There are two aspects of safeguarding that family support services working with volunteers must take into account; safety of families and safety of volunteers. To fully evaluate the risks associated with each new volunteer role or project, you can undertake a risk assessment.
Volunteers working in family support may well come into contact with vulnerable adults or children. As organisations have a responsibility to protect their clients from possible harm whilst receiving the service, they must find a way to ensure that volunteers who work with them are suitable to be in contact with vulnerable service users.
There are several different ways to do this:
CRB checks- these checks are carried out by the Criminal Record Bureau and can be standard or enhanced. They will show up any previous convictions that may prevent people from working with vulnerable people
Recruitment systems- a face to face interview means that staff have a chance to meet volunteers and discuss any concerns before they start work. A probation period can also help to ensure that volunteers fully understand their responsibilities towards vulnerable families and the boundaries of the role
References- taking up references can help staff to determine if the volunteer applicant has got the experience that they claim to have and if any previous employers or acquaintances had cause for concern
Supervision - a good supervision system can help people recognize possible issues and discuss them before they turn into problems
Informal disclosure-as an extra precaution, you can ask people at application stage if they have anything to disclose that may affect their ability to work with vulnerable people. This can start the conversation early so that any issues can be discussed before waiting for CRB results
Risk of harm procedures- having clear procedures for clients on how to complain about volunteers and clear procedures of what to do if a volunteer or staff member is concerned that someone is at risk can help to give structures to follow if there are problems
Training- training will help to ensure that volunteers understand the professional boundaries they are expected to keep to and what to do if things go wrong
Very occasionally, volunteer may be at risk themselves of being harmed, either by service users or by something in the environment in which they work.
There are various things that can be done to mitigate risk against volunteers:
Training- training on personal safety, lone working, keeping in contact and recognising hazards will equip volunteers to deal with problems and stay safe
Stay in contact-make sure that volunteers can contact the office or another volunteer whenever they need to and make sure you know where they are working in case you need to contact them
Health and safety- make sure volunteers are aware of the organisational health and safety policy, any fire evacuation systems and any hazards of equipment they are using
Family issue risk assessment- some organisations undertake a risk assessment of each family before allowing a volunteer to work with them. If a family has a history of violence, drug use or criminality, it may be better to offer them support by a staff member
Pre-trip visits- some family support organisations have a member of staff visit the family home or area of volunteering to undertake a risk assessment before the volunteer can start working with the family.