Expert warns voluntary groups on screening

VOLUNTARY and community groups must ensure potentially dangerous individuals do not slip through their screening process, a risk management expert warned yesterday.

Canadian Linda Graff, has been involved in not-for-profit management for more than 20 years. Yesterday, she was guest speaker at a conference hosted by Volunteering Ireland that provided a rare opportunity for managers to learn ways of recruiting and training retaining volunteers.

While screening might begin with the application process it should not simply end when the candidate is hired, Ms Graff said.

Every screening mechanism had substantive limitations and even the most comprehensive protocol could allow an inappropriate person slip through, she said. That was why thorough initial screening was necessary but insufficient to control personnel-related risks. “Simply put, it is nothing short of dangerous to assume that risks end when a candidate has been screened, even when the screening has been rigorous,” she said.

Ms Graff said she realised organisations were still scrambling to develop policies and initial screening protocols might be overwhelmed by the spreading realisation that ongoing screening mechanisms were necessary.

Nevertheless, she said, organisations needed to recognise that responsibility for candidate suitability did not end at placement.

About a third of Irish adults volunteer on a regular basis but up to 80% are given no training.

Ms Graff said voluntary organisations needed to create a corporate culture that acknowledges the existence of risks, takes risk management seriously and both encourages and rewards the identification of risks. Risk management should be everyone’s business, she said.

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