During the Covid-19 pandemic we’ve all become more aware how easy it is for people to become disconnected from society, lonely and isolated. Volunteer befrienders step into these situations and maintain contact with the person concerned, with the aim of the contact turning into friendship. It’s a rewarding way to volunteer, and befrienders can make a real difference to people’s lives. With over half of all people over the age of 75 living alone, the need for friendly faces or voices on the phone is more acute than ever. But do you need a DBS check for this sort of volunteer work?
Duties of a Befriender
Befrienders, as the name suggests, will spend time with a socially isolated member of their community. They might check in with them regularly by phone, visit them in their own homes or arrange to meet up with them in a café. Usually, organisations will match befrienders with people who share their interests or hobbies. Commitments vary, with checking in once a week being common, but there may also be a need for more regular contact with people feeling particularly isolated.
DBS Checks for Befrienders
In most cases, people who have stepped forward as a volunteer befriender will need a DBS check. Of the three levels of DBS available, it is most likely that befrienders will need an enhanced DBS check as the person being befriended is considered a vulnerable adult, usually because they have a disability, or are elderly.
Barred List Checks
In addition, the type of befriending will also determine whether you need a Barred List Check too. The Barred lists are registers held by the Home Office which list names of people who are legally blocked from working with either adults or children, or both. Befriending in itself doesn’t fall under the bracket of the legal definition of “Regulated Activity”, which determines whether the lists are searched. If, however the befriender is helping a vulnerable adult with managing their money or going shopping, that would need a search of Barred registers too. Any befriending with someone under 18 requires an enhanced DBS check, and a search of the Barred List.
Getting a DBS Check
Individuals can’t apply for an enhanced DBS check by themselves. These applications have to be made through an approved organisation, and this covers most of the large charities which recruit volunteer befrienders. They should walk you through the procedure for getting your certificate, which isn’t overly complex. Be aware though that many charities will ask you to wait until you receive your DBS certificate to start work, as befriending is often done individually and pairing people up for supervision isn’t always possible.
If you take care over completing your DBS application form, especially with the fields concerning address and name history, you shouldn’t run into any difficulties. But if your situation is unusual, or you are unsure about what to include on the form, seek help and advice rather than guessing, as incorrectly completed forms are the biggest reason for delay.