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Changes to DBS checking requirements for Support Volunteers, Lead Support Volunteers, and some Group Coordinators

To ensure we recruit volunteers fairly, and apply the appropriate screening checks, we’re making some changes to our DBS (Disclosure & Barring Service) checking requirements. This will affect the roles of Support Volunteer, Lead Support Volunteer and, in some circumstances, Group Coordinator.

Because the law is different in Scotland, these changes will only apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We are, however, asking for recruitment of these roles to move online (vacancies posted on our website and applications made through our online recruitment platform) across all nations.

We hope these changes will make recruitment quicker and easier for everyone involved.


-Lead Support Volunteer / Support Volunteer

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the roles of Lead Support Volunteer and Support Volunteer will no longer require a DBS check (either on recruitment or renewal).

This is because we’ve adjusted the role descriptions to eliminate any function of these roles which would require a criminal record check.

In practice, this means a slight shift in both roles from assisting/advising to signposting.

We ask that ALL Lead Support Volunteers and Support Volunteers familiarise themselves with the tweaks that have been made to the role description and ensure they operate within them.

You can see the new role descriptions here, and you can find out more by attending one of our Support Volunteer Spring Forums. Click here to sign up.

-Group Coordinator

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the role of Group Coordinator will no longer require a DBS check (either upon recruitment or renewal), except:

  • Where the group delivers a driving service

  • Where the group delivers a service using a therapist for which there is no Service Level Agreement (SLA)

If either of the above applies to a group, the Group Coordinator will continue to require a DBS check upon recruitment or renewal.

Ensuring we recruit safely without DBS checks

All these roles still carry a significant amount of responsibility, and the safeguarding of service users and volunteers remains our priority.


Instead of completing DBS checks, we’ll now ask new applicants for these roles to do two things before recruitment:

  • Participate in an interview (can be conducted over the phone or via video link)

  • Provide one personal and one professional reference (unless they’ve already been volunteering with us for 12 months or more)


Existing volunteers in these roles whose DBS checks are due for renewal no longer have to do anything. But Lead Support Volunteers and Support Volunteers must ensure they are familiar with the changes to their role descriptions.

DBS checks while face-to-face meeting is paused

Where a DBS check is still needed for a Group Coordinator on recruitment or renewal (because their group delivers a driving service, or a therapist service without an SLA), we cannot conduct the necessary in-person ID checks at the moment.

Instead, we’ll review ID documents online, and then conduct the in-person ID check once face-to-face activities can resume.


The laws defining which roles need a criminal record check are different in Scotland. So, checks for the Disclosure Scotland PVG (Protecting Vulnerable Groups) scheme will still be required for all these roles.

PVG checks (and necessary ID checks) can now be completed online, so we’ll do this whenever recruitment for roles in Scotland requires them.

Although PVG checks remain in Scotland, the changes we’ve made to the role descriptions for Lead Support Volunteers and Support Volunteers still apply. So, volunteers in these roles in Scotland must familiarise themselves with the new role descriptions and ensure they act within them.

You can see the new role descriptions here, and you can find out more by attending one of our Support Volunteer Spring Forums. Click here to sign up.


Online recruitment

All future recruitment of Lead Support Volunteers, Support Volunteers and Group Coordinators (across all nations, including Scotland) should be done online (on the internet). This means posting vacancies on the MS Society website and processing applications through our online recruitment platform, REACH.

Recruiting online means we can do it consistently, ensuring the correct steps are followed for each role and nation.

Using online recruitment means automated processes (such as REACH sending out reference requests automatically) can make recruitment simpler and quicker. And posting vacancies online, and circulating them via social media, also means we’re likely to attract more applications and find new volunteers more easily.

Your group can decide who (the Group Coordinator or Lead Support Volunteer, for example) leads on recruitment. If volunteers aren’t familiar with using REACH, we can support with this.

If you’re recruiting a Lead Support Volunteer or Support Volunteer, Deborah Redman (Programme Lead for Support Volunteers) is also very happy to support other aspects of the process, such as sitting on interview panels and assessing references.

If you’re recruiting a Group Coordinator, Simon Moran (Volunteer Recruitment Officer) will support you throughout the process.

For help with using online recruitment, or to reach Deborah or Simon, please contact the Volunteer Support Team on 0300 500 8084 (option #3) or [email protected].

Offline recruitment (without using the REACH recruitment platform)

We don’t recommend recruiting offline. The quality of the process will suffer, and there are risks that screening checks (references or DBS/PVG) won’t be done correctly.

You can’t recruit a Group Coordinator offline. Simon Moran (Volunteer Recruitment Manager) will support you throughout the online recruitment process.

You can still recruit a Lead Support Volunteer or Support Volunteer offline, but only if volunteers in your group use individual MS Society email accounts, and have access to SharePoint. SharePoint is where all personal data and documentation relating to recruitment must be stored, to ensure compliance with our Data Protection Policy.

During the offline recruitment process, you’ll need to gather the same personal data from applicants (name, address, phone number, email address, and diversity information). You can do this by asking applicants to complete our Volunteer Application form, which you can find here. You’ll also need to conduct interviews - and keep written records of these - and to obtain two written references for a successful candidate. Useful templates for interviews and references can be found here.

As these documents will be on paper, you’ll need to scan them (or a photograph on a phone is fine) so they can be saved on SharePoint. The hard-copy documents must be destroyed (shredded) once you’ve done this.

Electronic versions (scans or pictures of paper copies) of documents from applicants who have interviewed successfully must also be emailed (via your MSS email account) to the Volunteer Support Team, who will upload the data onto our system and process the references. Only then, and once training has been completed, can any volunteer begin their role with the MS Society.

To ensure the necessary steps above are being undertaken, Deborah Redman, (Programme Lead for Support Volunteers) must be involved in offline recruitment, and will remain responsible for assessing references.

To contact Deborah to let her know you’re recruiting, or to pass on the application form to the Volunteer Support Team, email [email protected].