Managing concerns about adult volunteers procedures

How the managing concerns about adult volunteers policy is applied

Statement of purpose

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.

Be proactive

As a commissioner, when you are aware of concerns about an adult volunteer you should arrange to discuss these concerns with them as soon as possible.

This is even if you aren’t sure that they have failed to meet Girlguiding's expectations (see definition under managing concerns about adult volunteers’ policy). This may prevent further or ongoing failures to meet our expectations. It may also help an adult volunteer understand what is expected of them. You can find more guidance on this at Approaching sensitive conversations.

You may want 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 give an honest and fair outline of the concern to the adult volunteer and let them respond. You must also make notes of any meeting and follow it up with an email or letter confirming what you discussed and what actions you agreed. Always make sure these are signed by you and the adult volunteer, to show agreement and commitment to the actions (emailed confirmations are acceptable).

What is the investigation procedure?

When Girlguiding considers that an adult volunteer may not have met our expectations an investigation into those concerns must be carried out to establish the circumstances, and whether those concerns are dismissed or upheld. Investigators can be a commissioner or an independent investigator, in all cases they must be impartial and unbiased.

You must follow this procedure:

  • You must follow the relevant procedures. Where the concern relates to safeguarding, complaints or whistleblowing you must follow the relevant policy and procedure.
  • You must try to 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 you 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 talk with all parties. You may also seek the support of outside agencies if appropriate (for example, where there is a suspicion of criminal activity).
  • You must let the adult volunteer know the investigation result, in line with the relevant policy and procedures (safeguarding, complaints or whistleblowing).
  • If at any time during the course of an investigation new information emerges that suggests there could be a safeguarding issue or that a crime has been committed, you must contact a safeguarding advisor immediately. You don’t need to be certain that there is a safeguarding risk or criminal activity - a suspicion is enough to suspend the investigation until you have taken advice.

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 they continue in their role during or after the investigation. 

You need to let the relevant team at HQ know any concerns which are likely to result in a sanction. This is so they can give advice and guidance and put a record of the sanction on an adult volunteer’s GO record.

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)

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

Where we refer to a membership withdrawal, this applies to volunteers who are also members of Girlguiding. Where we referral 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.

We may suspend someone, for example, during an investigation into 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.

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 unable to continue their roles and responsibilities; they must not attend any meetings or events run by Girlguiding or make contact with any girl members, until further notice.

What is the procedure for a suspension?

  • 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 suspension 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.)
  • HQ sends suspension letter to the adult volunteer explaining what this means to them.
  • HQ records the suspension on GO.
  • The commissioner advises other leaders and sends letter to parents, where relevant.

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 one of the sanctions below may be put in place.

If an investigation takes longer than six months to resolve, the adult volunteer should receive an update about the situation and an explanation why the suspension remains in place.

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 normally gives this advice.

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 failures to meet our expectations may lead to 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.
  • Send a copy of the formal advice letter 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.

Your 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 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 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 as a result of the adult volunteer’s circumstances, for example, bankruptcy or a recent driving or theft 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.

Change role: Alternatively, the adult volunteer may be limited to a particular role, for example, they must step down from unit leader to assistant leader; 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.)
  • HQ sends restriction letter to the adult volunteer, explaining what this means to them.
  • HQ records details of the restriction on GO.
  • The commissioner advises other leaders, where relevant.

Can a restriction be reviewed?

Most restrictions are permanent sanctions. However, the adult volunteer can request a review from their commissioner after three years, or after a significant change in circumstances from the date the restriction was put in place.

Temporary restrictions can 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.

As a commissioner, you must contact the relevant team at HQ to request a restriction is removed from an adult volunteer’s GO record.

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 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 Girlguiding may 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.
  • 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 been informed they cannot continue to volunteer with Girlguiding or who has had their membership withdrawn may not reapply within three years of their withdrawal/ dismissal. 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 you 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.)
  • HQ sends withdrawal letter to the adult volunteer explaining what this means to them.
  • HQ records details of the withdrawal/ dismissal on GO.
  • County commission advise other leaders and sends letter to parents, where relevant and following guidance from region/ HQ.

Appealing a withdrawal, dismissal or restriction

Details on the appeals process can be found here.

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. 

  • Consider whether suspension is necessary. Would the adult volunteer choosing to take a step back and limiting their involvement in Girlguiding activities be a more constructive action?
  • You should make sure that an adult volunteer who has had an allegation made against them is allocated a pastoral support person – someone who is not connected with any investigation.
  • Encourage an adult volunteer who is concerned about their physical or emotional health to seek support from their GP.
  • Any adult volunteer whose role has been suspended or withdrawn will be offered access to counselling by the relevant HQ team.
  • Information regarding an investigation or sanction must be handled sensitively and in line with Girlguiding’s managing information policy [LINK].

You must always try to have a face to face meeting or at least a 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 other volunteers, young members and parents be affected?

Where an adult volunteer is suspended or has their membership withdrawn there will be an impact on others in their unit/ area.

You should consider who will be affected and how, so you can inform those affected and explain who they should contact for queries about the unit.