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Best Practice Guidance for Safe Recruitment, Selection and Retention for Staff and Volunteers

Scope of this chapter

This chapter is provided as guidance for best practice expectations in relation to safe recruitment, selection and retention of staff and volunteers by organisations who are responsible for the provision of services to children and young people in Hertfordshire. 

This guidance outlines a broad overview of minimum standards expected by Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children’s Partnership and is not intended to replace duties or expectations of statutory guidance or advisory documents for specific organisations and roles with children and young people. 

Related guidance


In March 2024 this chapter was amended in line with revised Keeping Children Safe in Education.  

March 11, 2024

All partner organisations should make arrangements for ensuring that their functions, including safer recruitment are discharged with regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in line with s.11 Children 2004 and Section 175 and Section 157 Education Act 2002 and the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.

So as to minimise the risk of employing or engaging an individual who poses a predictable risk to them, all LSCP agencies should consider, with respect to candidates who will be working with children (and in addition to personal interviews):

  • Methodically applying techniques e.g. psychometric testing if satisfied that they can contribute to the identification of unsuitable individuals;
  • Analysing rigorously all the information which is available about the candidate;
  • Facilitating the involvement of children / young people in the selection process (A Warner report recommendation).

To ensure that selectors of staff are able to successfully test candidates' ability and experience against a clearly defined person specification each agency must offer them:

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.

LSCP partner agencies should develop detailed internal procedures which clarify allocation of 'human resource' tasks outlined below.

Job descriptions (J.D.s) and person specifications should reflect professional practice requirements.

All stated requirements must be expressed in terms sufficiently explicit to allow a candidate's experience, achievements or capabilities to be evidenced.

A previous employer (and reasonable steps should be taken to verify that status) who is asked for a reference, should be advised in the request to take reasonable care to ensure her/his statement:

  • Is reliable and comprehensive - e.g. accurate dates of employment, DBS checks, any periods of sick leave;
  • Is based upon an accurate assessment of an individual's qualities e.g. any disciplinary action, known convictions or other grounds for concern;
  • Focuses on the key criteria for effective performance in the specified post; and
  • Offers a full and frank disclosure of all matters considered relevant by the author - e.g. candidate's reason for planning to or actually leaving her/his post.

A comparable reference should also be obtained from her/his line manager in respect of internal candidates for posts involving direct contact with children.

Following initial selection, references on the short-listed / preferred candidate(s) should be obtained prior to final selection.

All agencies committed to these procedures should have explicit arrangements for provision within reasonable time-scales, of properly structured references which should ordinarily be issued in the name of the head of service (though they may be drafted by a more junior member of staff who has the necessary knowledge and experience).

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’. It is good practice to ensure that candidates are made aware that such searches may take place during the recruitment process.

Online searches can include putting the candidates details into a search engine such as Google which may populate information within the public domain i.e a conviction or contribution to open discussion forums which cause concern about the person’s suitability; it is NOT asking candidates for access to or trying to access their private social media accounts.

HR/legal advice should be sought as appropriate in relation to use of online searches as part of recruitment processes.

Given the proportion of staff currently engaged via specialist employment agencies, it is important that there are systems in place e.g. via contacts with recruitment centres, to ensure only those which can offer safe staffing processes are used by those organisations committed to these procedures.

References from any previous substantive employers should be sought as above and requests to agencies seek confirmation of:

  • The individual's registration with the agency in period(s) claimed;
  • All assignments including dates, roles and name and address of all work places;
  • The quantity and pattern of any absences from their assignments;
  • Any cause for concern within the agency including any request by a client for the person to be withdrawn from an assignment which upon investigation was found to be justified.

The agency should also be asked to confirm:

  • That it carries out appraisals of its workers and be invited to describe the most recent relevant to the role which is to be filled;
  • The date of the last criminal records check it sought on the individual in question, its result, and to forward a copy of it;
  • From which previous employers references were obtained and whether or not these expressed any reservations about the individual in question;
  • If its overall selection procedures comply with the recommendations in the Warner report 'Choosing with Care'.

Interviews may usefully be underpinned by practical exercises to simulate the working environment e.g. anonymised situations (with precautions taken to ensure no unfair advantage to internal candidates).

Such practical exercises may include:

  • 'A situation exercise' which tests declared responses to events relevant to the post in question;
  • 'Submission of a prepared written exercise' to allow a panel to prepare and deliver questions at an interview;
  • A 'presentation exercise' to test an individual's ability to research, prepare and present a topic relevant to the post in question;
  • 'Psychometric tests' - e.g. personality and/or skills based;
  • A group exercise which simulates a relevant forum and allows observation of interaction.

Final interview panels should be balanced wherever possible by gender and race and may benefit from the inclusion of independent person(s) as well as immediate line managers and more senior staff.

From July 2010 candidates for work in regulated activity with children as defined by the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 require DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) registration prior to commencing work. See GOV.UK, Disclosure and Barring Service.

Regulated activity with children is work which allows regular (once a month or more ongoing), intensive (on three occasions or more in a thirty day period) or overnight (between 0200 and 0600) contact with children and is:

Of a specified type (teaching, training, supervision, care, providing advice or guidance), in any form of health or social care treatment or therapy, driving a vehicle which is being used for the specific purpose of conveying children


In a specified place (schools, childcare premises, residential homes for children in care, children's hospitals, children's detention centres, adult care homes, further education institutions where children study; Sure Start Centres


  1. Work which is carried out by people in specified positions of responsibility.
  2. Work under (i) or (ii) is Regulated Activity only if done regularly;
  3. Relevant Personal Care, for example washing or dressing; or health care by or supervised by a professional;
  4. Registered child-minding; and foster-carers.

There is a duty on a ‘regulated activity provider’ to ascertain whether a person is barred before permitting that person to engage in Regulated Activity.

It is a criminal offence for a barred individual to take part in Regulated Activity, or for an employer/voluntary organisation knowingly to employ a barred person in a Regulated Activity role.

If a candidate is DBS registered prior to applying, an online check of their registration should be made and this should be recorded in their personnel file.

If a candidate is not registered prior to applying they should complete the relevant section of the DBS Disclosure Form to apply for registration and once registered this should be recorded in their personnel file.

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) provides two sorts of certificates of relevance to employers (standard and enhanced disclosures). Under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act an enhanced disclosure must be sought with respect to all candidates who seek to work in regulated activity with children and the current policy of HCC is that an enhanced check is completed on all those proposing to work with children.

An optional online Update Service is operated by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), designed to reduce the number of DBS checks requested.

Instead of a new criminal records/Barred Lists check being necessary whenever an individual applies for a new paid or voluntary role working with children/Adults at Risk, individuals can opt to subscribe to the online Update Service. This will allow them to keep their criminal record certificate up to date, so that they can take it with them from role to role, within the same workforce.

Employers do not need to register, but can carry out free, instant, online status checks of a registered individual’s status. A new DBS check will only be necessary if the status check indicates a change in the individual’s status (because new information has been added).

Enhanced disclosures will reveal information held on the Police National Computer in respect of:

  • Spent and unspent convictions;
  • Cautions;
  • Formal reprimands;
  • Final warnings.

In addition an enhanced disclosure may contain non-conviction information from local Police records, which a chief Police officer thinks may be relevant to the position sought.

Note that, since 29 May 2013,  certain old and minor cautions and convictions are no longer subject to disclosure – see the Disclosure and Barring Service Filtering Guide.

Enhanced disclosures will show whether a person is barred from seeking or undertaking regulated activity with children by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

Registered organisations with 'payment on account status' can order paper disclosure application forms through the registration line on 0870 90 90 822 (also available for general enquiries).

Requests must include name, address and date of birth of the applicant.

If a disclosure reveals that an applicant is prohibited from seeking or working with under eighteens, it is an offence to employ her/him and the CPU must be informed without delay of the individual's attempt to seek employment.

An optional online Update Service is operated by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), designed to reduce the number of DBS checks requested.

Instead of a new criminal records/Barred Lists check being necessary whenever an individual applies for a new paid or voluntary role working with children/Adults at Risk, individuals can opt to subscribe to the online Update Service. This will allow them to keep their criminal record certificate up to date, so that they can take it with them from role to role, within the same workforce.

Employers do not need to register, but can carry out free, instant, online status checks of a registered individual’s status. A new DBS check will only be necessary if the status check indicates a change in the individual’s status (because new information has been added).

It is highly recommended that employers should consider a regular timescale in which they will check employees DBS’ on the update service or repeat DBS applications throughout their employment with them; this must be transparent within any employment contract.

The timescale for this should be determined by the employer in accordance with the type of role and responsibilities of the employee/volunteer. It is however recommended that agencies consider reviewing DBS’ annually for those who have had previous convictions or disclosures within their most recent DBS to ensure there is sufficient review of any risk assessments in place and/or removal of any restrictions of duties should DBS become clear at a later date.

Checks should always be undertaken when employing from overseas. The local Police authority may be asked to provide relevant information including any criminal record. Whilst responses vary across countries, some e.g. Canada operate similar systems to the UK DBS.

The DBS may be able to advise about criminal record checking overseas.

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 her/him.

For procedures relevant to a situation in which Police are investigating a current employee with respect to any behaviour that suggests harm to / offence against or related to / unsuitability to work with, a child see Managing Allegations against Adults who work with Children and Young People Procedure.

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.

  • When recruiting, you must:
    • Follow Part 3 of KCSIE which sets out the safer recruitment checks schools must conduct;
    • Make any further checks you think appropriate so that relevant events that occurred outside of the UK can be considered - the Home Office provides guidance on criminal records checks for overseas applicants, see GOV.UK, Criminal records checks for overseas applicants.

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 obtain a check of the applicant's criminal record from the relevant authority in that country and seek additional information about an applicant's conduct. Not all countries 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.

HR/legal advice should be sought as appropriate in relation to any queries or issues that arise in relation to ascertaining all necessary checks on a prospective employee. Employers must be satisfied that all appropriate checks have been carried out prior to the employee starting their new role. If there are any gaps or missing information that impacts on Employers being satisfied that there are no safeguarding concerns, then HR / Legal advice must be sought.

For those joining an organisation, an induction programme should be provided and there should be a minimum of six months supplementary supervision, training and appraisal with respect to their new role so as to identify any further training or personal or management development need.

Regular review meetings between the appointee and responsible manager should be convened by the manager throughout the induction period to address areas where further support, guidance and training may be required.

Induction for all new staff should include Local Safeguarding Children Partnership training requirements appropriate to their position.

Senior managers in all agencies for which this manual is relevant have a duty to ensure the provision of:

  • Adequate training;
  • Clear and up to date procedures to follow;
  • Ready access to advice, expertise and management support (including recognition of need for additional support in particular cases or circumstances);
  • Systems to protect staff from violence, bullying and harassment including racial harassment;
  • Systems to recognise and respond to poor practice e.g. regular audits of cases which involve children, including those in adult and mental health teams;
  • Complaints and whistle-blowing procedures to allow service users and staff to highlight issues for consideration and resolution;
  • Effective staff appraisal and personal development planning;
  • Collated information for the local Safeguarding Children Partnership about issues arising from local operational experience of child protection.

Within all agencies which have operational responsibility for child protection services, there should be an agency policy, which defines minimum levels of formal supervision of those staff who are accountable for child protection cases and reflecting the need to offer a higher level of supervision for the least experienced.

Such supervision must ensure that all child protection cases are regularly discussed in supervision.

On some occasions - e.g. enquiries about complex abuse or allegations against colleagues, agencies should consider the provision of additional individual or group staff support.

Managers should develop local policies and systems to maximise staff safety and remain alert to the possibility some staff may be anxious about personal safety yet reluctant to acknowledge their concern.

All professionals including staff in the private and voluntary sectors, require a general awareness of known indicators and pre-disposing factors of abuse as well as (role specific) detailed knowledge of agreed policies and procedures.

All front line staff must be trained to pass calls about the safety of children to the appropriate professional staff. This includes reception and switchboard operators and administrative staff.

LSCP training for staff engaged in child protection work must include:

  • The Assessment Framework;
  • Basic and advanced inputs on all forms of abuse and neglect;
  • Targeted joint training - e.g. Achieving Best Evidence.

For staff working with adults, sufficient training to inform and enable recognition of concerns about any dependent children which require referral to Children's Services or Police.

The Local Safeguarding Children Partnership (LSCP) is accountable for:

  • Ensuring provision of sufficient general and specialised training;
  • Clarifying the specialist training required for different staff e.g. those undertaking Section 47 Enquiries, GPs etc.
  • Monitoring take-up amongst those offered training;
  • Routine evaluation of perceived effectiveness of training.

GPs are expected to participate in Child Protection Training and are also responsible, as employers, for ensuring that their staff are provided with opportunities to attend relevant training.

All staff who have any contact with children must be included in their agency's training programme on child protection at basic or more advanced level according to their role.

Educational settings must give consideration to the statutory guidance in relation to training requirements for specific roles as set out in Keeping Children Safe in Education 2023.

All operational staff must routinely be provided with opportunities for basic and comprehensive anti-discriminatory training.

Such training must be rooted in recognition of the diversity of families and communities and respect for the differing approaches to child rearing this diversity represents.

Such training must also ensure that respect for difference is not confused with acceptance of any form of abuse or neglect.

Equality and diversity issues must be integrated within all child protection training provided to staff.

Each agency must have a designated Senior Manager whose responsibilities include reporting to and consulting with the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) and making referrals to the Disclosure and Barring Service as well as making referrals to relevant professional and regulatory bodies such as Social Work England, GMC, TRA and others about any member of staff who (following an enquiry / investigation) it concludes to be unsuitable to work with children.  
All agencies must also give consideration to any notification requirements they must make when there are concerns / allegations regarding their workforce (please refer to Inspection Frameworks).

Last Updated: March 11, 2024