Safeguarding advice for WWOOFers

WWOOF is created by hosts and WWOOFers together, but we do understand that WWOOFers are a guest in a host’s home, and so hosts are in a special position of responsibility to provide WWOOFers with adequate food and accommodation, and the necessary support and guidance to carry out tasks safely and effectively.  As a charity, WWOOF UK supports hosts to understand safeguarding and take it seriously in every WWOOF exchange. We screen every new host when they apply, to do our best to only accept hosts who fit the WWOOF ethos.

As a WWOOFer, you need to take responsibility for your own safety too.  Always do your own specific screening of potential hosts to make sure they fit with what you want out of your WWOOFing experience and make sure that you feel comfortable about the arrangements.   

Even if you have made your best efforts to screen hosts before you arrive, it’s possible that not all of them will be exactly what you were expecting.

What should I do if I have a concern about my own safety or well being?

  1. Tell WWOOF UK straight away – contact us.  Although we are not available 24/7, we do regularly pick up messages and can give advice and support.  We take all reports of concern seriously, have a nominated safeguarding officer, and have a complaints procedure and safeguarding incident review process.
  2. Leave – you are under no obligation to continue WWOOFing somewhere you feel uncomfortable in any way, and you can leave.
  3. Have a ‘plan b’ – make sure you always have details of someone you can talk to in an emergency, and enough money to move on.  
  4. Talk to someone – if it’s appropriate, talk to your host or another volunteer if you are concerned about your well being.  Do not keep silent. Childline gives support to people under the age of 19, and anyone can contact The Samaritans to talk about any worries at all.
  5. In an emergency –  contact the police by dialling 111 for less urgent cases, or 999 for any of the emergency services.

What should I do if I have a concern about someone else’s well being?

If you suspect that anyone of any age who’s involved in a WWOOF exchange is vulnerable – whether because of naivety, drug or alcohol problems, physical or mental health problems, neglect or abuse – then you should act on it.  They might be another WWOOFer or other volunteer, a child, or even the host themselves;

  1. Tell WWOOF UK straight away – contact us.
  2. Talk to the person – if you feel able to and it’s safe to do so, have a private chat with them, and ask them whether there’s anything you can do to help.  Do not put yourself in any danger or compromising situations though – get support (e.g. from your host) if you can.

If you are worried that the person might be a threat to themselves, or to the safety of yourself or others;

  1. Tell the authorities – contact the police by dialling 111 for less urgent cases, or 999 for any of the emergency services.
Safeguarding is especially relevant for WWOOFers aged 16 and 17. In the UK, people aged 16 and 17 are legally considered adults in the workplace (which includes whilst volunteering), but are still deemed to be the responsibility of their guardians and the state, and WWOOF UK has particular responsibility as an ‘introducer organisation’ to protect them from harm.  Hosts are not in any official position of guardianship over a young WWOOFer, but we do make them aware of how to take action if they suspect a young person’s well being is at risk. If you are 16 or 17 years old, please read the following advice below carefully. If you ever need help, support or advice, Childline gives confidential support to people under the age of 19 – you can call them, email them or have a 1-2-1 online chat with a counsellor. www.childline.org.uk

What about safety?
WWOOF has been in the UK for over 45 years. Many of our 600+ hosts have been members for many, many years. New hosts are identified with the NEW Icon on both the host preview & profile. 

WWOOF is a self-moderating community. That means that all members contribute to the community’s safety by reporting problems and concerns directly to WWOOF UK. If warranted, hosts are removed from the organisation immediately for proven cases of breach of safety or security, and after 3 complaints for verified concerns of poor conditions, over-work, etc.

Tips for WWOOFers include the following information:

WWOOF does not know personally and does not have the resources to visit all the hosts in our listings – we only give you the means to make the initial contact. Make sure you travel safely.

When arranging to visit a WWOOF host, take all the precautions you would take when visiting someone you do not know.

If you are traveling alone, here’s some helpful advice:

• Keep in touch with family or friends so someone knows where you will be and what dates you expect to be there.

• Make sure you can leave a farm easily if things don’t work out.

• Prepare your mind, your attitudes and knowledge about yourself and the cultures to which you are going. Know your own level of awareness, your ability to assess situations and take appropriate action at the right time.

• There are a large number of websites to which you can go for essential hints. Put ‘traveling alone’ in Google!

• In choosing a WWOOF farm, read the listings carefully. You will see in the additional information provided about each host that they state whether they are a family, community or single person; and whether they are in an isolated location or near other houses. These are points you need to consider if you are traveling alone.

• When you are negotiating your visit with the host, feel free to ask about accommodation. Obviously, it’s a little over the top to ask: ‘Is there a bolt on the door?’ But ask if you’ll be in your own room or in a dormitory space. If the accommodation is a caravan, will it be shared?

• Trust your intuition! If you feel uncomfortable for any reason, do not stay in that situation. Make sensible, calm (but firm) plans to leave as soon as you can.

The positive experience of traveling alone will usually far outweigh any problems but, obviously, we want to know of any negative situations so we can take action.

Do hotels in the UK accept 16/17 year olds?
Many hotels, B&Bs or campsites do not accept under 18s staying by themselves. Your best chance is a hostel: https://www.yha.org.uk/

Premier Inn is the only hotel chain we know that does: https://www.premierinn.com/gb/en/home.html

The age policy of other independent accommodation providers will vary so check in advance.

Do I need parental consent if I am 16/17
WWOOF UK does not require someone aged 16/17 to provide parental consent; however individual hosts may ask you for a signed consent letter from your parent or guardian, or to complete an information sheet with emergency contacts etc before arrival.