Making sure volunteers complete A Safe Space training

From 1 January 2021, all volunteers must have the appropriate levels of A Safe Space training. Here's how you can help them as their Commissioner.

30 October 2020

There's no higher priority for Girlguiding than looking after the wellbeing of girls and members. 

That's why, from 1 January 2021, all volunteers must have the appropriate levels of A Safe Space training for their role.

Completing A Safe Space is now part of the Safeguarding policy and failure to complete the training may result in a volunteer’s membership being withdrawn. But, because we want to avoid that happening as far as possible, we will regularly remind volunteers to complete their training and offer help throughout the process. Commissioners also have an important role to play in reminding and assisting volunteers.

Which levels of training need completing?

There are four levels of training. All volunteers need to undertake A Safe Space training related to their role. We know many of our volunteers hold more than one role, so they must complete all the relevant A Safe Space training for the role that needs the highest level of training. For example, if they’re a unit administrator, which needs Level 1, but they’re also a commissioner mentor, which needs Level 4, they must complete Levels 2 and 3 as well. All volunteers including occasional helpers, GO coordinators, home contacts, peer educators and young leaders are required to complete at least Level 1 of the training.

Find details for the training required for each role on the A Safe Space training page.

Every unit needs a leader with level 3

There must be at least one active leader in each unit who has Level 3. From 1 January 2021, unit meetings and activities must have a leader present who has an up to date A Safe Space Level 3 under the compliance system, so you may need more than one leader to complete it now to cover absence. Longer term, we’re looking at every leader to complete Level 3 as part of the Leadership qualification.

Going Away With Licence Holders

The Going Away With licence holder must have A Safe Space Level 3 when they go on a trip. The commissioner signing off the REN must ensure they do not sign it until the Going Away With licence has Levels 1, 2 and 3 on their records and all other attendees have Levels 1 and 2.

Level 1

This is an e-learning where the volunteer will need to add their membership number and email address (matching their GO record) at the end of the training to log completion. If a volunteer does not have an email address they can take a screenshot of the completed page and send this to [email protected].

Go to Level 1 training

Level 2

Is an e-learning with an assessment at the end. Volunteers will need to answer at least 80% correctly. They have three attempts, after which they have to attend a face-to-face or virtual training. Completion will be logged in the same way as Level 1.

If they do not pass in those three attempts, they are advised to speak to their commissioner, who should put them in touch with an A Safe Space trainer who will work through the content to see which areas the volunteer didn't understand. It might be simple that they misunderstood just one area, and once the trainer is happy, the Level 2 course can be added by county as a face to face training. If the lack of understanding is too much, they will need to complete the full face to face course, which can be completed either online as part of a virtual session or in person when we can get back to in person training.

Both Levels 1 and 2 can also be completed either face-to-face or virtually.

Go to Level 2 training 

Level 3

Can be completed either face-to-face or virtually. There is also a Recognised Prior Learning route for those working in a qualifying job role. Contact your training coordinator for details of upcoming Level 3 courses.

Go to Level 3 training 

Level 4

Can be completed either face-to-face or virtually. Contact your training coordinator for details of upcoming Level 4 courses.


Volunteers who haven't completed their A Safe Space training will receive a series of communications spread over 120 days. These are designed to encourage them to complete their training. If they haven't completed their training by the 120th day, their membership will be withdrawn.

If you are a commissioner, you will also receive messages from GO asking you to contact the volunteer to see if you can help with their training, or if there is a reason they can't complete it in the timeframe.

The dates listed below relate to volunteers who haven’t yet completed their A Safe Space training at the initial launch date of 3 September 2020. 

From 3 September 2020: Stage 1 – Inform (Day 1 of process)

The volunteer receives an email to say they need to complete the training by 31 December 2020. The local commissioner received a GO communication asking them to support the individual.

2 November 2020: Stage 2 – Remind (60 days after inform email sent)

The volunteer receives an email to remind them to complete the training. This will tell them they have two months left to complete it. The local commissioner receives a GO communication asking them to support the individual. 

22 November 2020: Stage 3 – Warn (80 days after inform email sent)

The volunteer receives a letter to warn them they need to complete the training or action will be taken. The county commissioner receives a GO communication asking them to support the individual. This will tell them that if they don’t complete all the levels of A Safe Space that they require, then their membership will end on 1 January 2021.

Click here to see the content of the letters being sent.

Mitigating circumstance can be applied for.

1 January 2021: Stage 4 – Sanction (120 days after inform email sent)

At this stage, a volunteer's membership is sanctioned and a letter sent to the individual. The county commissioner receives a GO communication informing them of the sanction.

After the warning stage, a volunteer can contact [email protected] to request their deadline be extended based on mitigating circumstances. This would be personal events or situations that place significant barriers to them being able to complete the training.


  • The volunteer has been seriously sick or unwell
  • The volunteer is a full time carer for a relative who is acutely sick or unwell
  • The volunteer has had a recent bereavement

Consideration will be given to:

  • Length of notice given to the volunteer to complete training
  • Any attempts made to complete the training prior to event or situation taking place
  • Opportunities provided by Girlguiding or local guiding to complete training
  • Impact of event or situation on attempts to complete training before deadline

When looking at mitigating circumstances, the compliance team will prompt the commissioner to consider the following:

  1. Have reasonable adjustments been offered?
  2. Is the volunteer still active or are they stepping back from guiding at this time?
  3. If they're able to do so, has the volunteer confirmed their position?
  4. Will the volunteer be able to complete the training ahead of 31 December 2020?

Once this information has been provided, the mitigating circumstance will be considered by the compliance team.

If the mitigating circumstance is upheld, the volunteer will be given an extension in which to complete the training. The new deadline will be based on individual circumstances but usually to the date of the next available course date.

As an extension can only be added after a warning letter has been sent, we encourage the volunteer and their commissioner to explore the above options before contacting the compliance team.

Where leader contacts their commissioner – the commissioner can’t grant the mitigation, but they can discuss it with them first, and go through the options above.

Ideally the volunteer will contact the compliance team directly with relevant details. If the commissioner contacts us on their behalf the compliance team will need the volunteer to confirm the information given and give permission for us to speak to their commissioner on their behalf.

To ensure both the volunteer and their commissioner is kept informed they will be copied into all messages.


New volunteers starting after 3 September 2020

New volunteers joined between 3 September and 31 December will receive their inform email on the day they're made active. New volunteers joining after 1 January 2021 will have to complete Level 1 before they’re made active and if they need additional levels, the inform email will be sent the day they’re made active. No volunteer will be able to join until they have done their Level 1.

Withdrawing membership

The process for withdrawing a membership following the failure to complete mandatory safeguarding training relevant to their role (a serious breach of Girlguiding’s Safeguarding Policy) is in line with Girlguiding’s Managing Concerns About Adult Volunteers policy and procedures. Withdrawal of membership means that you must not attend any Girlguiding function, event or meeting.

If you have a child involved in guiding, you may attend in a parental capacity only, for example dropping off and collecting your child. You must not assist with any events, trips or outings. Under this, a volunteer is able to apply for a review of the decision to withdraw their membership after 3 years and as part of any application to re-join we would need to explore that they have understood the implications of not having the right training.  

If volunteers have completed Levels 1-3 but not Level 4

If a role requires the holder to complete Level 4, then provided they have completed Levels 1-3, they will not have their membership withdrawn but will have their Level 4 role sanctioned. This means they can no longer be a commissioner or any other role that requires A Safe Space Level 4.

Units must not meet without at least one leader present who holds a valid A Safe Space Level 3 training from January 2021.

There will not be sanctions applied to a unit where there is no leader recorded with Level 3. However, if a unit meets (either face to face or virtually) without a leader, assistant leader or leader in training present who has A Safe Space Level 3 this needs to be addressed by the local commissioner. They must discuss with the HQ compliance team to see if there is an informal resolution in the first instance and if a further investigation is required.

If a further investigation is required, meeting without a Level 3 will be dealt with as a policy breach, under the existing Girlguiding Investigation procedure:

1. Concern received: unit meeting took place without any leader with Level 3 A Safe Space training being present

Action by local guiding team: must be reported to county commissioner who contacts HQ Complaints and Compliance team for support within seven days. This would be managed as a serious breach by the senior compliance officer who will at first explore any extenuating circumstances.

2. County commissioner informs unit team they must stop all volunteering roles with immediate effect – all volunteers in leadership roles present at the meeting are to be suspended pending investigation.

Action by local guiding team: if the above means that unit meetings cannot take place the commissioner must arrange alternative cover where practicable, in line with A Safe Space expectations, or cancel the unit meetings and communicate to parents/carers.

3. Investigation takes place in line with Girlguiding Investigation Procedure

4. A report of the findings from the investigation must be sent to the country or region team and HQ Compliance team. Based on information provided a decision on next steps is taken which may include sanctioning whole leadership team or individuals found to have breached Girlguiding’s Safeguarding policy.

An extension cannot be offered for this. If they meet from January 2021 they will be going against the procedures rules and an investigation would be started – not having the time to do it is not a mitigation, the unit must not meet. Make it clear this is virtual and face to face. 

How renewals will work

When a volunteer’s training is due to expire they will receive an inform email 120 days before it does. To renew the volunteer will need to redo that level of A Safe Space. If they complete the training before the trigger date they will not receive an email.

What happens if a volunteer has completed their training but it's not on their record

If someone has completed an e-learning but it’s not recorded on GO, they can take a screenshot or photo of their screen, showing the completed training with the date, and email it to [email protected]. Please make sure to include the date you completed the training and your membership number if possible.

If someone attended a face-to-face training for any level and it’s not on their GO record, please contact your county GO coordinator with proof of completion and they can add this.

Supported volunteer roles

As some of our adult volunteers have significant support needs, we have created two new roles that will allow volunteers who may not be able to complete the training due to support needs to still volunteer with us. These roles are: supported volunteer and individual volunteer supporter. They will be launched on 17 November when we will share more information on them. 

There is a new Safe Practice tab showing:

  • Disclosures
  • A Safe Space
  • Letter of commendation

The A Safe Space section under the Safe Practice tab has four views, one per level showing those who need to complete the training required by their roles. If a volunteer has more than one role requiring the same level they’ll be included more than once. You’ll also be able to download lists to email individuals about their training. A volunteer will disappear off the list as soon as they’ve completed the training or if you end the role.

You’ll also see the ‘informed on’ date to help you establish where the volunteer is in the compliance reminder process.

Please note that for Level 3 it will only show according to their individual role requirements, not their unit, so this will include all those at county level but will not include leaders, leaders in training etc as these roles do not require it to be completed.

To find a list of units who require someone to complete Level 3 a volunteer needs to go to the reports tab and select A Safe Space Report from the left hand menu. This will show all units who are currently not complying under the units tab along the bottom of the report.

To find out who needs to complete the training in your area please read our further guidance. There is also a help file in the help zone of GO called First Aid and a Safe Space, which explains this if this is required.

If I don’t complete the required levels of training, when will my membership be withdrawn and how?

The process for withdrawal of membership is a manual one. It’s completed by the Compliance team at HQ working with your country or region. The team checks each volunteers’ record and approves it with your country and region chief commissioner. Once this has happened, you’ll be sent a letter telling you when your membership will end. This will then be added to your GO record. 

Will young leaders have their membership withdrawn if they are non-compliant after 31 December 2020?

No, withdrawal of membership doesn’t apply to them. They can only be a young leader until their 18th birthday after which they need to change role. 

Do members of Trefoil Guild have to complete the training? 

If they also hold a Girlguiding role (eg occasional helper, unit treasurer) then yes they will need to complete the appropriate level for that role and will have been included in the mailings.

I need to complete Level 3 for my role. I was booked onto a session that I was unable to attend (eg IT issues, unwell, course cancelled) and no further course dates are available for 2020. Will I lose my membership?

Please contact the Compliance team before the 31 December 2020 and they’ll be able to discuss this with you. 

I’ve already completed safeguarding training for work can this count?

Nobody is automatically exempt from A Safe Space. There is a Recognised Prior Learning process for exemption from Level 3 if you hold particular professional roles and responsibilities. However, Levels 1 & 2 must still be completed.

What will happen if a unit meets (face-to-face or virtually) without a leader with Level 3?

If a unit meets without a leader with Level 3, their commissioner will contact the Compliance team. They will work together to investigate what happened eg not having a volunteer with Level 3 present because a leader broke down on the way to the meeting and has been there every other week is very different to a unit saying ‘we don’t care about the rules’.

Once the investigation has happened, the decision will be made about what to do. So, at one extreme, if one leader had lied to the others and said she had a Level 3 there are clear grounds here to look at withdrawal of that leader’s membership. The same would happen if there had been collusion for example, all the leaders saying we don’t care about the rules, that could lead to sanctions against all leaders.

This is really case by case for each unit but they will need to present a really good reason why either no leaders have Level OR they didn’t ask a leader from another unit to come in and cover.

In one unit, volunteer X is a leader and has Level 3 so that unit is marked as compliant for Level 3. Volunteer X is also a unit helper in another unit of a different section, but that unit is not marked as compliant for Level 3.

It has to be a leader (leader, leader in training or assistant leader) that holds the Level 3 for the that unit where the role is held. If they are in any unit as a leader they should be listed as a leader and not a unit helper. If the second unit is a different section to their main role they do not need to complete module 1 of the Leadership qualification.

This was looked at earlier in the year – because of the programme changes it’s now a much easier process to add a section to an Leadership qualification through working through a checklist. Volunteers would be able to go through the checklist attached with a commissioner/mentor and get the module added so they could be the A Safe Space qualified person for every unit they’re part of.

The checklist process is explained here.

Can I make a volunteer inactive if they have not made contact with me after several different attempts?

You should try to contact the volunteer a number of times and in different ways. They will also be contacted by HQ as part of the compliance process. If you have had no response from a volunteer after multiple and various communication attempts, it’s then reasonable to make a volunteer inactive, after the final expected response date has passed, to continue to support the accuracy of our active member data.

What’s our line on memberships being revoked if the correct training is not completed? Many are asking if we're actually going through with this decision.

A Safe Space training has been made mandatory for all volunteers. This is because safety is at the heart of everything we do, because we know that when girls feel safe, they feel brave enough to do things they never thought they could.

A Safe Space is now part of the Safeguarding policy and failure to complete the training may result in the volunteer’s membership being withdrawn. If a volunteer has not completed the A Safe Space training required for their role by the deadline set, we’ll write to notify them that their membership has been withdrawn or refused. The letters and reminders aim to prompt each volunteer to complete the training by the deadline, so no further action is taken.

Failure to complete this training will be managed under the Managing concerns about adult volunteer’s policy which has been in place since 2017. As stated in the procedure a withdrawal/dismissal is the most serious sanction and used when there has been a serious breach of the Girlguiding policies and procedures. The procedure states: 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.

This decision was not taken lightly. This was agreed at the time the policy was written and reflects the significance the organisation places on a serious breach of our policies, in this case Girlguiding’s Safeguarding policy.

If you’re worried about completing the training or have difficulty accessing it, please speak with your commissioner so they can help you. If there are other reasons you can’t complete the training, such as personal circumstances or accessibility needs, you must email the compliance team to let them know at [email protected] Mitigating circumstances refer to personal events or situations which place significant barriers to volunteers being able to access and complete A Safe Space training.

These are unprecedented times, and we understand that we all have so much going on, both inside and outside guiding. We are extremely grateful for the time and effort all of our volunteers dedicate to Girlguiding and who are committed to making a positive difference to the lives of our young members. We couldn't do the work we do without the commitment, enthusiasm and skills our volunteers bring to their roles. And for this we appreciate all your efforts and everything you do for guiding.