Recruitment and vetting procedures

Follow our procedure to make sure you carry out all the necessary checks on potential volunteers

From first enquiry to first day as a new volunteer.

To keep our members safe, all adult members - and recognised volunteers over the age of 18 - must complete the recruitment and vetting process relevant to them.

As a commissioner, or a volunteer supporting the recruitment and vetting procedure, you have an important responsibility - to oversee the recruitment of all our adult volunteers. You must follow these procedures to ensure you meet your responsibility under the recruitment and vetting policy.

Even if you're not involved in recruitment, it's still useful to read through these procedures. They'll show you what Girlguiding’s expectations are of you as an adult volunteer.

Who's responsible for carrying out these procedures?

These procedures must be followed by anyone carrying out recruitment - as a commissioner or on their behalf. The local or county commissioner and, ultimately, the chief commissioner for the country or region are responsible for volunteer recruitment - but they may delegate these responsibilities. 

Districts and divisions must have a processing structure in place to support this policy and procedure.

What the procedures include

The recruitment and vetting procedure includes processes on everything from when a new volunteer first makes an enquiry, to their induction and their vetting and reference checks. Check out all the information below to guide you through the procedure from start to finish. 

Enquiry and induction process

Follow these processes to make sure all potential volunteers are quickly and warmly welcomed into Girlguiding. 

In order to apply to be an adult volunteer, all enquirers – including occasional volunteers and parent helpers - must register on GO and complete an online enquiry. Their details will be held on the system. You must then:

Use the information given to:

  • Contact the enquirer.
  • Help assess their suitability. 
  • Identify appropriate roles.

Respond quickly

  • Show that Girlguiding values an enquirer’s time and their desire to help by responding quickly. You must respond within seven days. You will be prompted by GO to remind you to do this until it is actioned.
  • Districts and divisions should have a processing structure in place to make sure there is always someone available to respond to new enquiries within the seven-day timeframe.

Meet the enquirer

  • You (or a volunteer you have delegated to) must meet with the enquirer as soon as possible - after their online enquiry and before vetting checks can start. This could be in a one-to-one meeting or at a welcome event.
  • Use this meeting or event to find out more about the potential volunteer and help them find out more about Girlguiding.
  • Ask about their motivations for volunteering, their expectations, interests and skills. Also ask about any support needs they might have to make it possible for them to volunteer.
  • Leave time for the enquirer to ask any questions they might have.
  • You should also use this meeting to introduce them to Girlguiding’s Code of Conduct, mission and values and make sure they understand and are willing to uphold these. Any concerns about this should be explored further in a separate, private discussion.
  • Give the enquirer information and support to help move them into a suitable role. This will give them a positive and timely journey into volunteering.
  • You should read the welcome guidelines for more tips on how to make enquirers and new volunteers feel welcome and appreciated from day one.
  • Refer to the commissioners’ checklist to make sure you have covered all key point of discussion.
  • See our guidance pack on organising welcome events for ideas of the different forms these meetings could take.

How do I find the role that best suits an enquirer?

  • If a specific role is needed locally, advertise it clearly to make sure you attract appropriate volunteers.
  • In your meeting with an enquirer, talk about the range of volunteering roles available.
  • Ask the enquirer about their interests, skills and availability. Think about roles that relate to this.
  • Unless an enquirer or volunteer has responded to a particular advert for a particular role, make sure you have an open conversation about the best way to use their skills and interests and to give them a positive volunteering experience.
  • Consider flexible opportunities if the enquirer does not have much time. Try using the flexible volunteering video, ‘How to volunteer when you don’t have much time to spare’ and the volunteer roles poster or handout to give new and potential volunteers an idea of the wide variety of roles available.
  • Offer enquirers or newly accepted volunteers the chance to visit a unit or speak to someone in a similar role where possible.
  • If they're not ready to commit to being a leader talk to them about our helper roles.
  • Suggest adding them to a local skills pool so that they can share particular skills or interests on an occasional basis with different units. For advice on how to set up a skills pool, see our guidelines here.
  • You must not place volunteers in roles that they are not comfortable or confident doing.

All new adult volunteers should feel welcome and valued. As a commissioner or volunteer responsible for welcoming new volunteers in your area you should help by making sure they meet other volunteers, receive the right information and have the chance to get the training they want or need.

You can use the commissioners’ checklist to make sure you are giving new volunteers all the information they need from the start.

Organise an induction event

You should organise an induction event covering key aspects of who we are and what we do. This will help new volunteers to feel confident and well-equipped for their roles, understand how they fit into the structure of Girlguiding and know where to look for help and ideas.

Most importantly, you must direct new volunteers to the Code of Conduct.

Use our induction session pack to help you

You can use our pick-up-and-go induction session pack for guidelines on running this kind of event. It covers:

  • Basic facts about Girlguiding
  • The sections and what girls do in each
  • The Promise and Guide Law
  • Girlguiding structure
  • The Five Essentials
  • The membership system
  • Subs
  • A Safe Space Level 1, e-learning module

Show the Welcome to Girlguiding video during the event, or send the link in an email to those who can’t make it.

Understand the equality and diversity policy

It’s important we are welcoming and supportive of all our new volunteers. So as a commissioner or person leading on the induction you must ask the volunteer directly if they have any support or access needs.

Follow the equality and diversity policy and make reasonable adjustments to the procedure to help disabled volunteers or those with other support needs.

Help make connections

  • You must connect the new adult volunteer with the key local individuals who will be volunteering alongside them.
  • You should also help match them with a ‘buddy’ to support them in settling into their new role. This could be for example, someone who has a similar role who can answer questions and provide peer-to-peer support. See the buddy role description to help you encourage more existing volunteers to be buddies.
  • Make sure they know about upcoming meetings and social events to help them get to know other local volunteers.
  • Make them aware of other opportunities to connect into the wider Girlguiding community.
  • Also let them know about local and national websites and social media so that they can connect with the wider community.
  • Try using the new volunteer action plan to help them think through which people they should meet and when they should meet them, as well as any essential tasks they should do to get themselves ready for volunteering.

Give information about: guiding and volunteer roles

You must make sure new volunteers have information about the following:

  • Local and national guiding, appropriate to their role.
  • What is needed to carry out their role confidently.

Use your county’s induction booklet or pack to let your volunteers know about guiding in their area and more widely. This will help them feel supported into local guiding and give them local contacts and details.

Refer to the role descriptions and the welcome toolkit  for other useful resources.

Give information about: learning and development

You must make sure new volunteers have information about the following:

  • Learning and development opportunities, such as becoming a qualified leader, trainer or activity instructor.
  • If the new volunteer is taking their Leadership qualification, they must be connected with a mentor in the area who can help them through the process.
  • Details of all standard opportunities can be found in the learning and development section.

It’s important to let new volunteers know about the wide range of amazing personal development opportunities they will have as a volunteer with Girlguiding. Not all new volunteers will be looking for training opportunities, but some may see this as a strong reason to join and stay with the organisation. 

Vetting process

It's important to make sure you carry out all the necessary vetting and reference checks on potential volunteers.  

Young members turning 18

If a young member wants to become an adult volunteer once they're 18, they won’t need references as long as they have a record on GO and have been active within the last 12 months.

But they must have a letter of commendation from their leader or commissioner, and also have an informal meeting with the commissioner before starting their new role.

Where their role requires a satisfactory enhanced criminal disclosure check, this must be completed in accordance with the policy.

If the above conditions are not met, they must apply in the same way as any other adult enquirer.

If a young member needs a disclosure check for the role they’re applying for, this must be started as soon as possible too. The disclosure check can be applied for up to six months before they turn 18.

At present, GO will only automatically trigger a disclosure check request when a young member turns 18 and is in a role that needs it. So to request the check before a young member turns 18, firstly add the volunteer role on their GO record. Then email [email protected], subject Under 18 DBS, to request for it to be triggered manually.

Young leaders aged under 18 must not undertake a role considered regulated activity.

As soon as a young member decides they want to volunteer, a letter of commendation should be sent by her leader or commissioner to the commissioner responsible for recruitment. This allows the commissioner to add and confirm the role on GO.

The letter can be sent, and disclosure check applied for, up to six months before they turn 18.

What the letter of commendation should include

The letter confirms that the member is recommended as an adult volunteer and is suitable for the role. It should include:

  • Name and membership number of the person writing the letter
  • Name and membership number of young member
  • How the person writing the letter knows the young member
  • Confirmation that they consider the young member suitable to volunteer

The letter might also contain other relevant information - such as the young member’s interests, skills and experience - and any additional needs the person making the recommendation is aware of.

Who should write the letter

The letter should be written by a leader or commissioner who knows the young member and can make a commendation as to their suitability to volunteer. It should not be the same commissioner responsible for the recruitment of the young member and who authorises the new role to be added to GO.

The person writing the letter must be prepared to be contacted by the recruiting commissioner should anything need clarifying.

What to do with the letter

The letter should be sent to the commissioner responsible for recruitment of the young member and authorising the new role to be added to GO. The letter can be sent as a hard copy or email. It should be marked confidential.

As the letter may contain personal information, you should follow data protection procedures when storing, sharing or sending it. The letter itself doesn’t need to be added to GO, but GO will need to be updated to show it has been seen and accepted.

As the recruiting commissioner, once you’ve confirmed on GO that you’re satisfied that the young member is suitable - and their volunteer role can be added to GO - you should destroy the letter.

If the letter raises concerns about a young member’s suitability

It’s important to find out what the concerns are and whether they affect the member’s suitability to volunteer. The commissioner should first contact the person who wrote the letter and ask for further information. It may be that the member requires reasonable adjustments or support needs. Find guidance about including members with additional needs.

If there are safeguarding concerns you must contact [email protected]. For concerns about suitability that relate to conduct, the commissioner can contact the compliance team for advice and support on [email protected].


Vetting process for adult volunteers

Vetting is an essential part of the recruitment process. Vetting involves doing checks that tell us about the suitability of someone for a volunteering role with us. Some ‘regulated activity’ roles require a satisfactory enhanced criminal record disclosure with barred list check.  

All adults over 18 who are new to Girlguiding, or those who were previously young members, are now over 18, and who are returning to Girlguiding after a break of more than 12 months, must provide two satisfactory references. HQ is responsible for administering the process of criminal records checks and taking up references.

In addition to these checks some roles require volunteers to complete A Safe Space Level 1. Adults over 18 who are new to Girlguiding must complete this training, where relevant, before their role is made active.

An adult may commence volunteering whilst checks are being undertaken on the following conditions:

  1. They are supervised at all times by a leader (or assistant leader) who has successfully completed all vetting checks including an up to date disclosure check with Girlguiding.  They must not be left alone with young members (if they are taking up a role that does not require a disclosure check this will mean that volunteer should never be left unsupervised with young members even after satisfactory references are received).
  2. The appropriate vetting checks relevant to their role are started within two months of commencing or by their fourth time of volunteering, whichever is sooner. Started means that references have been requested and (where the role requires it) the disclosure check is  submitted.

Reference process for adult volunteers

The enquirer needs to have two personal or character references (not ones from an employer). They must give the name and contact details of their two referees as part of the application process. Only one referee may know them just through Girlguiding.

The enquirer must have their referees’ permission to give their contact details to Girlguiding, and the referees must also understand what is being asked of them.

Girlguiding HQ sends the referees a questionnaire by post or email for them to fill in. A letter or reference in any other form will not be accepted, unless it has been pre-arranged with HQ Compliance team, for example to accommodate the needs of the referee under the Equality Act 2010.

The following must also apply for a reference to be acceptable:

  • The referee must not be a relative. This includes being related to someone through your spouse or partner.
  • The referee must be over 18 years of age.
  • They must have known the enquirer for a minimum of one year and been in contact within the last six months. This does not necessarily need to have been in person, but could be via the telephone, via social media or on a online video call.
  • They must know the enquirer well enough to be able to competently answer the questionnaire.
  • The questionnaire must be fully completed.
  • They must be able to state that they recommend the enquirer for volunteering with Girlguiding, and confirm they do not know of any reasons why they are not suitable to volunteer with children.
  • They must confirm that the information they have given is true to the best of their knowledge.

The reference must be received within 60 days of the request being sent by HQ. If not it may be declined. HQ Compliance team may contact the referee if they need details to be clarified.

Criminal record disclosure checks and roles

Where a volunteer role requires a satisfactory criminal record disclosure check it's your responsibility, as a commissioner, to make sure a volunteer completes this as required by this policy. This applies both to enquirers and existing volunteers whose role previously did not require a disclosure check, but where they have taken up a new role that does require it.

Take a look at the documents below to see which roles need a disclosure check:

When a role is added to GO the system will trigger the start of a disclosure check process, if the role requires it. The disclosure check must be started as a matter of utmost priority to allow time for the process to be completed.

  • Girlguiding does not accept disclosure checks from other organisations
  • Girlguiding does not participate in the DBS update service

The type of disclosure check will be appropriate to the country which the enquirer lives or volunteers in. As a commissioner you will need to confirm the appropriate checks required to those volunteering in British Girlguiding Overseas or Branches.

Girlguiding HQ has used the statutory guidance to define which volunteer roles require a criminal records check. For a list of roles that require a disclosure check please see the role documents below. Please be aware that this list includes anyone staying overnight at a Girlguiding event. 

It is unlawful to require someone to undergo a criminal record check unless their role requires it. As a volunteer responsible for recruitment you must check before starting the process. If in doubt ask your commissioner.

ID verifiers are volunteers who check documents for volunteers who require a criminal record check. If you're an ID verifier, please see our guidance regarding what documents you may accept.


Existing adult volunteers (apart from those in Scotland) must have another criminal record check - if still in a relevant role - in the following circumstances:

  • A  re-check is due (every three years).
  • If they become active in a different county or country for which they originally had a check done and if their check was more than three years ago. (GO will prompt you where a different check is needed for change of country; for change of county this must be managed locally).
  • They are returning to guiding after a break of three years or more.
  • Adult Volunteers in Scotland must be members of the PVG (Protecting Vulnerable Groups) scheme who will automatically update Girlguiding with new information. The scheme requires that members must keep them updated with changes in circumstances including an up to date address.
  • As requested by the Safeguarding team as part of a reinstatement process.

Paper DBS Certificates

We encourage DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks to be done online as this is faster, more convenient and secure. In exceptional cases where an adult volunteer cannot complete the application online, they will need to submit a paper application. When they receive their certificate the adult volunteer must send the original to Girlguiding HQ, for the attention of Vetting and Compliance Assistant and by registered post, in order to complete the vetting process.


Having information on the certificate will not always mean that the enquirer or adult volunteer cannot volunteer with Girlguiding. That will depend on the risk assessment carried out by HQ. The decision may be that a restriction is placed on the role. In some cases there will be no further action. 

Where the certificate contains information such as cautions, the original certificate must be seen by the relevant HQ team who will conduct a risk assessment. When this happens Girlguiding HQ will write to the enquirer/adult volunteer requesting they send the original certificate; we recommend certificates sent to Girlguiding HQ are posted using tracked or registered post. The vetting process is not completed until the risk assessment has been done. The enquirer/adult volunteer will be notified of the outcome.

The risk assessment may include a telephone interview with the enquirer or adult volunteer to establish the facts. 

An enquirer or adult volunteer must comply within the required time frame given by Girlguiding HQ. They must not undertake their role unsupervised until this process is completed and they have received confirmation from Girlguiding HQ. Failure to comply may lead to the application being refused or the role/membership withdrawn. Before taking this action, the county commissioner and chief commissioner will be advised by Girlguiding HQ.

If the nature of the caution or conviction relates to harm to children or adults it will be investigated in line with our safeguarding policy.

Convictions and investigations after the disclosure check

Where an adult volunteer is actively volunteering and they, their partner, or anyone living in their household is also involved in a police or social services investigation after completing their disclosure check, they must let their county commissioner know immediately. The county commissioner must contact the appropriate team at HQ for advice. 

The information will be treated as confidential and the relevant HQ team will follow the same procedure as described for Certificates with cautions or convictions. If in the reasonable opinion of the relevant HQ team, an up-to-date criminal record disclosure check is required, this must be completed within the time frame set by HQ. 

Confidentiality and information sharing

Information received as part of the vetting process must be treated sensitively and in accordance with data protection legislation. In certain circumstances Girlguiding HQ will share relevant information on a need to know basis. It will be shared if it is required in order to comply with our legal obligations or if it is in the public interest, to safeguard young members and support the adult volunteer in their role. Serious concerns about whether a volunteer’s behaviour is appropriate for working with children or vulnerable adults may be passed on after a volunteer has left Girlguiding.

An example would be where the relevant HQ team share the fact of, or the basis for a refusal or withdrawal to comply with our legal obligations such as safeguarding children and adults or to make sure we are complying with our policies. 

Where the certificate shows that the individual is barred from regulated activity we will make a referral to DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) in order to comply with our legal duty.

Restriction of role

A restriction on role may be placed by the HQ team following a risk assessment. Restrictions include but are not limited to: not handling finances; not driving a vehicle to transport young members and not having unsupervised access to young members. For more details about sanctions, see the sanctions table in the managing concerns about adult volunteers procedures.

The enquirer/adult volunteer will be advised in writing by Girlguiding HQ about the restriction and its terms. The county commissioner will also be advised to make sure this is observed locally.

For more information see the managing concerns about adult volunteers policy and procedure.

When checks are completed


Once all the relevant checks have been satisfactorily completed, the enquirer or adult volunteer will receive confirmation from Girlguiding HQ that they have been accepted. Any conditions to this such as a restriction to their role will be advised separately by the relevant HQ team for the purpose of confidentiality.


Where an enquirer does not satisfactorily complete the required vetting process they will be notified in writing by the relevant HQ team that their application is refused and explained the reasons why. The county commissioner will also be informed.

If a volunteer resigns

An adult volunteer may resign their membership and/or role by letting their commissioner know either verbally or in writing. The commissioner will respond in writing. Where an investigation has been identified as required under one of our policies such as a complaint, safeguarding incident or breach of Code of Conduct that involves the adult volunteer, Girlguiding will continue with the investigation process even when the resignation has been received. Where the adult volunteer will not cooperate this may lead to withdrawal of membership/role.

Process for other types of volunteers

All those undertaking a volunteering role must be registered on GO.  Unit visitors must never be left unsupervised with young members. The only exception is the district/division/county helper as the role requires a disclosure check

Residential helpers

All adult volunteers who are staying overnight with girls and young women under 18 must have completed the recruitment check process and be registered on GO as unit helper at unit level or district/division/county helper at other levels. This means that references will be taken up and a disclosure check carried out.

On occasion the chief commissioner may authorise attendance where there is not a current Girlguiding disclosure check. This must only occur in the most exceptional circumstances and the following conditions must be met:

  1. The decision is made in partnership with the relevant HQ team so that both the chief and HQ give authorisation.
  2. A risk assessment is carried out. The relevant HQ team will carry this out with the chief.
  3. Consideration must be given to any conditions or measures that must be put in place in order to satisfactorily mitigate risk. Those conditions or measures will be communicated to the volunteer and the event leader in writing and they must both agree to uphold these.

Working with other organisations

Organisations that we work with may have different approaches to vetting. When working in partnership, e.g. with the Trefoil Guild, or hiring external providers of activities, you must ensure that their vetting processes are robust. If you are unsure, check with your commissioner or the relevant HQ team.