Managing concerns about adult volunteers policy

This policy explains when Girlguiding gets involved if there are concerns about the way an adult volunteer behaves

Approved: September 2023
Version: 4

Find out what changed and why in our most recent updates to this policy.

Girlguiding provides support, guidance and training to make sure volunteers are always clear on their responsibilities and our expectations.

We believe in doing our best. But sometimes things go wrong. When a concern is raised about an adult volunteer we will discuss those concerns with them and work together to find a resolution, this might be putting more support or training in place. Not all concerns require a formal investigation and, where possible, we will take an informal approach. If a concern can’t be resolved this way we need to take further action .

This policy sets out how and when we might need to add more formal actions on a volunteers record. Whenever we do this we will be fair and transparent about why those decisions have to be made, we will make sure a full investigation is carried out and appropriate support is put in place.

This policy applies to all commissioners and HQ staff involved in managing a concern about an adult volunteer, and adult volunteers who are the subject of a concern.

Adult volunteers: anyone aged over 18 who gives their time to Girlguiding without being paid. This includes volunteers working directly with girls and volunteers with no direct contact with girls.

Breach: not meeting our expectations as set out in our code of conduct, policies, and procedures.

Trustee: the persons having the general control and management of a charity.

The relevant HQ team: refers to the complaints and compliance team at Girlguiding headquarters. For any matter involving child protection or the safeguarding of children and adults at risk, this will be the safeguarding team.

Young member: anyone who is a Rainbow, Brownie, Guide or Ranger, or is a volunteer aged under 18 in any role, for example a young leader.

Informal resolution: addressing a concern that doesn’t involve a breach of policies or procedures. For example concerns about joining enquiries, waiting lists, or the running of activities.

Staff: anyone employed by Girlguiding, either at HQ or by a country, region or county office. When this policy mentions staff, it also includes contractors and consultants.

Policy statement

We use our managing concerns about adult volunteers policy when an adult volunteer's conduct has not met our expectations.

There are a number of ways we may be told about a concern. For example:

  • A complaint made under our complaints policy.
  • A safeguarding or whistleblowing report.
  • After an observation by a Girlguiding volunteer or member of staff.
  • The dismissal of a member of staff.
  • The removal of a trustee.

If the concern doesn’t involve a breach in our policies or procedure and is not a safeguarding concern, an informal resolution is our preferred outcome. In most of these cases the issues can be resolved by local leaders and commissioners having a chat with those involved to understand the concerns being raised and to agree the best way to put it right.

If an issue cannot be resolved informally we follow the investigation procedure. The only exception to this is when a statutory agency, like the police or children’s services, are investigating a safeguarding or any other concern. The managing concerns about adult volunteers policy should be referred to following an investigation into a safeguarding or volunteer conduct concern.

The investigation process

An investigation will address the specific concerns raised, gather all relevant evidence, establish the full circumstances behind the concern, and decide whether the concern is upheld or not.

Where concerns are upheld, sanctions may be applied to an adult volunteer’s role.

The appointed investigator must follow the managing concerns about adult volunteers procedure and the investigation procedure.


It may be necessary to apply a sanction under this policy before, during, or after an investigation. The sanction is authorised by the chief commissioner, and is applied by the county commissioner, in partnership with the relevant HQ team. In cases of exceptional risk – such as a safeguarding concern - the relevant HQ teams can apply a suspension without the involvement of a commissioner.

Sanctions applied under this policy apply to all adult volunteer roles across Girlguiding.

If an adult volunteer doesn‘t abide by a restriction or sanction, their volunteer role may be withdrawn. This means they can’t attend any Girlguiding events or activities as a volunteer.

Where there has been a serious breach in relation to a safeguarding concern or a criminal act, a referral will be made to the appropriate body. In England and Wales this is the Disclosure and Barring Service. In Northern Ireland, Access NI, and in Scotland, Disclosure Scotland. This will be made in line with the relevant conditions set by these organisations.

Appeals and review

Both a volunteer who is being investigated, or the person who raised a concern, can request an appeal against the outcome of case.

The only reasons for which an appeal will be granted are when new information or evidence is presented which may change the outcome of an investigation, when our policies, procedures or processes have not been followed, or when it meets the threshold as a serious risk to our reputation or otherwise.

Any request for an appeal must follow the appeals and review procedure.

Our commitment to managing concerns about adult volunteers fairly, transparently and confidentially

When a formal investigation takes place, an impartial investigator will be appointed. This is usually the relevant commissioner, though this can also be a member of Girlguiding staff or a country or region volunteer. All volunteer investigators must’ve completed a safe space level 4. Occasionally, external consultants may investigate complex cases.  

If there are concerns about impartiality, we may appoint an investigator from a different country or region.

All volunteers involved in an investigation will be offered support from a safe practice liaison volunteer, where appropriate. This includes those who made a complaint, and those under investigation. The relevant HQ team will offer access to external, confidential and free wellbeing support to any volunteer whose role is suspended or withdrawn. If a safe practice liaison volunteer is not available in the area, the investigator should get in touch with the relevant HQ team who can make arrangements to provide one.

Volunteers under investigation will be told the nature of the evidence upon which a concern has been raised about them. This doesn't mean that the full original concern, complaint or any witness statement will be shared, but a fair summary will be provided.

The investigators must update everyone involved on the progress of the investigation on a regular basis.

While we make every effort to ensure someone’s identity is not revealed without their consent, it may be that the nature of the allegations or evidence indicates their source.

Information relating to investigations and sanctions applied under this policy will be treated in line with our managing information policy.

If you’d like to know more about how and why we process your personal data, please refer to our privacy notice.

Our expectations for volunteers involved in managing a concern about an adult volunteer

  • To report any safeguarding concerns to our HQ safeguarding team as soon as you’re made aware of them.
  • To report all other significant concerns to our HQ complaints and compliance team.
  • To follow the investigation procedure.
  • To consider all cases impartially and be transparent in your approach whilst maintaining confidentiality as appropriate. Every person must be kept informed of developments and must be treated fairly.
  • To keep the relevant commissioner, country or region volunteer, or member of staff up to date on your progress.
  • To keep a factual record of your actions.
  • To make reasonable adjustments to accommodate a person’s background or circumstances, in line with our equality and diversity policy.
  • To resolve the case in a reasonable length of time.