Ask Sheila - Archive England

Sheila Scott OBE has now retired and therefore is no longer available to answer your social care questions. However, you might still find the answer you’ve been searching for down below.

27th May 2015

Character/Personal references

Dear Sheila,
In our Recruitment process we make sure we are doing all relevant checks including DBS and obtaining 2 professional references etc. Are there any specific guidelines on what to do in the absence of professional references? With Character/Personal references (which are not formal) how much liability and commitment we can put on the referees? - Majid

Dear Majid,

This is a really good question.

In a perfect world you would contact the two previous employers and they would promptly respond with the reference.

We all know that this does not happen in every case.

In the instance of a school leaver you should obtain a reference from the school or college and a personal character reference.

Where you write for the reference but there is no response you should ask the applicant for a personal referee as well. The important thing is that you should be able to verify where the person has been working. You can do that from a number of sources including:

  • a character reference
  • a former work colleague
  • perhaps a record of training or certificates
  • the DBS

You must be able to demonstrate that you have done the best you can to track the recent work history.

You cannot, of course, make a previous employer write a reference.

Best wishes,


*All information is correct at the time of publishing.

About Sheila

Sheila Scott OBE has now retired and over the years , prior to her retirement she has answered thousands of your social questions. You can still access the many questions below.

For Sheila Scott OBE as the former CEO of National Care Association (NCA), care is Sheila's life. She possesses a strong command of the issues facing the care sector informed by her long career as a nursing professional, the owner and manager of a care business, and as a leader in the care sector.

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