Managing Concerns about Adult Volunteers procedures

Information for Commissioners on how to apply the Managing Concerns about Adult Volunteers policy

Statement of purpose

As a commissioner for Girlguiding you must sometimes apply sanctions to adult volunteers or investigate adult volunteer conduct, in line with Girlguiding's Managing concerns about adult volunteers policy.

These procedures explain how to apply the above policy.

Step 1 - Proactive management where appropriate

As a commissioner, when you are aware of concerns about an adult volunteer - even if you are not aware that the adult volunteer has failed to meet Girlguiding's expectations - you should arrange to meet with the adult volunteer and discuss these concerns as soon as possible. This may prevent further or ongoing failures to meet our expectations. It may also help an adult volunteer understand what is expected of them. For more guidance on this you should read Approaching sensitive conversations.

You may wish to consider:

  • what additional support or training the adult volunteer may need
  • whether the adult volunteer should take a break from volunteering or reduce their commitment for a time
  • when to review/check in with the adult volunteer.

You must also make notes of any meeting and follow up with an email or letter confirming what was discussed and the agreed actions. Always make sure these are signed to show agreement and commitment to the actions.

Step 2 - The investigation

As a commissioner/investigator you will need to carry out an investigation when Girlguiding considers that an adult volunteer may not have met our expectations. (To do this, the investigator will be chosen because they are impartial and unbiased.)   

There are the following procedures for conducting an investigation.

  • The investigator MUST follow the relevant procedures. Where the incident or concern relates to safeguarding, complaints or whistleblowing you must follow the relevant policy and procedure.
  • You must try to meet with or talk to the adult volunteer as part of your investigation. The adult volunteer may wish to be accompanied by a friend or colleague at any meetings relating to the investigation.  If the volunteer refuses to speak with you, write to them to confirm this.
  • You must give the adult volunteer details in writing of the behaviour they are investigating and how it fails to meet our expectations; provide any evidence relied on (where possible) and explain what will happen next in the investigation process.
  • You must give the adult volunteer an opportunity to respond to the issues and evidence and put forward their own case such as their explanation for their behaviour and provide any evidence they may have to support their case.
  • You will usually contact and meet with all relevant and identifiable parties. You may also seek the support or involvement of outside agencies if appropriate (for example, where there is a suspicion of criminal activity).
  • You must communicate the investigation result to the adult volunteer in line with the relevant policy and procedures (safeguardingcomplaints or whistleblowing).
  • If at any time during the course of an investigation new information emerges that suggestions there could be a safeguarding issue or that a crime has been committed, the investigation will stop immediately and you will need to contact the Safeguarding team immediately. You do not need to be certain that there is a safeguarding risk or criminal activity; a suspicion is sufficient to halt the investigation.

The sanctions

Girlguiding will consider what sanctions are appropriate. This will depend on the seriousness of the issue and the likelihood of the volunteer exposing Girlguiding or any of its members or volunteers to risk if the adult volunteer continues in their role during or after the investigation. 

The following sanctions may be applied to adult volunteers (Girlguiding may adjust them if we consider it necessary).

Download the table of sanctions for managing concerns to see the sanctions at a glance.

You can find the templates for each sanction in our Managing concerns about adult volunteers resources.

When is a suspension applied?

A suspension is a temporary measure. It must be used when an investigation is ongoing into an alleged failure to meet our Expectations which Girlguiding considers to be serious, for example where there is a concern that Young Members or adults are in danger or at risk of harm, or where there is a risk of harm to the reputation of Girlguiding. Suspension can be applied immediately on the opening of an investigation or when the Region/Country Chief Commissioner and relevant HQ officer considers it necessary.

Procedure Commissioner must complete for a suspension

  • Contact relevant HQ team for advice and support.
  • Complete a Restriction Form.
  • Restriction Form signed off by Region/Country Chief Commissioner and HQ.
  • Tell the Adult Volunteer this has happened and what this means to them.
  • HQ send a letter to the Adult Volunteer explaining what this means to them.
  • HQ record the suspension on GO!
  • Advise other leaders within the unit of the suspension.
  • Send a letter to the parents of the unit, where relevant (check with HQ).

When is a warning applied?

A warning is a written caution. This is normally issued by a Commissioner in respect of behaviour which is, in the reasonable opinion of Girlguiding, unsatisfactory.  

How is a warning applied?

A warning will set out the grounds for concern. It may require the Adult Volunteer to meet certain conditions (for example, to make a written apology) or agree to an improvement plan (see below) and a timeframe for taking action. 

A warning will record the history of previous failures to meet our Expectations and any action taken. It will also explain that further failures to meet our Expectations may lead to suspension or withdrawal of membership or dismissal as a volunteer.

Procedure Commissioner/Investigator must complete for a warning

  • Use template to create a letter for the Adult Volunteer stating the warning and reasons for it.
  • Meet with the Adult Volunteer and explain the warning and what it means.
  • Send the letter to the Adult Volunteer.Review the Adult Volunteer's conduct.
  • Commissioner to keep a record which should be passed on to her successor.
  • HQ keep a record (where involved or notified).

When is a restriction applied?

A restriction of an Adult Volunteer’s role may be applied where:

  • Girlguiding is undertaking an investigation but does not consider that suspension is necessary
  • as a result of or in the course of an investigation under one of Girlguiding’s policies
  • no investigation is necessary but where the Adult Volunteer acknowledges they have not met Girlguiding Expectations
  • where Girlguiding reasonably believes it is necessary to do so as a result of the Adult Volunteer’s circumstances, for example, bankruptcy or a recent driving or theft offence.

How is a restriction applied?

A restriction may involve the Adult Volunteer's role being specifically limited, so that certain activities or responsibilities are not allowed.

Or the Adult Volunteer may be limited to a particular role, for example, they step down from Unit Leader to Assistant Leader, they do not run international trips or do not work directly with girls/Young Members (an administrative role only).

Procedure for a restriction

  • Contact relevant HQ officer for advice.
  • Complete a Restriction Form.
  • Restriction Form signed off by Region/Country Chief Commissioner and HQ.
  • Tell the Adult Volunteer this has happened and what this means to them.
  • HQ send a letter to the Adult Volunteer explaining what this means to them.
  • HQ will place restriction on GO!
  • Advise other leaders within the unit of the suspension.
  • Send a letter to the parents of the unit, where relevant.
  • Records to be kept by HQ and Commissioner.

When is an improvement plan applied?

Girlguiding may identify areas for improvement that the Adult Volunteer must demonstrate. This will usually be where a warning is issued or a temporary restriction imposed. 

How is an improvement plan applied?

An improvement plan sets out the actions required to address areas identified for improvement. These could include re-training, having sessions observed, or being mentored.

  • It sets out the dates by which those actions must be completed.
  • It states what will happen if the actions are not completed as required and within the required timeframe. For example where an improvement plan is used together with a temporary restriction, the restriction will remain in effect until all actions in the improvement plan are completed.
  • It sets out the date(s) on which the improvement plan and the Adult Volunteer’s progress will be reviewed and by whom.
  • The improvement plan must be agreed with the Adult Volunteer.
  • The Commissioner who is managing the process must confirm in writing where the Adult Volunteer completes the plan satisfactorily. They must also then review for removal any related temporary restriction

Where the proposed improvement plan is not agreed or not completed as required and within the required timeframe, Girlguiding may either:

  • agree variations to the improvement plan with the Adult Volunteer; or
  • apply any further restrictions set out in this policy if it considers that the Adult Volunteer is not making progress or is refusing to cooperate.

When is withdrawal and dismissal applied?

Where Girlguiding considers that there has been a serious breach of our Expectations or where the Adult Volunteer has not complied with restrictions or sanctions applied under the policy.

How is withdrawal and dismissal applied?

If the above applies, Girlguiding may:

  • withdraw membership
  • inform a volunteer that they cannot continue to volunteer with Girlguiding.

Girlguiding will inform the Adult Volunteer of their right to appeal withdrawal or dismissal in accordance with the Managing Adult Membership policy

An Adult Volunteer who has had their membership withdrawn or informed they cannot continue to volunteer with Girlguiding and may not reapply within three years of their dismissal/withdrawal. After that time, if they wish to re-apply they must contact HQ for permission.

Procedure Commissioner must complete for withdrawal and dismissal

  • Contact HQ for advice and support.
  • A Restriction form is completed.
  • Restriction form signed off by Region/Country Chief Commissioner and HQ.
  • Tell the Adult Volunteer this has happened and what this means to them.
  • HQ send a letter to the Adult Volunteer explaining what this means to them.
  • HQ update GO!
  • Advise other Unit Leaders the volunteer has left Girlguiding.
  • Send a letter to the parents of the unit, where relevant.
  • HQ and Commissioner to keep records.

Who conducts an appeal?

An appeal will be held impartially. The panel will be a team of volunteers who has not been previously involved in the matter.

What are the procedures of an appeal?

  • An appeal must be made in writing to the Director of Operations or Chief Guide and within 28 days of the volunteer being advised. It must set out in detail why the withdrawal or dismissal is wrong or unjust and enclose any new evidence or information relied on.  The Director of Operations or Chief Guide will delegate to an impartial person or panel to review.
  • Girlguiding may need to carry out further investigation. Girlguiding will always aim to provide Adult Volunteers with a summary of any new information that comes to light.
  • The Adult Volunteer will normally have a reasonable opportunity to consider and comment on this information before the appeal is determined.
  • The appeal may be a complete re-hearing of the matter, or it may be a review of the fairness of the original decision in the light of the procedure that was followed and any new information that may have come to light. This will be at Girlguiding’s discretion depending on the circumstances of the case and the Adult Volunteer will be informed of the decision.

Following the appeal Girlguiding may:

  • confirm the original decision
  • revoke the original decision
  • amend the original sanction
  • substitute a different sanction 

The appeal is the final stage of the process.

How should I support the Adult Volunteer?

  • Be mindful of how distressing an alleged breach of Expectations may be for an Adult Volunteer. For example, where an Adult Volunteer is suspended from their role they will not be able to attend Girlguiding events or meetings and this may result in isolation from their social network. 
  • Encourage an Adult Volunteer who is concerned about their physical or emotional health to seek support from their GP. 
  • You must always try to have a face to face meeting or at least telephone call with the volunteer or member before writing to tell them about a sanction. They may have questions about what it means for them and the process, so let them know who they can contact and refer them to the Managing Concerns about Adult Volunteers policy.

How will young members and parents be affected?

Where a Leader is suspended or has their membership withdrawn there will be an impact on others in the unit, and more widely. You should consider who will be affected and how, and inform those affected who they should contact for queries about the unit.

Published: 10 May 2017

Girlguiding policies and procedures are reviewed and updated from time to time as part of a review cycle.