A safe space training and criminal disclosure checks

Because the safety of members is our highest priority

Last updated: 6 June 2023

All volunteers must have the right levels of a safe space training and a disclosure check, if their role needs it.  

All adult volunteers must have the right levels of a safe space training and a disclosure check, if their role needs it.  

Completing a safe space is part of the safeguarding policy. Some roles need volunteers to do a criminal disclosure check, which is part of the recruitment and vetting policy. A safe space training and most disclosure checks need to be renewed every 3 years.  

Not completing or renewing mandatory training or criminal disclosure checks may mean a volunteer’s membership is withdrawn or refused.  

But we want to avoid that happening. So we regularly remind volunteers about their training and offer help during the process. Commissioners also have an important role to play in reminding and helping volunteers.

How renewals work

Volunteers can complete levels 1-4 before their renewal date by signing into the learning platform.

For a safe space levels 1-3, the volunteer will get an initial email about 6 months before expiry to let them know they can renew. This is separate to the compliance process. If they redo that level of a safe space when they get the email, no further action is taken.

For disclose checks, their first reminder is the start of the compliance process detailed below. If they start their disclosure check process before then, no further action is taken.

Timeline of the compliance process

Volunteers who need to complete or renew their training or disclosure check will get emails encouraging them to complete what they need to. If they haven't completed their training or started their criminal disclosure check by the day, the renewal date, their membership will be withdrawn. If a volunteer is new to Girlguiding their membership will be refused. 

Commissioners get messages from GO asking them to support the volunteer to book training or start their criminal disclosure check, or to tell us if there’s a reason they can't do it. 

Stage 1: Inform (120 days before renewal of training or criminal disclosure check is needed)   

The volunteer gets an email to say they need to complete or renew the training, or start their criminal disclosure check, within 120 days. Their local commissioner gets a GO message asking them to support the volunteer.   

Stage 2: Remind (60 days after inform email sent)  

The volunteer gets a reminder email. The local commissioner gets a GO message asking them to support them and share if there are any reasons that may be delaying things.   

Stage 3: Warn (80 days after inform email sent)  

The volunteer gets a warning letter. They’re told of the date their membership may be stopped if they don’t complete the training or start their check. The county commissioner gets a GO message asking them to support the volunteer and the date their membership may be withdrawn, or application refused, if they don’t complete what they need to.  

The volunteer or commissioner can apply for an extension to the deadline if the volunteer has mitigating circumstances stopping them from completing what they need to. This request must be made at least 10 days before the deadline to allow for processing time.   

Click here to see the content of the warning letter.

Stage 4: Sanction (120 days after inform email sent)  

At this stage, a volunteer's membership is sanctioned, and a letter sent to them.  Any decision to withdraw a volunteer will be verified and approved by the country or region chief commissioner.  

After the warning stage, a volunteer can contact [email protected] to request their deadline be extended based on mitigating circumstances. This request must be made at least 10 days before the deadline. Mitigating circumstances could be personal events or situations that place significant barriers in the way of doing what they need to. Some examples are: 

  • The volunteer is seriously ill or unwell.
  • The volunteer is a full-time carer for a relative who is sick or unwell .
  • The volunteer is recently bereaved.

Consideration will be given to:  

  • Length of notice given to the volunteer to complete training or start the criminal disclosure check.
  • Any attempts made to complete the training or start the criminal disclosure check prior to event or situation taking place.
  • Opportunities provided by Girlguiding or local guiding to complete training or start the criminal disclosure check.
  • Impact of events or situations on attempts to complete training or start the criminal disclosure check before deadline.

When looking at mitigating circumstances, the complaints and compliance team will ask the commissioner to think about: 

  • Have reasonable adjustments been offered? 
  • Is the volunteer still active or are they stepping back from guiding? 
  • If they're able to do so, has the volunteer confirmed their position? 
  • Will the volunteer be able to complete the training or start the criminal disclosure check ahead of the120-day deadline?  

Once this information has been provided, the mitigating circumstance will be considered by the complaints and compliance team. 

If the mitigating circumstance is verified, the volunteer will be given an extension. The new deadline will be based on individual circumstances but it’s usually to the date of the next available course date. 
As an extension can only be added after a warning letter has been sent, we encourage the volunteer and their commissioner to explore the above options before contacting the complaints and compliance team.  

A commissioner can’t grant the mitigation, but they can discuss it with the volunteer first and go through the options.

Ideally, the volunteer will contact the complaints and compliance team directly with the details. If the commissioner contacts us on their behalf, the complaints and compliance team will need the volunteer to confirm the information given and give permission for us to speak to their commissioner on their behalf.  

 The volunteer and their commissioner will both be copied into all messages.  

Withdrawing or refusing membership when training is not renewed or criminal disclosure check is not started

If a volunteer doesn’t complete training or start a disclosure check and is an existing Girlguiding member, their membership will be withdrawn.

If a volunteer is asked to start their disclosure check as part of the application process and doesn’t then their membership will be refused. If a volunteer doesn’t complete  a safe space level 4, but all other levels are complete, their level 4 role will be restricted. More details about this can be found as part of the managing concerns about adult volunteers procedure.  

Withdrawal or refusal of membership means the person can’t attend any Girlguiding function, event or meeting.  

A role restriction means a volunteer cannot undergo any aspect of their responsibilities under the level 4 role, for example as a commissioner. 

If they have a child in Girlguiding, they may attend as a parent, for example dropping off or collecting their child. But they can’t help with any events, trips or outings. 

Volunteers have the right to appeal against a withdrawal or restriction by providing new information or evidence which hasn’t already been considered. Whilst the decision to refuse membership can’t be appealed, if a volunteer thinks this decision has been made unfairly, they should let us know. Information must be sent in writing to [email protected] within 28 days of the date of withdrawal, refusal or restriction.   

The appeal process following withdrawal or refusal on the above grounds is managed differently to appeals following an investigation. The decision to uphold an appeal will be considered by the complaints and compliance team.  

A volunteer can apply for a review of the decision to withdraw or refuse their membership after 3 years or a significant change in circumstances. As part of any application to re-join, we’ll need to explore that they've understood the implications of not having the right training or check.    

Your questions answered

Young volunteers, such as young leaders and young external volunteers, aren’t affected as the compliance withdrawal process only applies to those over 18. Young volunteers will need to change role to an adult volunteering role after their 18th birthday.  

Young volunteers don’t need to undertake disclosure checks. 

We strongly recommend that all young volunteers complete the a safe space activity for their age group as part of their induction to volunteering with a unit or at an event. You can find details of how they can do this on the a safe space for under 18s webpage

Young volunteers aged 14-17 will be made 'active' as soon as they’re given their role, even if they haven’t done their a safe space learning. To complete this, they need to make sure they can access their GO account and have an email address recorded before setting up their learning platform account. 

Commissioners can see which young volunteers aged 14-17 have not completed the learning through the dropdown in the safe practice tab on GO. 

There are help files on GO which tell you how to view people who require a safe space or disclosure checks. It also explains how to view the disclosure and a safe space expiry dates for a specific person and how a volunteer can check this information about themselves. There are reports within GO too, which help monitor compliance for units and volunteers in the area.   

To find out who needs to complete the training or disclosure checks in your area please read our further guidance.  

For level 3, GO only shows people who have this level as a role requirement. It doesn’t show the unit requirement. So it includes all those at county level, but won’t include leaders and  leaders-in-training because these roles don’t require it to be completed.  To find a list of units who require someone to complete level 3, a volunteer needs to go to the reports tab and select the a safe space report from the left-hand menu. This will show all units who are currently not complying under the units tab along the bottom of the report.  

The process is a manual one. It’s completed by the complaints and compliance team at HQ working with the volunteer’s country or region. The team checks each volunteer record and approves it with the country and region chief commissioner. Once this has happened, the volunteer will get a letter telling them when their membership will end. This is then added to the volunteer’s GO record.

If a role requires the holder to do level 4, then provided they have completed levels 1-3, they won’t have their membership withdrawn but will have their level 4 role sanctioned. This means they can no longer be a commissioner or any other role that requires a safe space level 4. Volunteers have the right to appeal against this decision.

Units mustn’t meet face-to-face or virtually without at least 1 leader present who holds a valid a safe space level 3 training.  

Units aren’t sanctioned where there isn’t a leader recorded with level 3. But if a unit meets without a leader, assistant leader or leader in training present who has a safe space level 3 this needs to be addressed by the local commissioner.  

This is case-by-case for each unit. But there must be a very good reason to explain why either no leaders have level 3 training, or they were unable to ask another leader to come in and cover. 

These are the steps taken if a unit meeting took place without an a safe space level 3-trained leader being present: 

  1. Anyone can report it to the county commissioner. They then contact the complaints and compliance team at HQ for support within 7 days. They’ll see if an informal resolution can be reached or if it needs further investigation. They'll work together to find out how this happened. For example, was a leader who usually attends unable to make it? Or does this unit regularly meet without a trained leader? 
  2. If further investigation is needed, a formal investigation begins in line with our investigation procedure. County commissioners will inform the unit team they must stop all volunteering roles with immediate effect. All volunteers in leadership roles present at the meeting are to be suspended, pending investigation. If this means unit meetings can’t take place then the commissioner must arrange suitable cover if they can, in line with a safe space requirements, or cancel the unit meetings and let parents and carers know. 
  3. Once the formal investigation has happened, the complaints and compliance team will decide what to do.   

The learning platform locks the a safe space level 2 e-learning if a volunteer doesn't pass the quiz in 3 attempts. Volunteers should speak to their commissioner to arrange a time with a safe space trainer to check their learning.

The trainer will work through the content to see which areas the volunteer didn't understand. It might just be that they misunderstood just 1 area, and once the trainer is happy, the level 2 course can be added by the county as a face-to-face training.

If a volunteer may struggle to fulfil their safeguarding responsibilities, then you may want to consider the supported volunteer role.