Step 3: References and checks
References: Placements will often ask for references. This would normally be two people that can tell them something about how suitable you will be as a volunteer. Employers are suitable referees but many young people have not yet had their first job and finding referees can be difficult. Good alternative options include;
- Your teachers, lecturers or support workers– these are people that see you on a regular basis and can tell the placement that you are reliable and enthusiastic.
- Family friends and neighbours can be acceptable if you have known them a long time, especially if you have done something for them like babysitting.
- Often people with professional status such as doctors or solicitors make good referees so if you know your neighbours well and they can offer a reference this may be ok.
Each organisation is different and will tell you what they will or will not accept.
Criminal Record Checks are now called Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks : Some types of volunteering activity will involve working with children or adults who need services due to age, illness or disability (older people, those in care, those will learning or physical disabilities etc). If you are over 16 and are going to volunteer with children and/or adults and may spend one to one time with them or be in a position of trust you may be required to go through a process that checks if you are allowed to work with these groups of people.
This is a simple process where you complete a form that asks who you are; your previous names (if you have changed names for marriage or other reasons) and the addresses where you have lived over the past 5 years. You will also need to provide personal identification documents such as birth certificate, passport, driving license (provisional or full), mobile phone bills or other utility bills.
These checks can sometimes take up to 6 weeks and in some instances you won’t be able to begin volunteering until they have been completed. However, a number of organisations don’t want this to put you off so may be able to find something else for you to do with them whilst you wait. For example you may be able to help out in the office or be in a supervised group situation whilst you wait for your check to begin volunteering in a less supervised role. It is always worth asking if there is something you can get started on. You never know it may not have occurred to them to do this and you may be the person to give them the idea!
From this information the DBS can check if you have any current or previous convictions or if there is any known reason why you should not work with children or adults. If you have an enhanced check, it will also show up any other non conviction information held by the police including current allegations that they may be investigating.
When the process is complete you will be sent a copy of the certificate as the applicant (volunteer) and you will be responsible for showing it to the organisation.
It’s important to be open and honest with the organisation about any convictions you may have. They will need to decide your suitability for a position based on what the law tells them is ok and also what they feel is appropriate for their volunteering roles and for yourself. Some convictions may stop you from carrying out particular volunteering activities and if this is the case the organisation and/or your YVA can talk through alternative options that may be more suitable for you.
Many organisations have a policy on the recruitment of offenders and are keen to give those with criminal convictions a chance , where this is possible, as part of their commitment to equal opportunities. Where they are unable to find anything suitable you can talk to your YVA about other opportunities that will be open to you.
Remember there are many thousands of different volunteering opportunities out there so even if the first option is not the best one for you, there are plenty of others that might be.