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Volunteering at a Museum – Do I need DBS?

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There’s any number of reasons why someone would want to volunteer in a museum. Many are young people doing degrees in History or related subjects and who want to get some relevant work experience, or retired people with a passion for the subject who want to do something useful with their spare time. If you’re thinking about giving up some of your free time to volunteer at a museum, there are a few steps you’ll have to go through first.

 

Vacancies and Applications

Many museums are crying out for additional help, especially in times of budget cuts and staff shortages. Some will advertise vacancies on their social media or website, others will just be open to hearing from people at any time with appropriate qualifications. Be realistic about what you’re prepared to do, and how much time you’re prepared to commit. It’s always better to start with a small volunteering commitment which you can increase if you want to, than taking on several shifts a week then having to let people down as you’ve over-stretched yourself. As with any other positions, you may have to complete an application form, have an interview and supply references. Voluntary positions won’t be paid, but depending on the organisation you may be offered lunch, free tea and coffee, discounts on shop merchandise. Volunteers are often able to move into a paid position if one becomes available, and of course it gives you experience to draw on when moving into a paid job elsewhere.

 

Will I Need a DBS Check?

Although there are some occupations and voluntary roles which will always require a DBS check, whether or not you’ll need one for a voluntary role in a museum will depend on what you’re going to be doing. If your role involves standing in a gallery and chatting to the public about the items on display, or selling tickets at the gift shop, then you wouldn’t fall into the category of needing a DBS. If however you’re running workshops for kids, planning and hosting children’s parties or are involved in summer holiday clubs, you probably will. Most large museums will have a safeguarding policy which they should be happy to share with volunteers and the general public which should give all the details you need on how they look after the safety of visitors and staff.

 

Frequency

The main criteria to decide whether volunteers are eligible for DBS checks is how frequently they will be in unsupervised contact with children. If it’s a weekly activity, or four days within the same week as a one-off, then that level of frequency requires DBS. An event which only takes place once every six months would not require staff in attendance to be DBS checked. There will be someone in every organisation who takes an overall lead on child protection and safeguarding, and they are the person to approach if you have any further questions on the law or any specifics about your DBS check.