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Protect or Exclude? The Ethics and Real Risk of Over-Screening Volunteers

Protect or Exclude? The Ethics and Real Risk of Over-Screening Volunteers

Worried man

As organizations strive to meet funder guidelines, legal compliance and internal requirements, the notion of “risk” can become a growing spectre. This leads to rampant over-screening of volunteers that creates barriers for candidates and slows down processes in the name of ‘protecting’ organizations. In this Ethics column, author Sammy Feilchenfeld argues that it is time to reconsider the ethics behind extensive screening procedures for volunteers and ask the question: Who do we really protect, or harm, with these practices? 

To read the full article

Thu, 11/16/2023

Excellent article Sammy touching on all of the swings and roundabouts that spin around in my own head & heart, discussions in my organisation and among peers. 

One of our programs that relies on volunteers is funded by the government who have a clause to police check all of these volunteers. This requirement reduced our active volunteer cohort by at least 25% when it was introduced and had a large knock on effect on the community members involved. Our hands were tied and the feeling we have is deflated and frustrated. 

An important topic and I appreciate the way you have presented the many aspects.


Fri, 11/17/2023

Thank you Emma! I'm not surprised to hear about the reduction in active volunteers from this change. In Toronto we find a lot of insurance providers are requiring certain organizations to request the most detailed police check...even if it's not needed! My hope is that continued advocacy can make for more systemic change and reducing barriers!