Assessing and managing risk

Before undertaking a FoB scheme its founders should conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis.

There is a rich complexity of risk attached to such a scheme and, with that, the potential for fatal reputational damage if a volunteer misbehaves.

Before proceeding, ask yourself: what is the worst that could happen? Can this be prevented?

It is, of course, impossible to eliminate all risks incurred by establishing a FoB.

The purpose of the policies to enable you to manage risk in the most effective way possible.

When the local TV station rings to ask you how you could possibly have allowed something awful to have happened, you must be able to demonstrate that you took every reasonable precaution.

When things go wrong, you need the best possible mitigation.


Conduct risk assessments

For every role played by your volunteers you would be advised to conduct a risk assessment for 1) the proper management of risk and also 2) the purpose of demonstrating that potential problems were anticipated and steps taken to reduce risk.

A risk assessment using this template is recommended:

Look for the hazards.

Decide who might be harmed, and for each hazard, evaluate the chance, big or small, of harm actually being done and decide whether existing precautions are adequate or whether more should be done.

Record the significant findings of risk assessment, such as the main risks and the measures you have taken to deal with the.

Review your assessment from time to time, and revise if necessary.


Do volunteers need DBS checks?

Yes. The DBS say that volunteers who from time to time offer ‘counsel and services’ to ‘vulnerable adults’ are eligible. In all likelihood, this would cover all volunteers because, while not all service users will be vulnerable adults, some service users will have children and, while those children will not be service users, volunteers may well come into contact with them.

Furthermore, if a FoB is to undertake an educational role, volunteers may well be called in to talk to school students.

The definition of a vulnerable adult is:

A vulnerable adult is a person aged 18 years or over who may be unable to take care of themselves; protect themselves from harm; or prevent themselves from being exploited.

An adult may be vulnerable because they:

Have a physical disability

Have learning difficulties.

Have mental health problems.

Are old, frail or ill.

Are sometimes unable to take care of themselves or protect themselves without help.

A person may also be vulnerable because of a temporary illness or difficulty.

A vulnerable adult may have difficulty in making their wishes and feelings known and this may make them vulnerable to abuse. It may also mean that they are not able to make their own decisions or choices.

If you want to make further checks for information or peace of mind, contact the DBS here:  or phone their helpline here: 0870 90 90 811.

If you want to apply for DBS checks for volunteers you will have to use an umbrella body to forward your application.

Find your nearest DBS umbrella body  here.