Frequently Asked Questions

SAFEGUARDING


(Updated 26/6/2014) URC Good Practice guidance is that DBS checks should always be carried out for any role which is eligible, as part of a safer recruitment process. In order to identify which roles are eligible for a DBS check, it is important to firstly be clear about what each role entails. This is best achieved by producing a written role description which includes reference to: a) the type of work; b) the frequency and period of time over which the work will be done; c) if and how the work will be supervised.

Working with children (under 18 years of age):

For roles which fall within ‘Regulated Activity’ an Enhanced DBS plus Barred List check must be carried out, because it is a criminal offence to appoint somebody to such a role if they are on the Barred List. In local churches, such roles would typically include:

  • any role which involves teaching, supervising or providing advice and guidance to children frequently (weekly) e.g. leaders of weekly children’s and youth groups who are on duty most weeks
  • any role which involves teaching, supervising or providing advice and guidance to children intensively (at least 4 days in a 30 day period) e.g. leaders at a children’s holiday club lasting 4 days or more.
  • any role which involves supervision of children overnight irrespective of how many nights or how often e.g. leaders staying overnight at a children’s or youth group sleepover / camp / other residential event.
  • any role which includes specific personal care of children because of illness, disability or age,irrespective of how often e.g. leaders of young children who help them with toileting, washing, bathing, or dressing; e.g. a leader who, because of a child’s illness or disability, has to help them with eating, drinking, toileting, washing, bathing, or dressing.
  • moderators of internet chat rooms or social networking groups set up by the church for children e.g. the worker who administers a church Facebook group for children
  • those who drive children as part of their church role weekly, 4+ days in a 30 day period, or overnight e.g. someone who has been asked by the church to transport children to and from a church activity.
  • any role which includes the management or supervision of the above regulated activity.

Supervised workers In most church activities volunteers tend to work as co-workers rather than one supervising the other. Therefore, the above list assumes that the roles are not supervised at all times by a senior worker. The URC definition of supervision is where the person being supervised is in sight of the supervisor at all times. If one of the above roles is supervised in this way, it no longer falls within the current definition of regulated activity, but it is still eligible for an Enhanced DBS check only (i.e. without the barred list check).

Regular but less frequent work – those who work with children on a regular basis, but less often than every week, are now eligible for an Enhanced DBS check only (i.e. without barred list check)e.g. people on a rota for a weekly children’s activity or workers for a monthly activity.

However, it would also be sensible to think ahead about whether the person’s involvement is likely to increase in the next year or two. If this is likely to bring it within regulated activity, then expand the role description accordingly and do an Enhanced DBS plus Barred List check.

Helpers who are under 18 The lowest age at which someone can apply for a DBS check is 16 years old. URC Good Practice guidance states that under 18’s should be supervised at all times by an adult and therefore should never be engaged in regulated activity and will not require an Enhanced DBS plus Barring List check. However, if 16 or 17 year olds are doing one of the roles in the above list under supervision, then they are eligible for a DBS Enhanced check only.

Activities in which parents/carers are present:

a) Parent/Carer and Toddler groups

Scenario 1 Any roles which are solely about working with the parents, providing refreshments or providing administrative support in such a group are not eligible for any DBS check. If the role of the workers does not involve supervision or personal care of children they do not require a DBS check, but the leader in charge of the group and their deputy should have an Enhanced DBS check.

Scenario 2 – If the role of the workers includes supervision of children (e.g. to allow parents chat together) then Enhanced DBS checks only would be required for the workers and Enhanced DBS plus Barred List checks for the leader in charge of the group.

Scenario 3 – If the role of workers includes unsupervised personal care of the children e.g. help with toileting (see Regulated Activity section above) then they and the leader in charge will require an Enhanced DBS check plus Barred List check (see above).

b) All age activities e.g. Messy Church

Scenario 1 Any roles which are solely about working with the parents, providing refreshments or providing administrative support in such a group are not eligible for any DBS check. If the role of the workers definitely does not involve supervision, teaching or specific personal care of children (see Regulated Activity section above) they do not require a DBS check, but the leader in charge of the group and their deputy should have an Enhanced DBS check only.

Scenario 2 Workers whose role includes supervision of children (e.g. because some children attend without a parent/carer) should have an Enhanced DBS check only and the overall leader in charge and their deputy should have an Enhanced DBS plus Barred List check.

Scenario 3 – If the role of any workers includes unsupervised personal care of children (e.g. see Regulated Activity section above) then they and the leader in charge will require an Enhanced DBS check plus Barred List check (see Regulated Activity section above).

Working with adults (18+ years of age):

The definition of Regulated Activity is simpler for work with adults as it does not depend on frequency, period, or whether the worker is supervised. However, within a church setting, Regulated Activity with adults will be limited to a small number of church roles where the person is involved in any of the following activities as part of that church role.

  • help with washing/dressing; eating/drinking; toileting; or teaching someone to do one of these tasks.
  • help with a person’s cash, bills or shopping because of their age, illness or disability. (A good example is helping someone pay a household bill. Posting the letter for the housebound person is not Regulated Activity but taking the money from them to take and pay at the PO counter is Regulated Activity. This would not usually be part of any church role but is included here for the small minority of exceptional occasions.)
  • helping someone in the conduct of their affairs (for example, a Power of Attorney for someone who is not a relative or friend). This would be very unlikely in a church context).
  • driving someone (because of their age, illness or disability) to/from places in order to receive health, personal or social care. (Note: not as family or friend but as part of a church role.)

For roles involving the above activities an Enhanced DBS plus Barred List check must be carried out, because it is a criminal offence to appoint somebody to such a role if they are on the Barred List.

For other church roles in which a worker has a significant level of involvement with adults who are in need or at risk because of age, Illness, disability or factors arising from social exclusion (whether temporary or permanent), then an Enhanced DBS check only should be carried out as a matter of good practice.


Criminal records checks are one part of the safer recruitment process. They are now the responsibility of the Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) and are known as DBS disclosures.

They are available for United Reformed Church volunteer workers through the Churches Agency for Safeguarding (CAS). DBS disclosure forms should be requested directly from CAS, on 0207 467 5216 or cas@methodistchurch.org.uk. DBS disclosures are free of charge for volunteers, but there is a charge for paid staff.

The applicant completes the relevant sections of the DBS form then gives it to the church verifier, along with documentary evidence of their identity for them to check. The church verifier completes the CAS form, the Documentary Evidence Form, and certain parts of the DBS form. When all the forms have been completed, the verifier sends them all back to CAS. The detailed guidance notes for verifiers are available from the CAS website at www.churchsafe.org.uk/cas-forms-and-guidance.html (n.b. you may need to scroll down the screen to find them).

From June 2013, the DBS online update service has been available. It reduces the need for a person to do multiple DBS applications for different organisations. If a worker subscribes to this service, then they may not need to complete a full DBS application in future for posts within the same workforce (i.e. the child or adult workforce). Ideally this should be done when they apply using their unique DBS form reference number (though it can be done within 14 days of the issue of a DBS certificate).  

If a worker has already subscribed to the DBS online update service, then the church can check the current status of their disclosure online at www.gov.uk/dbs-update-service, using the person’s unique DBS disclosure certificate number, their surname (as it appears on the certificate), and their date of birth. More detailed guidance about the Online Update Service is available on the CAS website www.churchsafe.org.uk/cas-forms-and-guidance.html or at www.gov.uk/dbs-update-service



DBS checks are only a small part of safeguarding procedures and this must be kept in perspective. People who are not British citizens cannot be DBS checked using our system. Some countries will provide a police check of some sort, to declare if the person has any criminal convictions and these should be carried out if available.

However, the other safer recruitment procedures are possible whatever the nationality:

  • Completion of a simple ‘volunteer form’ which asks for contact details, past experience of working with children and young people, names and contact details for two referees, and a self declarations about criminal convictions
  • A discussion exploring the person’s past experience of working with children, their motivation and their commitment to safeguarding, and making sure they know what this means in practice.
  • Taking up of references.

Obviously, there does need to be adequate time given to get the form completed and for references to be taken up. If the procedures listed above are in place, I would consider that reasonable precautions have been taken if the person is from overseas and cannot obtain a police check.

In addition, procedures during the children’s activities also contribute to safeguarding e.g. adequate supervision of children by workers who have been safely recruited; workers not spending time alone with children; adult workers sleeping in separate tents to children.


The church secretary of each local United Reformed Church is automatically on the list of approved verifiers. The church can ask for additional persons to be added to the list of approved verifiers, by completing and returning the form which is available on the URC website at www.urc.org.uk/ministry/safeguarding-children.html (it can also be obtained from Church House by emailing safeguarding@urc.org.uk)


The Safeguarding Coordinator is ideally someone within the church who can relate to the minister / elders / children’ & youth leaders. The purpose of the role is:

  • To coordinate safeguarding policy and procedure in the church.
  • To provide a first point of contact regarding safeguarding issues.
  • To be an advocate for safeguarding in the church

A sample role description is available as an appendix in the model safeguarding policy for local churches (2014 version) which can be found on the Southern Synod website safeguarding page atwww.urcsouthern.org.uk/safeguarding


Ideally, a safeguarding coordinator should be:

  • someone with experience of working in a professional capacity with children or with statutory care services for children or adults (e.g. social worker, teacher, etc)
  • someone who can deal with safeguarding issues sympathetically but objectively
  • someone who can cope with the shock and upset that allegations of abuse can bring
  • someone who can make decisions quickly and maintain appropriate confidentiality
  • someone who is committed to keeping up to date and to regular training for the role.


For advice on safeguarding children and young people

If you need routine advice on good practice in safeguarding children & young people, you should contact the Synod Children & Youth Development Officer (click on link for details)

If you need routine advice on good practice in safeguarding adults, you should contact the relevantSynod Safeguarding personnel (click on link for details)

If you need to discuss a particular safeguarding case in your church you can contact one of theSynod Safeguarding personnel (click on link for details)

If the Synod safeguarding personnel are unavailable and you need advice urgently, you could contact the new URC / Baptist Safeguarding Officer, Amy Slennett, on tel 020 7520 2729 or emailsafeguarding@urc.org.uk  

Churches Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS) also run a 24 hour helpline Tel 0845 120 4550 (please note that out of office hours this should only be used for urgent advice i.e. when a decision needs to be made about a safeguarding case which cannot wait until the next day)


There is now a legal requirement to carry out a DBS check for workers (paid or voluntary) who do roles which fall within the government definition of ‘regulated activity’. Government guidance for voluntary organisations is also clear that it is good practice for all workers to be appointed using a safer recruitment process, in order to reduce the chance of unsuitable people working with children. These guidelines are now part of good practice guidance in all the major denominations as well as in the wider voluntary sector. Moreover, the Charity Commission expects charities to follow such good practice, as do insurance companies (in order for indemnity policies to be valid in the case of an incident of abuse.) Having said that, not all church children’s work volunteers are now eligible for a DBS check. For more details see the answer to ‘Which church roles are now eligible for criminal record checks?’

It is important to remember that the DBS checks are not the be all and end all of child protection. It is one of a number of safer recruitment procedures which can help to provide assurance that workers are suitable to work with children. The rest of the safer recruitment process (i.e. simple application form, taking up of references, and informal ‘interview’) is important to help ensure that unsuitable people do not slip through the net. Other aspects of good practice (e.g. always working with another leader) are equally important as a further measure to safeguard children and leaders.

By expecting all those who regularly work with children & young people to be appointed using a safer recruitment process, the church sends out a clear message that it takes safeguarding seriously and that it is not a ‘soft target’. It minimises the opportunity for an unsuitable person to manipulate themselves into a position of trust among children & young people. This can be both a reassurance to parents with children who might join the church and a deterrent to anyone who may be unsuitable to work with children & young people.  

Finally, it is worth remembering that, in the big scheme of things,  the hour or two required by someone to complete a DBS form and show their identification to the verifier is not actually that much!


Generally speaking this is not an ideal situation.  Here are some relevant issues and questions which would need thinking about:

Are there any health and safety risks for younger children because of the mismatch between the physical development and emotional and cognitive development of the adult with learning disabilities?

If the group is primarily for young children, how is the arrangement affecting the children? Are the parents / carers happy for their children to participate in the group? Does it affect the ability of the adult leaders to care for the children? Do the leaders feel confident that they can work effectively with this person and his carer?  

Having considered such issues, if the church decide that this is an appropriate arrangement then all involved should be clear that it will be kept under review and is not a permanent arrangement. From a safeguarding perspective, the church should still check the suitability of the adult and their carer to be regularly in close contact with young children?  


Yes, on the Southern Synod website safeguarding page, you can download a model safeguarding policy for local churches. It aims to be clear and straightforward, but meets Charity Commission requirements and is in line with URC Good Practice guidelines. The policy does need to be made specific to the local situation (see the italics within the policy document for some of the local information required). The policy should be interpreted in the light of URC Good Practice guidelines which contain more detailed guidance and useful proformas.


From a URC perspective, each LEP should choose one of the denominational safeguarding systems to stick with and work to their guidance and policies. It is not simply dependent on which denomination owns the building, though that might be one of the factors in the decision.

When it comes to safeguarding adults, the Methodists have guidance and training which specifically addresses that. The URC has not yet published guidance on safeguarding adults and there is no standard URC training course on safeguarding adults at present. Therefore, at present, the relevant workers in such an LEP should do the Methodist training.

In Southern Synod, in my role as Children & Youth Development Officer, I deliver basic training which addresses safeguarding children & young people. For those who only work with children or young people, if they have done such URC training within the past 3 years then there should be no need to do the Methodist training in addition.