Most volunteering organisations have a screening and checking process as a final step in recruiting volunteers. Volunteer checks are a good way to minimise risk to your organisation and to protect volunteers and the people they will be working with.
At its simplest level, screening and checking involves asking prospective volunteers for identification (like a driver's licence or passport), a reference letter or contact details of referees that you can follow up.
If your volunteer roles involve working with vulnerable people – children, seniors or people with a disability – or tasks where volunteers may have access to bank accounts, prospective volunteers may also need to undergo further screening such as a Working with Children Check or a police record check.
Handling personal information
Handling and storing personal information is an important privacy issue and reflects the professionalism and responsibility of any community organisation. Some not-for-profit organisations are required to comply with the National Privacy Principles of the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988.
Even if your organisation is not required to comply, it is good management practice to follow the relevant privacy principles.
Identity and reference checks
It is recommended to require proof of identification and some reference checking as part of your volunteer screening process. This protects everyone involved with your organisation.
Asking a prospective volunteer for identification is a simple way to verify that they are who they say they are. Some volunteer organisations use the 100 point identification check to confirm your identity. This is the same check required for opening a bank account in Australia.
Prospective volunteers will also need to provide 100 points of identification if applying for a police record check or Working with Children Check.
In some cases, a prospective volunteer may not have 100 points of identification. If this happens, try and be flexible and discuss with them other ways that you could check their identity.
References and referees
You may also wish to check references or follow up with a referee as part of your organisation's volunteer checks.
It is important to reassure prospective volunteers that your organisation's checking processes are about protecting everyone involved and are not about judging a person's credentials or fitness for the role.
Some prospective volunteers will not have recent employment references or referees. In these cases ask for other kinds of references from people like teachers, religious ministers or someone in the community who knows them.
For more information see our Identity and reference checks page for volunteers.
Working with Children Checks
In Victoria, the Working with Children Check is a mandatory minimum checking standard to protect children under 18 from people who may put them at risk. This includes both volunteers and employees.
Volunteers do not need to pay for a Working with Children Check but they do need to apply for one themselves (you cannot do it on their behalf). See the Working with Children Checks page for volunteers for more information.
Once a prospective volunteer has their Working with Children Check you need to sight it and verify that they have passed their check. Find a list of all your obligations as an organisation on the Organisations obligations page of the Working with Children Check website.
Police record checks
Not everyone has to undergo a police check but your organisation may consider asking prospective volunteers to undergo a police check if they undertake certain roles that involve:
- Working with vulnerable people, such as children, seniors or people with a disability
- Financial duties, especially those involving access to bank accounts
- Driving duties.
Some volunteer organisations must get a police check for all their volunteers as part of their funding arrangements with government departments.
A volunteer must apply for their own National Police Certificate except in cases where your volunteer organisation qualifies for the CrimCheck service.
The National Police Certificate is issued to the applicant, not to your organisation. Volunteers will need to bring you their certificate for sighting and you can make a copy for your records with the volunteer's consent.
Volunteer organisations can apply to Victoria Police for a Community Volunteer Fee (CVF) number.
To apply for a police check volunteers need to complete a 'Consent to Check and Release National Police Record' form. You can download this form from the Victoria Police National Police Record Check.
For more information see the Police record checks page for volunteers.