When Ofsted visit or inspect your children’s home or service, they will check your staff recruitment records. Any shortfalls in your recruitment process can spell disaster for your inspection outcomes, particularly if Ofsted find that those oversights compromise children’s safety.

The checks you must make and the information you must obtain can be found in regulations 32 and 33 and schedule 2 of the Children’s Homes (England) Regulations 2015. 

Who Do The Regulations Apply to?

The regulations apply to staff you employ and agency staff who work for your organisation which is often overlooked.

You will need to check any agency staff’s identity before allowing them to work at your home to ensure that you have the correct person. However, you do not have to obtain all the other information yourself. For example, it is acceptable for you to see evidence of a clear DBS certificate and references rather than apply for these yourself. You should be able to demonstrate the steps you took to satisfy yourself that the person was suitable.

If you need to use an agency member of staff at short notice and you have not previously used this person, we expect you, as a minimum, to check their identity and obtain written confirmation from the agency that it has carried out the relevant suitability checks. You should review the evidence that the person is suitable as soon as possible, for example, the next working day. In these circumstances, the agency staff member must not be in sole charge of the home.

Inspectors may discuss with you the arrangements you have made with the agency or agencies you use to satisfy yourself that you can safely allow the staff they send to you to work at the home. Inspectors may ask to see the evidence you have used to make your decision.

What Information Do You Need for New Recruits?

Schedule 2 of the Children’s Homes (England) Regulations 2015 sets out what information you must have to check a person’s suitability:

  • proof of identity, including a recent photograph
  • a relevant Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate
  • two written references, including a reference from the person’s most recent employer, if they had one
  • verification, as far as reasonably possible, of the reason why their previous employment or position ended
  • documentary evidence of any qualifications that the person considers relevant for the position
  • a full employment history, together with a satisfactory explanation of any gaps in employment in writing

Exceptional circumstances

The guidance states that if you are recruiting a permanent staff member, you can, exceptionally, allow a person to start working at the home if you only have the proof of identity and the DBS certificate while you continue to make enquiries. For example, you may need to employ additional staff quickly. If you do this, the person must be supervised when working with children. You must be able to provide evidence that you have taken reasonable steps to obtain the information. There may be occasions when, despite your best efforts, you cannot obtain some of the required information. We recognise that this might happen occasionally, but we do not expect it to happen regularly. Employing staff without all the required information is not a good recruitment practice. If you cannot obtain all the relevant information, inspectors will want to know what additional action you took to satisfy yourself that the person was suitable and, if any relevant information was missing, what action you took to mitigate any risks you identified.

Written references

The regulations require you to obtain 2 written references, including one from the applicant’s last employer. You do not have to contact the person who wrote the reference to check that they did so, although this is good practice. You should always check out a reference if you doubt its quality or reliability.

You may not be able to obtain a reference from a previous employer, for example, because they are no longer operating or have died. If this happens, you should ask for another reference from another previous employer.

You must try, as far as possible, to find out why a prospective staff member’s previous employment ended, if their previous jobs involved working with children or vulnerable adults. You should try to obtain this information from their most recent employer and other employers where relevant. For example, this could be a conversation with the previous employer, and you record the detail of this on the staff member’s file. You do not have to contact all of their previous employers unless you have a particular cause for concern. If you have a concern, we expect you to obtain as much information as possible to make sure that the person is suitable.

Recruitment records

If you do not keep full recruitment records at the home, inspectors will look at your list of staff or electronic records that summarise the vetting and recruitment checks. They will discuss with you how you have satisfied yourself that all staff working at the home are fit to do so and that your recruitment arrangements comply with the regulations. These records could be maintained in checklist or spreadsheet formats.

An inspector may ask you to provide a small sample of full recruitment records, even if they are not held at the home.

If you use the DBS update service to check the status of an individual’s DBS certificate, you should be able to demonstrate how you manage and record details of any check you carry out.

Source: Gov UK

Safer recruitment checklist