Recruitment and vetting procedure

Make sure volunteers and new enquirers complete the right checks

Last reviewed: 10 January 2023

To keep everyone in Girlguiding safe, all our adult volunteers must go through our recruitment and vetting process.

This procedure explains everyone’s responsibilities under our recruitment and vetting policy.

Here’s some handy flowcharts to help you understand this procedure.

Who’s this procedure for?

Commissioners, other volunteers involved in recruitment and ID verifiers need to follow this procedure to make sure we provide a safe space for our members. We have more specific guidance for ID verifiers too.

This procedure also has information for new enquirers and returning volunteers going through the recruitment and vetting process, including what they need to do and what to expect. There’s also information for young members moving into an adult volunteering role.

Commissioners may need to provide support if we open a compliance case to address any concerns raised during the recruitment and vetting process.

Counties, districts and divisions need to complete recruitment and vetting of new enquirers and existing volunteers in line with the policy and procedure, and in a timely manner.

You must complete our recruitment and vetting checks, so we can check your suitability to volunteer with us. This includes:

  • Providing two satisfactory references.
  • Completing a criminal record disclosure check, if you need this for your role.

Our HQ disclosures team processes disclosure checks and references. If there are any concerns about your suitability to volunteer, our HQ complaints and compliance team will open a case and manage this process. You can find out more about disclosure checks and references further down this page.

As well as these checks, for most roles you must complete at least a safe space level 1 training before your role can be made active. Find out how to use our learning platform to do the training.

To give you a chance to try out your new role and make sure it’s right for you, you can visit a unit up to 4 times before you start your checks. But only under the following conditions:

  • A leader or assistant leader supervises you at all times. The supervising leader must have completed their recruitment and vetting process and have an up-to-date disclosure check with Girlguiding. They mustn’t leave you alone with young members.
  • You’ve read and agreed to follow our unit safeguarding guidelines.
  • Your checks are started within 120 days. ‘Started’ means references have been requested and, if needed for your role, you’ve submitted your application for a disclosure check. Find out more about the timeline for disclosure checks.

For roles that don’t need a disclosure check, volunteers must never be left unsupervised with young members, even after Girlguiding has received satisfactory references.

If you’ve taken a break from Girlguiding for 12 months or more, you’ll need to undergo the same checks as a new enquirer. This is to make sure there’s no reason you can’t volunteer for us again.

You’ll need to:

  • Provide two satisfactory references.
  • Complete a disclosure check if yours has expired during your break, or if the area you’re volunteering in needs a different type of check

Find out more about references and disclosure checks further down this page.

If you’re already a young member, and have been active in Girlguiding in the last 12 months, our recruitment and vetting process is slightly different.

Instead of needing two satisfactory references, your leader or commissioner just needs to send a letter of commendation to the local recruiting volunteer. You can find out more about this below.

If you need a disclosure check for your new adult volunteering role, GO will automatically trigger this request when the role is added to your record.

You’ll also need to complete the correct level of A Safe Space training for your new role. This is different to the A Safe Space training you may have done as a young leader or young external volunteer.

  • If you’ve previously completed the A Safe Space training for 14- to 17-year-olds, you’ll have 120 days to complete the correct level for your new role.
  • If you haven’t completed the A Safe Space training for 14- to 17-year-olds, you’ll need to complete at least A Safe Space level 1 before your new adult role can be made active on GO. Then you’ll have 120 days to complete any other levels you need.

You can start volunteering in your new role before your checks are complete. Check out the conditions for this in the section for new enquirers above.

Do I need to apply for a disclosure check before I turn 18?

If you’ll be turning 18 just before going on a residential event, or you’ll turn 18 during the trip, you’ll need to start the disclosure check process early. But only if you’re attending the residential event as a volunteer.

When the event organiser completes part 1 of our Residential Event Notification (REN) form, they must add participant details. You'll be sent a link inviting you to sign up to the event. They’ll probably realise you need to complete a disclosure check. But there’s no harm in giving them a nudge.

To request the check before a young member turns 18, the event organiser or commissioner needs to:

  • Check you’ve signed up to the event on GO.
  • Email [email protected], with the subject line ‘Under 18 Disclosure check’, to ask Girlguiding HQ to trigger it manually. There’s no need to do this more than three months in advance.

If a young member wants to become an adult volunteer when they turn 18, they won’t need to provide references, as long as they have a record on GO and have been active in Girlguiding the last 12 months.

Instead, their leader or commissioner needs to send a letter of commendation to the local recruiting volunteer. They can send the letter before the young member turns 18.

Who should write the letter?

A leader or commissioner who knows the young member well should write the letter, as they’ll know about the young person’s suitability to volunteer.

The recruiting volunteer may need to contact the person who wrote the letter, if there’s anything that needs checking.

What needs to be included in a letter of commendation?

The volunteer writing the letter needs to include some specific information:

  • Their name and membership number
  • The young person’s name and membership number
  • How they know the young member
  • Confirmation that they consider the young member suitable to volunteer

They might also want to include other relevant information, like the young member’s interests, skills and experience. And any additional support needs the young member has that they’re aware of.

What do they do with the letter?

The leader or commissioner needs to give or send the letter to the recruiting volunteer, who’ll authorise the new role to be added to GO. They can send a physical letter or send a copy by email. They should make sure to mark it as confidential as the letter will include personal information. Everyone needs to follow our Managing information procedure when storing or sharing it.

The recruiting volunteer doesn’t need to add the letter onto GO, but will need to update GO to show they’ve seen and accepted it. They can then add the new volunteer role on GO, and destroy the letter.

What if there’s a concern about the young member’s suitability? 

If anyone raises a concern about the young member’s suitability to volunteer, it’s important to consider this carefully. It may be that the young member needs reasonable adjustments or has support needs. Find out more about including members with additional needs.

If anyone raises a safeguarding concern, the recruiting volunteer must contact our HQ safeguarding team. If there are concerns about the young member’s conduct, contact your local commissioner or our HQ complaints and compliance team for advice and support.

What’s the reference process?

All new adult volunteers, and volunteers returning to Girlguiding after more than 12 months, need two suitable character references.

A character reference is about whether the person has the qualities we look for in our volunteers. It’s different to an employment reference, which confirms where someone worked and for how long. A colleague or employer can provide a character reference.

The person who gives the reference is called a referee.

You must make sure:

  • Your referees understand what they need to do
  • You have the referees’ permission to give their contact details to Girlguiding

Once you’ve provided your referees’ contact details, the recruiting volunteer will add these onto GO. There’s information in our GO help files on how to do this.

Girlguiding HQ will then send your referees a questionnaire by post or email for them to fill in. Referees must respond using the questionnaire. If this is a problem for your referee, the recruiting volunteer should contact our HQ disclosures team. We can then look at other options, like a phone interview.

Your referee must:

  • Answer every question in the questionnaire
  • Return the questionnaire within 60 days of Girlguiding HQ sending it. If not, the reference will be declined. We’ll send a reminder after 30 days if we haven’t had a response

If your referee doesn’t receive their questionnaire, ask them to check their email junk folder.

The questionnaire will ask the referee:

  • How well they know you.
  • If you’re suitable to work with young people.
  • If you’re responsible, honest, respectful of others and able to work as part of a team.
  • If you’re suitable to handle finances and money.
  • If there’s any reason why Girlguiding shouldn’t allow you to volunteer with us.
  • To confirm that the information they’ve given is true to the best of their knowledge.

Our HQ complaints and compliance team may contact your referee if we need more details from them about their answers.

Who can be a referee?

Referees must:

  • Be over 18-years-old.
  • Not be a relative. This includes being related to someone through a spouse or partner.
  • Have known the person for at least a year.
  • Have been in contact with the person within the last six months in person or by phone, social media or video call.

Only one of the two referees can know the volunteer or the enquirer through Girlguiding.

What happens if a reference isn’t accepted?

Sometimes references aren’t accepted. This might be because the referee didn’t meet the requirements listed above, or they didn’t respond within 60 days. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t allow the enquirer to join Girlguiding.

If a reference is marked as unsuitable, the commissioner will receive a GO communication asking them to add a new referee. The commissioner or recruiting volunteer can add the details for two alternative referees if others are marked unsuitable. If the person still doesn’t receive two satisfactory references, HQ will contact them to discuss further.

If a referee’s answers raise any concerns, our HQ complaints and compliance team may contact them to discuss this.

What’s the process for criminal record disclosure checks?

Why do our volunteers need to have disclosure checks and what are my responsibilities?

Most Girlguiding volunteering roles involve contact with children or young people. This means our volunteers need to complete a disclosure check to confirm that they aren’t legally barred from taking on the role.

The links below show which of our roles need a disclosure check, based on legal guidance about working with children and young people:

Any volunteer staying overnight at an event must be on GO in an appropriate role and have a valid disclosure check.

If you’re the recruiting volunteer, you’re responsible for making sure that new volunteers complete their disclosure check, in line with our Recruitment and vetting policy.

If you’re a commissioner, you’re responsible for making sure that:

  • Existing volunteers undergo re-checks as required
  • Volunteers changing roles complete checks for their new role
  • Young members under 18 aren’t left alone or in charge of a unit. This includes young volunteers. Find out more about working with young volunteers

It’s unlawful to ask someone to undergo a criminal record check unless their role requires it.

Girlguiding doesn’t accept previously issued disclosure checks. This is because the information on each disclosure certificate depends on the organisation or workplace the disclosure check was carried out for. A check done for another organisation might not include all the information we need.

Which disclosure check do volunteers need?

The type of disclosure check you need will depend on the country you live or volunteer in.

  • Volunteers in England and Wales need a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check
  • Volunteers in Scotland join Disclosure Scotland’s Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.
  • Volunteers in Northern Ireland need an AccessNI check.
  • Checks will vary for people volunteering for British Girlguiding Overseas. Commissioners and recruiting volunteers are responsible for making sure the correct checks are completed.

Girlguiding doesn’t participate in the DBS update service. The PVG scheme works differently, and updates are automatically provided to Girlguiding HQ. This means PVGs don’t need to be re-checked. Access NI doesn’t provide an update service.

Completing your disclosure application

Girlguiding’s disclosure check process is triggered when:

  • A role needing a disclosure check is added to a volunteer’s record on GO, unless they already have a valid check for the relevant area.
  • A volunteer needs a re-check.

It’s important to make a start as soon as possible. There can be delays while your local police force reviews your disclosure check.

Part of the process is meeting with an ID verifier, who will check your identity documents. Any adult volunteer can become an ID verifier. It can help to speed up the disclosure check process if there are lots of ID verifiers in your local area.

ID verifiers must check our guidance on the role, including what documents you can accept. Contact our HQ disclosures team for advice if the new enquirer or existing volunteer is having difficulty providing identity documents.

Timeline for disclosure checks

If you need a disclosure check or re-check you’ll receive communications to inform and remind you to complete this. If you haven't started the disclosure check by the 120th day, your membership will be withdrawn or refused.   

Commissioners will receive messages from GO asking them to support volunteers to complete their check. They can also give a reason the volunteer can't complete it.

Check the full timeline here.


Adult volunteers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland must complete a disclosure check if:

  • Your re-check is due. This is required every three years
  • You’re returning to guiding after a break of three years or more
  • Our HQ safeguarding or complaints and compliance team asks you to complete one

Adult volunteers in Scotland who have joined the PVG scheme won’t need to undergo any re-checks. The PVG scheme automatically updates Girlguiding with new information. But volunteers must keep PVG updated about changes in circumstances. This includes any changes of name or address. You may be breaking the law if you don’t do this. Find out more on the website.

Paper DBS certificates

We encourage you to complete your DBS application online as it’s faster, more convenient and more secure. If this isn’t possible, you’ll need to submit a paper application. When you receive your certificate in the post you must send the original to Girlguiding HQ, for the attention of the disclosures team and by registered post.

Our HQ disclosures team needs to review the certificate before your disclosure check can be marked as completed.

Having information on your disclosure certificate doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t volunteer with Girlguiding.

If you have information on your certificate, the relevant disclosure body will automatically let our HQ complaints and compliance team know. We’ll then write to you and ask you to send the original certificate to us. This is so we can carry out a risk assessment.

We recommend anyone sending certificates to Girlguiding HQ uses tracked or registered post.

Until the vetting process is complete and HQ confirms that you have been accepted, you mustn’t carry out the role unsupervised. You must follow any time frames given by our HQ complaints and compliance team.

Failure to comply may lead to your application being refused or your membership being withdrawn. Our HQ complaints and compliance team will inform the county commissioner and chief commissioner before taking this action.

The risk assessment

Our HQ complaints and compliance team will do a risk assessment. This may include a phone interview between you and members of the team.

If the caution or conviction on the certificate relates to harm to children or adults, we’ll look at this in line with our Safeguarding policy.

Following the risk assessment, we may decide to:

  • Refuse your membership
  • Allow you to become a volunteer, but with some restrictions to your role
  • Take no further action


Restrictions can include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Not handling finances
  • Not driving a vehicle to transport young members
  • Not having unsupervised access to young members

Our complaints and compliance team will write to you about the restriction and its terms. We’ll also make your county commissioner aware of the restriction, so they can make sure it’s followed locally. But we won’t tell them about the information on the certificate.

For more information, take a look at our Managing concerns about adult volunteers policy and procedure.

If you or someone you have a significant relationship with becomes involved in an investigation carried out by the police, social services, an employer, or another organisation you volunteer for, you must inform your commissioner or the relevant HQ team without delay. Commissioners must pass on this information to HQ.

If the investigation is about any child or adult safeguarding allegation, concern or disclosure, speak to our HQ safeguarding team. You must report other investigations to our HQ complaints and compliance team.

Someone you have a ‘significant relationship’ with includes, but isn’t limited to, family members, partners, and members of the same household.

When recruitment and vetting checks are complete

We’ll either accept the new enquirer or existing volunteer, or refuse or withdraw their membership.


When the relevant checks are complete, Girlguiding HQ will confirm you’ve been accepted.

The relevant HQ team will communicate separately about any conditions, such as a restriction on your role. This is to keep information confidential.

Refusal or withdrawal

If you don’t complete the recruitment and vetting process, or your checks aren’t satisfactory, our HQ complaints and compliance team will let you know in writing that we’ve refused your application to become a Girlguiding volunteer. If you’re already a volunteer, your membership will be withdrawn. The letter or email will explain the reasons for this.

The team will let your county commissioner know. The country or region chief commissioner will also check and approve any decision to withdraw an existing volunteer.  

What about other types of volunteers?

Anyone in a volunteering role must be registered on GO. You must never leave visitors to your unit who aren’t registered as volunteers alone with young members. Share our unit safeguarding guidelines with anyone who isn’t a registered volunteer. And remember that any visitor running a session will need to fill out an external visitor form.

Helpers at residentials

Any adult volunteer staying overnight with young members must be in a role requiring a disclosure check and have completed the recruitment and vetting process. They can be registered on GO as a unit, district, division or county helper.

In exceptional circumstances, the chief commissioner and HQ complaints and compliance team may allow a volunteer to attend a residential event without having a current Girlguiding disclosure check. This only applies to volunteers requiring a re-check, not to new enquirers.

For this to happen, the following conditions must be met:

  1. Our HQ complaints and compliance team and the chief commissioner make the decision and give permission together.
  2. Our HQ team and the chief commissioner complete a risk assessment.
  3. Our HQ team and the chief commissioner consider if extra conditions or measures are needed to reduce risk. The HQ team will let the volunteer and event organiser know about these in writing. They must agree to them.

Our HQ complaints and compliance team can override the disclosure field on GO so the commissioner can approve the REN form. Ideally the REN form should be completed on GO so that this is officially logged.

Parent and carer helpers

Lots of parents and carers love to help out at unit meetings or on day trips. If they’re helping a maximum of twice a term and are never left unsupervised with young members, they don’t need to register as a volunteer on GO or complete recruitment checks.

But if they’d like to get involved more often or attend a residential event, they’ll need to register as a volunteer and go through the recruitment and vetting process. If they’re helping more than twice a term they legally need to undergo these checks.

Find out more about involving parents.

Volunteers under 18

Volunteers under the age of 18, like young leaders and young external volunteers, don’t need to have references or a disclosure check. This is because they are still young members.

But young volunteers do need to be registered as volunteers on GO. And they need to complete A Safe Space training before their role can be made active. Find out more about our A Safe Space training for under 18s and working with young volunteers.

Working with other organisations

Organisations we work with may have different approaches to recruitment and vetting. When working with other organisations, like the Trefoil Guild, or hiring external activity providers, you must make sure their vetting processes are in line with Girlguiding’s.

If you have any concerns, speak to your commissioner or contact our HQ complaints and compliance team. And don’t forget to follow our guidance on visitors at unit meetings and events.