Checking and training staff or volunteers

Use safer recruitment for roles with children and young people

In Aotearoa New Zealand we rely on the goodwill of many people in sport and recreation activities. There are thousands of staff, volunteers and whānau supporting clubs and organisations across the country. Without their hard work and support, many activities and events would not run.

Most people are well-intentioned. But a small number of adults join clubs and organisations to gain access to children and young people to groom or harm them. Some adults may not be suitable to work with tamariki and rangatahi if they are violent, abusive or neglectful. Some may not be a great role model, for example, illicit drug users. 

We recommend completing adequate background checks when recruiting or trusting anyone in your club or organisation with a role involving contact with children or young people. The level of checking will depend on the type of role. For example, recruiting a paid staff member in an organisation would likely need more background checks than someone volunteering in a club during a season of sport or occasional events.

Finding candidates may be through advertising or by word of mouth. Even if you or someone in the club or organisation knows a candidate personally, you should still follow the steps and checks below.

Trust your instincts. If you have concerns about someone, you could perform more checks. Don’t allow people into roles if there is a risk to children and young people.

Tamariki (child) and rangatahi (young person) means anyone under 18 years old.

When roles involve working with tamariki and rangatahi

Working or being in contact with children and young people can be a part of many different roles:

  • supervising or coaching tamariki and rangatahi, which could be with or without other adults present

  • being in a perceived position of power or authority, from the perspective of tamariki, rangatahi or their whānau

  • accompanying children and young people on activities away from the club’s or organisation’s main location or out of town

  • being in direct contact by phone, letter, email, online or through social media — this could be with groups of kids

  • having access to a child’s or young person’s personal or confidential information

  • where there is physical contact or touching, for example, a coach supporting, correcting the pose or posture of a child or young person

  • transporting children and young people

  • supervising overnight stays

  • with any other type of contact with tamariki and rangatahi.

Working with children and when to make background checks

When you recruit someone — or agree to take a volunteer onboard — the amount of background checking needed will depend on the type of role and the degree of contact with, or responsibility for, tamariki and rangatahi.

In an ideal world, we’d recommend performing all the checks below for nga tangata/everybody working or volunteering with tamariki and rangatahi in sport and recreation. However, we understand the practicalities involved means this may not always be possible.

You should include all of the checks and training below for paid and volunteer roles that include:

  • working alone with individual or groups of children and young people

  • supervising overnight trips and stays.

As a minimum, verify the person’s identity in person, and organise police vetting and training for all other volunteer roles, including:

  • roles working with groups of children and/or tamariki where more than one adult is present

  • during local activities.

Trust your instincts. If you have concerns about someone, you could perform more checks. Don’t allow people into roles if they pose a risk to children and young people.


Position descriptions

When you’re putting together a description of what the role will cover, you’ll be thinking about what experience, skills and personal qualities you’re looking for. Think about specific requirements for protecting the tamariki and rangatahi in your club or organisation, including:

  • previous experience working with children and young people

  • showing that they understand appropriate boundaries and behaviour

  • required sport and recreation qualifications, if applicable.

Reflect these requirements in the position description. You should also let applicants know that, if successful, there will be checks before they can be offered the role. You could include details of the sort of checks involved.


What to look for during the interview

Interviewing candidates is your chance to identify any people who could pose a risk to children and young people. We recommend having at least two interviewers present, and preferably one with experience in working with children and young people, child safeguarding or child protection.

Interviews could be in person or through an online video conferencing app. Include questions about their suitability to work with children or young people.

Ask them about their general experience:

  • why they want to work with children

  • what they find most rewarding/challenging about working with children and young people

  • their approach, values and beliefs when working with children and young people, for example, their understanding of important boundaries

  • their professional experience and qualifications for working with children and young people

  • whether they’ve ever had any disciplinary action taken against them, or if they ever lost their temper while working with children, and what triggered this.

To find out more about their experience in handling difficult or confronting situations, you could ask:

  • children and young people they found difficult to work with, and what strategies they used, for example, how they would handle disruptive, aggressive or sexually inappropriate children

  • what they would do if a child or young person seems sad and refuses to join in activities

  • how they’ve handled adults that have acted inappropriately around children, or what they would do if they thought another member of staff or volunteer had harmed or was harming a child

  • how they would respond if a child told them they were being abused

  • what they would do if they thought a child was being abused at home.

Ask for more information if you feel the answer given wasn’t sufficient for you to decide on their suitability to work with tamariki and rangatahi.

Look out for ‘red flags’ in their application materials and interview answers:

  • unexplained and lengthy gaps in their employment history

  • evading question or being inconsistent

  • a lack of respect or care for children and young people

  • strange or inappropriate questions or statements about children or young people

  • expressing an interest in being alone with tamariki and rangatahi

  • being excessively or inappropriately interested in working with certain ages or genders

  • excessive interest in child photography.

Let applicants know that the final selection process will include:

  • checking their referees

  • vetting and screening checks.


Checking, vetting and screening

Checking, vetting and screening is a way of assessing the risks. Each of these are important steps to gain the best possible insight into the candidate and their suitability for the role.

Complete and consider the results of these checks before giving someone an unconditional offer. This should be completed and signed off by at least two people within your club or organisation. Don’t leave it to one person.

  • Check their qualifications and professional memberships are legitimate. Ask to see original documents, or certified copies (such as documents seen by a justice of the peace). If these aren’t available, contact the organisation that issued the qualification or membership to check the candidate’s claim.

  • Ask candidates if they have any criminal convictions. Ask for approval to organise police vetting. If they don’t give approval, don’t recruit them into the role. Note: we recommend that you don’t re-use older police vetting that’s been requested for an earlier recruitment process or another organisation.

  • Ask people who have lived overseas to provide copies of Police certificates from their countries of citizenship and from any country in which they have lived for one or more years within the last 10 years.

  • Verify the preferred candidate’s identity in person using two documents and including a photo identification. If the identity has a different name, ask for the supporting legal document that confirms this name change.

  • You can search for public information about candidates on the internet and social media. However, do this cautiously and with respect for their privacy. You must also be careful not to make unreasonable decisions about their application based on this information. You could let candidates know you’d like to do this, and why, and ask for their consent in advance.

Learn about police vetting service – on the NZ Police website


Reference checks

Contact at least two of their referees by phone or direct contact. Ask them about the applicant’s suitability for the role and experience in working with children and young people. Check that the referees:

  • have known the applicant for more than a year

  • are not related to the applicant

  • can vouch for their reputation, behaviour and dependability.

Tell the referees the reason for your call and what you’re looking for in the candidate for this role. Ask each referee the same questions about:

  • the candidate’s character

  • if they would have any concerns about this applicant working with or being in contact with children

  • the applicant’s experience with tamariki and rangatahi, and in what capacity to validate their claims

  • while they were working with the applicant, was there anything that made them think that this applicant is not suitable to work with or be in contact with children

  • to their knowledge, was this person ever involved with the abuse or neglect of children?

Look out for ‘red flags’ in a referee’s answer too, such as:

  • a reluctant referee 

  • if they don’t know (or appear to know) the applicant well

  • if they won’t give information or give evasive or convoluted responses 

  • if their account differs from the applicant

  • referees that would not re-hire or work with the applicant 

  • referees that cannot be contacted 

  • referees that were not told they would be used

Ask for more information if you feel the answer given wasn’t sufficient for you to decide on the candidate’s suitability to work with tamariki and rangatahi.



Give all new starters an effective induction, including:

  • putting them through an induction process, including making them familiar with the club or organisation’s policies, processes and code of conduct

  • giving them suitable training at their level to ensure they have appropriate knowledge and skill to uphold their safeguarding responsibilities

  • guidance and resources on all relevant child-safeguarding practices

  • make sure they know where to get support and how to report any concerns or incidents.

Keep all staff and volunteers updated about any relevant changes. Hold a yearly refresher on child safeguarding practices and processes.


Appointing young people

If a person under the age of 18 applies for a role to work with children and other young people, you should:

  • use the same recruitment and screening process that you’d use for adults, as above (unless they are under 10 years old, as they cannot be vetted)

  • make sure the young person is aware of child safeguarding practices

  • document any pre-existing personal, professional, and other relationships the young person has with other young people at the club or organisation

  • make sure where they will be working is safe for them too.