Changes to our health, safety and welfare policy

We recently asked for your views on our health, safety and welfare policy and procedures. And we’ve updated the policy based on your feedback and youth sector guidance.

04 August 2021

Earlier this year we put out a consultation on this policy. And we heard from 2,132 members – thank you all for taking the time to give us your feedback.

You told us that we should take out areas that were open to interpretation and make the policy easier to understand. To help with this, we've added definitions to explain what we mean by some of the terms we use when doing risk assessments.

We've also clarified when Girlguiding provides insurance, and when you might need to take out additional insurance.

The biggest change to the policy is that it's no longer allowed to hold meetings in private homes and gardens when members under 18 are involved. This includes meetings with adults only, such as planning meetings and district or division meetings, where a person under 18 is present.

Throughout our history volunteers have occasionally shared their homes and gardens for girls to meet in. But now, two things have happened. Firstly, our disclosure checks do not support having meetings with young people in volunteers’ homes and gardens. And secondly, we’ve had clarification on changing safeguarding guidance across the youth sector and that means using these private spaces is no longer appropriate.

This also means that any private home or garden that has been a Girlguiding approved venue can no longer be used.

During the Covid-19 lockdown, and as restrictions have started to ease, there’s been discussion across the youth sector about meeting venues. The resulting safeguarding best practice and updated guidance is that it's not appropriate for youth organisation meetings to take place in the private residence of trusted adults.

For example, the most recent addition to this body of evidence is the new guidance from the National Youth Agency (NYA) which is the Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) for youth work in England, which explains the rationale behind the changed best practice.

This guidance is on top of the need for disclosure checks. Currently none of our volunteer roles have had the level of disclosure check needed for volunteers to work with children and young people in their private homes and gardens.

This guidance also means that it's not permitted to use a toilet inside a private home or garden, even if the meeting is being held nearby. If the safest route to a field or woodland is through a private garden, it is ok to use this route, and we recommend that a parent or carer goes with the young member.

We know that you'll have questions about individual situations, contact volunteer support on [email protected] if you have questions that aren't answered here. 

This is not a decision that we’ve taken lightly, and we understand that it will have a significant impact on some units. If you need to find a new meeting venue as a result of this decision or because your usual meeting place is not available anymore, see our advice.

We will continue to work with the youth sector and disclosure bodies to see if adjustments can be made to include under 18s at planning meetings. In the meantime you could hold your planning meetings on Zoom, in the local park or after your unit meeting at your usual venue.

If you have any questions, contact [email protected]

Summary of other changes

We've made some other changes in response to your feedback.

Style and layout

  • Reorganised and re-worded the statement of purpose, which explains what the policy is for
  • Moved definitions towards the top of the page so you can read them before the main policy text

Language and definitions

  • Explained what we mean by "hazards, severity, risk and mitigations"
  • Explained what we mean by “common law” and “so far as reasonably practicable”
  • Clearer information about meeting in private homes and gardens
  • Explaining that unit meetings cannot meet in private homes and gardens
  • Explaining what we mean by “private homes and gardens”

Other changes

  • Made it easier to understand when Girlguiding provides insurance and when volunteers may need to take out insurance themselves.

Summary of changes to Health, safety and welfare procedures

  • Updated the Be prepared: Health and safety PDF - Advice for managers and owners of small Girlguiding properties guidance
  • Included a link to guidance on finding a new meeting venue after lockdown
  • Added the new venue checklist
  • Updated red emergency file references to the emergency file checklist
  • Added the new wellbeing action plan and guidance
  • Included links to adjustment plans for young members and volunteers
  • Included link to the updated online meeting checklist and risk assessment
  • Updated the getting permission page which now includes how you get permission for online meetings.
  • Included links to the updated residential event notification (REN) forms