Managing concerns about adult volunteers procedures
How the managing concerns about adult volunteers policy is applied
As a commissioner for Girlguiding you must sometimes investigate adult volunteer conduct, in line with Girlguiding's managing concerns about adult volunteers policy.
These procedures explain how to apply this policy.
As a commissioner, when you are aware of concerns about an adult volunteer you should arrange for those concerns to be investigated and where appropriate, addressed as soon as practical and in line with Girlguiding’s investigation procedure.
It is important to establish whether those concerns should be dismissed or upheld, this must be done even if it is not clear whether an adult volunteer has failed to meet Girlguiding’s expectations (see definition under managing concerns about adult volunteers’ policy).
Dealing with concerns as soon as you are made aware of them may prevent any further or ongoing failures to meet Girlguiding expectations. It may also help an adult volunteer understand what is expected of them.
Where an informal resolution (see our investigation procedure) is not possible you may need to carry out a formal investigation. You must seek advice from the relevant team at HQ and your region team, they will advise and support you on whether it is appropriate to ask another commissioner, member of your team, or independent person to carry out this formal investigation.
This procedure does not apply to live cases being led, and investigated, by statutory agencies such as police or the local authority.
The investigation procedure
When Girlguiding considers that an adult volunteer may not have met our expectations, an investigation must be carried out to establish whether those concerns are dismissed or upheld.
Anyone receiving or investigating a concern must follow the investigation procedure.
As part of this investigation procedure you must give the adult volunteer details in writing of the behaviour being investigated 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.
Following the outcome of an investigation 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 they continue in their role during or after the investigation.
In most cases, the decision to place a sanction on a volunteer’s role is made by the county commissioner in discussion with the relevant team at HQ. Some sanctions must be approved by the region/country chief commissioner, as detailed below.
If an adult volunteer’s role changes whilst they have a sanction in place, GO will send an automated update to the team at HQ, who may contact the county commissioner or adult volunteer if they need more information.
The following sanctions may be applied to adult volunteers (Girlguiding can adjust them if necessary).
Where we refer to a membership withdrawal, this applies to volunteers who are also members of Girlguiding. Where we refer to a dismissal, this applies to volunteers who are not members.
When is a suspension applied?
A suspension from a volunteering role and/or membership of Girlguiding is a temporary measure. It's a neutral act designed to protect the investigation subject, the organisation, and our members.
A suspension might be applied as soon as an investigation begins, or during the course of an investigation when the region/country chief commissioner and relevant HQ staff member decide it's necessary. Once the decision to place a suspension has been approved by the region/country chief, the volunteer must be informed and the suspension put in place within 48 hours, or before the next unit meeting or event, whichever is sooner.
We may suspend someone following an alleged failure to meet our expectations which Girlguiding considers to be serious. This could be 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. Suspensions will be used to mitigate these risks. Suspensions may also be used to protect the investigation subjects during the investigation stage.
We can apply a suspension immediately on the opening of an investigation, or when the region/country chief commissioner and relevant HQ staff member considers it necessary.
When we suspend an adult volunteer, they remain an active member of Girlguiding but are can't continue their roles and responsibilities. They must not attend any meetings or events run by Girlguiding or make contact with any young members, adult volunteers or parents and carers about matters relating to, or about, Girlguiding activities, until further notice. This'll be detailed in a suspension letter sent to the adult volunteer by HQ.
What is the procedure for a suspension?
- The commissioner contacts relevant HQ region or country team for advice and support, or Girlguiding are advised of safeguarding concerns by a statutory agency.
- The HQ team complete a sanction form. In most circumstances this will be approved by the region/country chief commissioner before the suspension is applied. If urgent action is required, a suspension may be put in place before the chief commissioner has approved this.
- The commissioner informs the adult volunteer this has happened, and what this means to them. This should be done in person where possible.
- Once the adult volunteer has been informed, HQ sends a suspension letter to them explaining what this means. HQ records the suspension on GO.
The commissioner advises other leaders and sends letter to parents and carers, where relevant. Templates and support can be sent out by HQ.
Reviewing a suspension
A suspension is a temporary measure so it should be reviewed following the outcome of an investigation. The investigation may result in no further action being taken, or sanctions might be put in place.
The adult volunteer should receive an update about the situation at least every two months. A suspension should be formally reviewed, and an explanation as to why it remains in place given, every four months. An update can be in writing, by letter or email, or during a face to face meeting.
The adult volunteer should be given the opportunity to present information about any change in circumstances which might affect the outcome of the investigation.
When does Girlguiding give formal advice?
Girlguiding gives formal advice about behaviour which is, in the reasonable opinion of Girlguiding, unsatisfactory, explaining the reason for concern. A commissioner gives this advice verbally and follows it up in writing.
What does formal advice include?
Girlguiding must give formal advice about grounds for concern in writing. The advice may include:
- Requirement for 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 record of the history of previous failures to meet our expectations and any action taken.
- It will also explain that further failure(s) to meet our expectations may lead to consideration of suspension or withdrawal of membership or dismissal as a volunteer.
What is the procedure for a commissioner?
- The commissioner contacts the relevant HQ/ region or country team for advice and support, where necessary.
- Talk with the adult volunteer and explain why the formal advice is being given and what it means.
- Use this template to create a letter for the adult volunteer outlining the concern, reasons for it and the conditions they must follow.
- Send the letter to the adult volunteer.
- Review the adult volunteer's behaviour as set out in the letter, and following any timetable or deadlines set.
- A copy of the formal advice letter must be sent to the relevant team at HQ so details can be added to the adult volunteer’s GO record.
Can formal advice be reviewed?
A record of any formal advice, which has been placed on an adult volunteer’s GO record, will remain in place for a minimum of one year. After this the adult volunteer can request a review from their commissioner.
The decision on whether this record should be removed will depend on whether the concern has been fully resolved, and if any conditions put in place have been followed.
You must contact the relevant team at HQ for the formal advice record to be reviewed and removed from an adult volunteer’s GO record.
When is a restriction applied?
We apply a restriction of an adult volunteer’s role where:
- Girlguiding is carrying out an investigation but does not consider that suspension is necessary
- as a result of or during an investigation under one of Girlguiding’s policies
- where the adult volunteer acknowledges they have not met Girlguiding expectations.
- where Girlguiding reasonably believes it is necessary as a result of the adult volunteer’s circumstances, for example, bankruptcy or a recent driving or criminal offence.
How is a restriction applied?
Restrict activities or responsibilities: The adult volunteer's role is specifically limited, so some activities or responsibilities are not allowed or restricted.
Change role: Alternatively, the adult volunteer may be limited to a particular role, for example, they must step down from leader to unit helper; they don’t run international trips; they don’t work directly with young members or they take on an admin role only.
Girlguiding will inform the adult volunteer of their right to appeal a restriction, in accordance with the appeals and review process.
What is the procedure for a restriction?
The commissioner contacts relevant HQ/ region or country team for advice and support.
- The HQ team complete a sanction form, which must be approved by the region/country chief commissioner before the restriction is applied.
- The commissioner informs the adult volunteer this has happened, and what this means to them. This should be done in person where possible.
- Once the adult volunteer has been informed, HQ sends a restriction letter to them, explaining what this means. HQ records details of the restriction on GO.
- The commissioner advises other leaders, only where relevant being careful regarding not sharing inappropriate personal information.
Can a restriction be reviewed?
Most restrictions are permanent sanctions. However, the adult volunteer may request a review from their commissioner after three years, or after a relevant, significant change in circumstances from the date the restriction was put in place.
Temporary restrictions may be put in place for concerns which are time limited. In cases like this, the review date must be agreed and approved by the region/country chief commissioner at the time the restriction is placed. A commissioner must ensure the temporary restriction is reviewed at the agreed time and should pass on any details to their successor should their role change.
As a commissioner, you must contact the relevant team at HQ to request a restriction is removed from an adult volunteer’s GO record. They will advise and support on the review process including any risk assessment, support plan or other information to be considered.
When is an improvement plan applied?
Girlguiding may ask the adult volunteer to make certain improvements. This will usually be where formal advice is issued or a temporary restriction imposed.
How is an improvement plan applied?
An improvement plan sets out the actions needed to address areas identified for improvement. These could include re-training, having sessions observed, or being mentored.
- It gives dates for actions to be completed.
- It explains what will happen if the actions are not completed as and when required. For example, where there’s an improvement plan and a temporary restriction, the restriction will remain until all actions in the improvement plan are completed.
- It gives date(s) to review the improvement plan and the adult volunteer’s progress - and who will do this.
- You must discuss and agree the improvement plan with the adult volunteer.
- You must confirm in writing when the adult volunteer completes the plan satisfactorily. You must review the improvement plan before removing any related restriction.
- If the adult volunteer doesn’t complete the improvement plan as and when required you may, in discussion with the relevant team at HQ, either:
- Consider changes to the improvement plan with the adult volunteer.
- Apply further sanctions set out in this policy if we believe the adult volunteer is not making progress or cooperating.
What is the procedure for an improvement plan?
- You should follow the formal advice procedure if you need to give formal advice with the improvement plan.
- You should follow the restrictions procedure if there is a restriction along with the improvement plan.
- You must talk with the adult volunteer - to agree the improvement plan and explain what this means to them. You should do this in person where possible.
- You then send a copy of the improvement plan to the relevant team at HQ so they can put details on the adult volunteer’s GO profile.
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
- where a volunteer is not a member, Girlguiding may dismiss them which means they cannot continue to volunteer with Girlguiding.
Girlguiding will inform the adult volunteer of their right to appeal a withdrawal or dismissal.
An adult volunteer who has been informed they cannot continue to volunteer with Girlguiding or who has had their membership withdrawn may reapply after three years from the date of their withdrawal/ dismissal, or after a relevant, significant change in circumstances from the date the withdrawal or dismissal took place. After that time, if they wish to re-apply they must contact HQ for permission.
What is the procedure for withdrawal and dismissal?
The county commissioner contacts relevant HQ/region or country team for advice and support when they become aware of a serious breach.
The HQ team complete a sanction form, which must be approved by the region/country chief commissioner before the withdrawal/ dismissal is applied.
The county commissioner informs the adult volunteer this has happened and what the sanction means in practice. (This should be done in person where possible.)
Once the adult volunteer has been informed, HQ sends a withdrawal letter to them explaining what this means. HQ records details of the withdrawal/ dismissal on GO.
County commissioner advises other leaders appropriately and where relevant and sends letter to parents/carers, where relevant and following guidance from country/region/HQ.
In some cases, Girlguiding have a legal duty to make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), Access NI or Disclosure Scotland following a withdrawal of membership. Where this is the case the adult volunteer will be informed by the HQ team. For more information on this please visit the gov.uk website.
Appealing a withdrawal, dismissal or restriction
How should I support an adult volunteer when sanctions are put in place?
Be mindful that an alleged breach of expectations may be distressing for an adult volunteer. For example, if an adult volunteer is suspended from their role they won't be able to attend Girlguiding events or meetings and this might isolate them from their social network.
If appropriate, the volunteer will be offered support from a safe practice liaison volunteer within seven days of being informed of the investigation. The safe practice liaison volunteer will offer emotional support during the investigation, acting as a sounding board and attending meetings with the adult volunteer when needed.
Encourage an adult volunteer who's concerned about their physical or mental health to seek support from their GP. Seek additional support and signposting from Girlguiding HQ. Any adult volunteer whose role has been suspended or withdrawn will be offered access to external, confidential and free wellbeing support from HQ.
Information regarding an investigation or sanction must be handled sensitively and in line with Girlguiding’s managing information policy.
Always try to have a face to face meeting or a telephone call with the volunteer or member before writing to tell them about a sanction. They might 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. You can find guidance about approaching honest conversations here.
How will other volunteers, young members and parents and carers be affected?
If an adult volunteer is suspended or has their membership withdrawn there will be an impact on others in their unit and area.
You should consider who will be affected and how, so you can tell those affected and explain who they should contact for queries about the unit.