What is safeguarding and safer recruitment?
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In this article we start with an overview of safeguarding. We learn that safeguarding affects employers that look after children or vulnerable adults. Because hiring trustworthy staff is fundamental to safeguarding success, we we pay particular attention to the subject of safer recruitment. These are processes to make safe all future hiring decisions. Requirements are quite strict, so we include a handy ‘safer recruitment’ checklist for HR Officers and internal recruiters.
What is Safeguarding?
Many organisations offer services for the education, support or welfare of children and / or vulnerable adults. For convenience, we’ll call children and vulnerable adults “service users”.
Organisations with a safeguarding responsibility are commonly regulated. Ofsted and the CQC are examples. But what is safeguarding?
In basic terms, organisations are accountable for the safety and well-being of service users. That means an organisation must be a safe space, free of the threat of physical, sexual and emotional harm for children and vulnerable adults. It should also be free of discrimination and other harmful influences.
Safeguarding also considers the safety of service users in the outside world. That means that employers must remain diligent to any signs of abuse in a family setting, for instance.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) publishes a statement on its responsibilities for safeguarding children and adults. This highlights some other areas of safeguarding concern:
- Unnecessary or disproportionate acts for the control or restraint of an adult or child.
- Acts that may be degrading to the adult or child.
- Significant disregard for the needs of the adult or child for care or treatment.
Organisations with a safeguarding responsibility must have a clear and robust set of policies and procedures. Any staff member with unsupervised access to service users should be fully trained on these.
Inductions should include safeguarding training and it’s common practice to log completion for all new employees. Some employers also re-train staff members after any change to procedures which is excellent practice.
Safeguarding breaches are a big concern, so whistle blowing procedures should be clear and mandatory. In safeguarding courses, one quickly learns that whistle blowing is the potential Achilles heel of a safeguarding policy. Personal relationships between colleagues can, at worst, betray the service user in favour of the colleague. All safeguarding concerns must be reported so it is vital that people feel compelled and able to do so without fear of consequence.
Employers should maintain procedures for the investigation of all safeguarding issues. Concerns could be raised by staff members, the service users or an external party. Your procedures should also include action(s) to be taken in the event that an allegation proves true. Conclusions should be drawn by a panel and not by an individual so that personal relationships don’t interfere with outcomes.
Your remedial actions might include:
- In the case of a child, contacting the children’s social care department of the local authority where the child lives.
- In the case of a vulnerable adult, contacting the local authority adult services department.
So, what is Safeguarding? It is a serious set of obligations for organisations, so that children and vulnerable adults remain safe in their care. Whistle blowing is key to its success. One of the best defences is to hire trustworthy people into all positions with unsupervised access to service users. That takes us neatly onto Safer Recruitment.
What is Safer Recruitment
The purpose of safer recruitment is to identify, deter and reject people who are at risk of abusing children or vulnerable adults; your service users. Safer recruitment forms part of your safeguarding policy.
In short, safer recruitment requires you to:
- Highlight your safeguarding obligations.
- Make clear the level of scrutiny you apply to job applicants.
- Ensure that your selection and on-boarding process is rigorous.
Safer Recruitment Checklist
Our safer recruitment checklist is for any role involving unsupervised access to children or vulnerable adults. It covers:
- selection & interviewing
Safer Advertising Checklist
- Use plain English to describe your role and your commitment to safeguarding so that you deter less appropriate jobseekers. If possible, attach your safeguarding policy document to adverts.
- Include details of your organisation’s values and expected behaviours.
- State that applying for your job is unlawful should someone be barred from working in regulated activity.
- Make clear the level of criminal record check required and when a disclosure will be requested.
For roles that bring workers into unsupervised contact with children or vulnerable adults, applicants should:
- Declare all spent and unspent offences. This should include cautions, convictions and reprimands in line with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974 and ROA Exceptions Order.
- Explain any gaps in employment. Typically this would be for any period exceeding 28 days, so that you test any prior employment issues.
Safer Selection and Interview Checklist
- Have at least two people shortlist each applicant using agreed criteria.
- Develop a consistent interview structure so that you improve the discovery process.
- Combine values with your competency-based recruiting methods. Review the attitudes of any applicant towards people requiring care and support.
Safer Offer Checklist
- Make a conditional job offer. It should be subject to passing all employment checks and receiving adequate references.
- Include your company handbook in your offer as it should include your safeguarding procedures.
- Include a probationary period in your offer of employment.
Safer On-Boarding Checklist
- Apply for the correct level of criminal record check so that you can be certain of someone’s history.
- Use only original documents to check proof of ID, right to work and qualifications.
- Request and review references for the applicants you shortlist. These should be professional references when possible and should include the most recent employer. Take a look an example reference request template for more details.
- Check for gaps and inconsistencies by comparing the application with information provided by referees.
- Telephone each referee on a landline number so you can check the provenance of their reference.
- Should concerns arise from a criminal record check or an allegation, carry out a risk assessment. This should include any recommended safeguards to minimise risk.
- Keep a risk assessment with a copy of the self-declaration and certificate, all subject to your data protection policies.
For employers with an Applicant Tracking System
Your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) may be able to assist you with safer recruitment, so that you can recruit to a process and reduce admin. Here are a few questions that should help to set things up:
- Can you attach your safer recruitment policy to job adverts so that applicants can see your level of commitment?
- Are appropriate prompts on your criminal conviction request so that you receive spent convictions too?
- Does your ATS protect the distribution of criminal convictions so that you can remain compliant?
- Are declarations highlighted to the right people in HR so that your organisation doesn’t miss them?
- Will your ATS ask applicants for an explanation of any gaps in work history so that you can comply with safer recruitment more easily?
- Can your ATS allow two or more people to shortlist each applicant so that you develop greater scrutiny and eliminate bias?
- Does your ATS allow the addition of shortlisting criteria so that you can audit of who checked each applicant?
- Are you able to upload applicant proofs into your ATS? Can you restrict access and manage the term of their availability so that you comply with your Data Protection policy?
- Will your ATS help HR to request and receive references so that can monitor which are outstanding more easily?
- Is your ATS able to record the observations you make during competency and values based interviews?
- Can you send employment offers from your ATS so that you can standardise them?
- Are employment checks and on-boarding checklists set up in your ATS so they reflect your data checking needs.
- Statement on CQC’s roles and responsibilities for safeguarding children and adults, Care Quality Commission
- Inspecting safeguarding in early years, education and skills settings, Ofsted – guidance for inspectors
- Keeping children safe in education, GOV.UK – Statutory guidance for schools and colleges on safeguarding children and safer recruitment.
Safeguarding and safer recruitment are serious obligations for schools, colleges, care providers and other employers. We hope you can draw on this article so that we can all assure young people and vulnerable adults genuine safety in the spaces we provide for them.
Please contact us if you spot errors or omissions in our article ‘What is Safeguarding and Safer Recruitment?’
Are you new to the subject of recruitment systems and applicant tracking? Try what is an Applicant Tracking System?
If you are looking for an easier way to manage safer recruitment in a School or College, try Best ATS for Education.
Care Providers looking for easier recruitment with support for safer recruitment should try Best ATS for Care.
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Using the information in this article is at your own risk.