Two student volunteer groups have spoken to Exeposé in regards to delays surrounding inhouse DBS checks, with criticism being levelled at how “dismissive” the Students’ Guild have been of their concerns and how lack of clear communication has led to projects being cancelled.
“Pre-pandemic the Guild used to provide all DBS checks for our projects such as for working with children in schools” a spokesperson from Exeter Student Volunteers (ESV) told Exeposé. “The volunteers would go to a drop-in which was run weekly and complete the forms.”
However, during the pandemic the DBS service was suspended for “revamp”, with ESV claiming that issues surrounding this have been ongoing since June.
“We are still being told by the Guild that it’ll be sorted soon, with no estimated date despite repeatedly asking. It means our projects such as those involving children or in an educational setting cannot run, even if volunteers had an external DBS because it hasn’t been done through the Guild.”
EVS went on to state how the Guild let the society “organise a summer camp for Devon Young Carers but the Guild came in a few a weeks before because they hadn’t gotten their side of the admin done. It’s just another case of disorganisation and them wasting our time.”
Upcoming school projects that could be impacted by DBS delays include Mentoring for Success, Art Club, Global Touch and a Teddy Bear Hospital.
When EVS reached out to the Guild expressing their concerns, they received an email “saying we’d been running the society improperly and not getting the right risk assessments. But there’s no point [doing risk assessments] until DBS takes place.”
Student Action for Refugees (STAR) shared similar experiences, stating how the system for submitting volunteers’ names in order to get DBS checks seems “unclear” and that “there doesn’t seem to be one.”
STAR initially reached out to the Guild on 1 September and received a reply the next day stating the process was being reviewed. This was followed up on 26 September after no updates about DBS checks were provided on the Guild website other than for related academic courses. The same day the society received a response stating that the new process was to provide a list of volunteers “so [the Activities team] can work out the numbers required.” The Guild also stated that they hoped to cover the costs.
STAR sent over a list of student volunteers to be DBS checked on 3 November, and received a reply on 24 November stating they would be in touch early in the week if anything needs changing.
However, STAR also noted that “on the whole, I wouldn’t say it has negatively affected the volunteers or members as it has all been behind the scenes.”
A spokesperson for the Guild told Exeposé: “Following a review by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), the Guild’s registration status was changed as the organisation was not meeting the minimum threshold for applications during the pandemic, meeting the threshold is required for continual registration. As such, this prompted a review within the Guild on how to facilitate DBS checks to enable students to continue working on volunteering projects or with external organisations.
“This review has taken longer than anticipated but we are hoping to introduce a new process in the new year to enable volunteer projects requiring DBS checks to take place from term two onwards. The Guild has met with ESV to update them on this process and hope to move forward positively to ensure all the amazing volunteer projects our students get involved in can take place as soon as possible.”