Volunteers are the backbone of many an organisation with an estimated 20 million people giving up their time free of charge to help a worthy cause every year.
A volunteer, according to the government, is: “a person who is engaged in any activity which involves spending time, unpaid (except for travel and other approved out-of-pocket expenses), doing something which aims to benefit some third party and not a close relative.”
A lot of voluntary work is going to require some level of CRB check, be it basic or enhanced.
There are five different types of voluntary work in the UK:
Formal volunteering is structured and supervised. Usually long term these roles involve regular and sustained attendance. There are normally managers and coordinators who are involved in the recruitment process, training and supervising. These managers will also be responsible for applying for CRB clearance if the role is eligible for a check.
Examples: helping in hospitals, care homes and schools. This type of volunteering is going to require an enhanced CRB check with an adult’s and a children’s barred list check. This is free of charge, but organisations often employ an online CRB check service for a small administration fee to deal with the application.
This is generally work carried out, unfunded, in the local community. It might be spearheaded by a group of volunteers from the neighbourhood to carry out projects to improve the area they live in or help members of the community with tasks.
Examples: helping the elderly or ill with their shopping, collecting prescriptions or dog walking, organising a local fete to raise funds for charity or being a member of the neighbourhood watch. This type of volunteering shouldn’t require a CRB check, although it is important to bring this up when you meet up with the volunteer group.
These volunteers will deal with decision-making in organisations and provide leadership. They play an integral part in making important decisions for the institutes they volunteer to work in. Volunteering in governance is seen as being in a position of high responsibility and those who offer up their free time have a career experience in advocacy or finances.
Examples: member on a board of directors for a school, treasurer for the PTA or member of a parish council. These types of non-profit roles often involve dealing with sensitive financial information and a standard CRB check would be necessary, which discloses all spent and unspent convictions and cautions.
Social action volunteers are united in a common goal like climate change. Volunteers don’t usually keep defined or regular hours, but still spend a lot of their time fighting for their cause. It could be anything from making placards to recruiting new members of the group.
Examples: political group lobbyists, environmental campaigners and researchers. Unless you are put in charge of the group’s finances or the campaign deals with young children or the vulnerable, then you won’t be eligible for either a standard or enhanced CRB check.
Here volunteers provide their services for projects with defined time frames. Projects will need volunteers with specific skills that will benefit the drive. They will work towards defined goals and work to a schedule. Much of the time there will be a project leader or at least a co-ordinator.
Examples: organising a drive such as celebrating a village’s anniversary or putting together a town’s open gardens’ day. This type of work usually won’t involve the volunteers working with children or the vulnerable, meaning that they won’t be eligible for standard or enhanced checks, which are offered free. You could have the frontline volunteers, who are dealing with money as part of the drive, to take a basic CRB check. This isn’t free, however, costing £23 per application.