies from role to role within Woodcraft Folk, but is an essential element to ensure safe practices.

Staff and volunteers are required to undertake annual safeguarding refresher training.

To support workforce wellbeing we also provide an Assistance Programme which gives individuals access to specialist advice and counselling services.


Woodcraft Folk is committed to diversifying its workforce and seeks to remove unnecessary barriers to participation whilst ensuring safeguarding standards are maintained. Woodcraft Folk has policies on Inclusion & Diversity, Supporting Vulnerable Persons and the Recruitment of Ex-Offenders.

Fire lighting (Lauren Karstadt)
Fire lighting (Lauren Karstadt)

Woodcraft Folk takes a risk based approach when assessing the suitability of an individual to work with children and young people within our organisation. Each role has a different level of contact with children and varying levels of supervision. A risk assessment is completed for each role to make sure that a staff member or volunteer's needs can be met whilst ensuring there is capacity to meet the needs of children and young people. The needs of children and young people come first, but if we can include individuals with additional support needs through extra supervision, shadowing, mentoring or thorough training then we seek to do so where capacity allows.

When advertising roles we proactively state what screening checks will be done, what training or support is available and that a criminal record is not an automatic bar to engagement.

Learning lessons

Good safe recruitment also requires efficient record keeping, a paper trail that demonstrates information collected and decisions made. Woodcraft Folk communicates how we use applicants' data in our Privacy Policy.

And finally, it is important to learn lessons and review processes in all areas of work, but essential when seeking to safeguard children and young people - knowing what works, what doesn’t, what can be improved and incorporating any changes to legislation or external systems is vital.

At Woodcraft Folk we do this in the following ways:

  • Keep recruitment information - job descriptions, risk assessments, adverts, selection process, applications, shortlisted and selected candidate details
  • Maintain a log of all screening decisions to ensure consistency, but also to reflect on if things don’t go as planned
  • Engaging staff and volunteer representatives in regular safeguarding reviews during which we look at all screening decisions, incidents, complaints and disclosures to highlight what we can do to prevent a repeat occurrence. The Safeguarding Review group also systematically review policies, procedure documents and training to embed any lessons learnt

Woodcraft Folk is an active member of the National Safeguarding Youth Forum and would highly recommend organisations joining the network.

Debs McCahon, Chief Executive, Woodcraft Folk

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Posted On: 18/01/2022

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