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A DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check is an analysis of UK police records to help prevent unsuitable applicants from working with vulnerable groups such as children or the disabled.
They help businesses and organisations to make better recruitment decisions and help protect against abuse.
For example, did you know that an estimated 57,000 individuals in the UK have been barred from working with children or adults? Or that around half of these committed crimes so serious that they were barred automatically?
The DBS check will look for any convictions, cautions, reprimands, warnings or other reasons why an individual shouldn’t do a certain role. Their service also keeps a record of who is unsuitable for working with certain vulnerable groups and can help investigate if they receive a ‘red flag’ from an employer.
We’ve created this article to explain more about the DBS checks including why they were introduced, who needs one and how you apply. We’ll also tackle some of our most frequently asked questions about these checks including their cost, which documents are required, how long they last, and so on.
When were the DBS checks introduced?
Before 2002, a centralised, detailed check and register of offenders like the DBS didn’t exist.
The Department of Education did have a list of individuals who had been barred from working with children and vulnerable adults called List 99 but it didn’t protect children as effectively as it should have and was highly controversial at the time.
The shortcomings of this list came to mainstream attention when school caretaker Ian Huntley sexually assaulted and murdered two schoolgirls in a case known as the Soham Murders.
Although he had been accused of rape and sexual assaults on a teenager and other young people before he started working for the school, he hadn’t been formally charged so the information wasn’t available when he started work. He was also friendly and popular at the school, so didn’t appear to pose a threat.
The rules were tightened as a result of these horrific murders and in 2002, the CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check was introduced to protect children and vulnerable adults. This took into account all police records held, not just information on formal charges. Ten years later, in 2012, the CRB check became known as the DBS check.
The original List 99 is still in existence today and although it has been renamed the Children’s Barred List, you may still hear the term ‘List 99’ being used. No longer a core part of the safeguarding checks, it’s now mainly used to provide further additional information for the more in-depth checks.
What is the difference between DBS and CRB?
There isn’t a difference between the DBS check and the CRB check. The same checks are carried out with both and they provide the same function.
The different names simply explain whether the initial check was carried out before the merging of the CRB check with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) in 2012, or afterwards.
Who needs a DBS check?
There’s a wide range of positions that require a DBS check by law in order to protect vulnerable groups of people or sensitive information.
Individuals need a DBS check to work as a:
- Classroom assistant
- Sports coach
- Social worker
- Nursery staff member
- Medical professional
- Foster carer.
They will also need to have one if they’re working in a school, hospital, nursery or children’s home, even if they’re only undertaking an admin role.
Certain professions may require that you hold a DBS certificate before you can start your career.
- Veterinary surgeon
- Security guard
- Taxi driver
- Positions in the gambling industry.
If required, everyone working for the organisation in these roles must have this check whether they’re employees, job applicants or volunteers.
The organisation can’t select just a few members of staff based on their own criteria, nor can they request a DBS check if applicants aren’t applying for certain qualifying roles. Applying for the DBS check should be the final stage of the job application.
If the employer doesn’t carry out the checks required by law, they could be held legally liable for the actions of their staff.
What are the types of DBS checks?
There are four different types of DBS checks. These are suitable for different job roles and purposes, depending on the ‘depth’ of the check. These are:
A basic DBS check is open for anyone and can be used for any purpose. Both the individual and employer can apply for it (with consent).
It will contain information of any convictions or conditional cautions that are considered unspent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
The standard DBS check is often required for law, accountancy, banking and administration positions. The individual can’t apply for it themselves – it must be done by the organisation who is hiring the person.
The standard DBS certificate contains information on spent and unspent convictions, reprimands, cautions and final warnings as found on the Police National Computer.
If an individual is applying for a position in a school or hospital such as a teacher, teaching assistant, doctor, nurse or pharmacist, they’re likely to need to undergo an enhanced DBS check. Some roles such as taxi drivers or those working in the gambling industry will also require one.
The certificate includes information on spent and unspent convictions, reprimands, cautions and final warnings as found on the Police National Computer, as with the standard check, plus any other relevant information held by the police.
It can only be applied for by the organisation who is hiring the individual, not the individual themselves.
Enhanced with list checks
This checks for the same information as the standard and enhanced DBS checks such as spent and unspent convictions, reprimands, cautions, final warnings as found on the Police National Computer and any other relevant information held by the police.
Additionally, it will check the DBS barred lists (including the so-called List 99) which detail whether an individual has been prevented by law from working with children or vulnerable adults.
These checks are only available to individuals who have applied for certain roles that will involve engaging in regulated activity with children and/or vulnerable adults.
This might include those teaching, caring for or supervising children, working at a children’s home, child minders, foster carers, and those working with the disabled or the elderly.
If you’re applying for a position, your prospective employer will tell you whether you need a DBS check, which type you need and what information you need to provide.
How long do DBS checks take?
According to the DBS, checks usually take around 8 weeks to process. However, the majority of applications take just 2-4 weeks.
This does depend on whether the applicant’s details are correct and how busy the service is. There are certain times of year when they tend to be busier (such as over the summer), so you should expect a delay if applying at these times.
Once they’ve completed the check, the applicant will be sent the certificate immediately.
If you’re in a hurry, you can use the DBS tracking service to see how the application is progressing.
Does the DBS check expire?
The DBS check never expires. However, some authorities and organisations require the DBS certificate be updated once every one to three years.
This ensures that the individual hasn’t committed an offence since the first check and helps protect children and vulnerable adults. Check with your company policy documents to find out how often updates are required.
Keeping your DBS certificate up to date is relatively straightforward thanks to the convenient DBS update service. It also allows employers to check their employees’ certificates whenever required.
The applicant needs to register to use the service and pay £13 per year, although it’s free if they’re working as a volunteer. Only those with a standard or enhanced DBS check can use the service – those with a basic certificate should register for an online services account instead.
The applicant can use the service to upload their certificate, grant access to the employer, view their details and see if anything has changed.
How do you get a DBS check?
If the individual is applying for a basic check, they can apply directly using the online application.
Note that the self-employed will need to ask the hiring company to carry out any DBS checks required on their behalf.
This is how the process works:
1. The individual completes the online form (basic checks) or completes the form that the employer gives them.
2. They give back the form and provide the required documents to prove their identity.
3. The employer will send the information provided to the DBS or the umbrella body who will carry out the checks.
4. The DBS certificate is delivered to the applicant’s home address.
5. The applicant will show the certificate to their employer.
Appealing against a DBS check
If for any reason the applicant believes that their details are incorrect or that there has been a mistake, they must contact the DBS service within three months. They can do this directly or they can ask their employer to do it on their behalf. The local authorities will then take the next steps and investigate the claim further.
Do DBS checks cover people who have lived abroad?
The DBS check only covers UK police records and can’t access those abroad. This means the process is more complicated if the applicant has been living overseas for over six months.
The applicant is still required to undergo a background check but this must include a criminal record check from the country they’ve been living in, in addition to a DBS check for any time spent living in the UK.
The process for this depends on which country the person has been living in. You can refer to the DBS list of countries from A to Z to find country-specific guidelines.
If the person requiring the check is currently overseas, you can still carry out the identity check via video call. However, you must have physical possession of the correct ID documents in order to verify that they are valid, current and original.
What documents are required to check the applicant’s ID?
There are three different ways (‘routes’) that the DBS can check the applicant’s ID. All applicants must aim to provide documents from the first ‘route’ unless there are circumstances which make this difficult.
These are as follows:
The applicant must provide:
- 1 document from group 1 (see the list of valid identity documents below); and
- 2 further documents from group 1, 2a or 2b.
At least 1 of the 3 documents above must show the applicant’s current address.
The applicant must provide:
- 3 documents from group 2 consisting of:
– 1 document from group 2a; and
– 2 further documents from group 2a or 2b; one of which must verify their current address.
The applicant must provide:
- Birth certificate (UK & Channel Islands) AND 4 further documents from group 2 consisting of:
– 1 document from group 2a; and
– 3 further documents from group 2a or 2b; one of which must verify their current address.
See below for a full list of accepted ID documents.
DBS list of acceptable ID
Group 1: Primary Trusted Identity Credentials
- Current valid passport
- Biometric Residence Permit (UK)
- Current driving licence (UK), full or provisional. Photo card only for Isle of Man/Channel Islands licences, which should be presented with the associated counterpart licence (except Jersey)
- Birth certificate (UK and Channel Islands), issued at the time of birth. The full and short forms are both acceptable, including those issued by UK authorities overseas, e.g. Embassies, High Commissions and HM Forces (photocopies are not acceptable).
Group 2A: Trusted Government/State Issued Documents
- Current UK driving licence (old style paper version)
- Current non-UK photo driving licence (valid for up to 12 months from the date you entered the UK)
- Birth certificate (UK and Channel Islands) issued after the time of birth by the General Register Office/relevant authority (photocopies are not acceptable)
- Marriage/civil partnership certificate (UK and Channel Islands)
- Adoption certificate (UK and Channel Islands)
- HM Forces ID card (UK)
- Firearms licence (UK and Channel Islands).
Group 2B: Financial/Social History Documents
- Mortgage statement (UK or EEA – non-EEA statements are not acceptable)
- Bank/building society statement (UK and Channel Islands or EEA – non-EEA statements are not acceptable)
- Bank/building society account opening confirmation letter (UK)
- Credit card statement (UK or EEA – non-EEA statements are not acceptable)
- Financial statement, e.g. pension, endowment, ISA (UK)
- P45/P60 statement (UK and Channel Islands)
- Council Tax statement (UK and Channel Islands)
- Work Permit/Visa (UK – UK Residence Permit, valid up to expiry date)
- Letter of sponsorship from future employment provider (non-UK/non-EEA only – valid only for applicants residing outside of the UK at time of application)
- Utility bill (UK), not including a mobile telephone bill
- Benefits statement, e.g. Child Allowance, Pension
- A document from central/local government authority or agency giving entitlement, e.g. from the Department for Work and Pensions, the Employment Service, HM Revenue and Customs, Jobcentre, Jobcentre Plus, Social Security (UK and Channel Islands)
- EU National ID card
- Cards carrying the PASS accreditation logo (UK and Channel Islands).
For a full list of the DBS accepted ID documents, please visit the UK government website.
Guidance for employers/organisations
There are certain rules which affect what ID documents can and can’t be accepted. For example, all documents must be valid, current and original. You cannot accept photocopies or documents printed from the internet. Wherever possible, you should look for a form of photo ID and check for the applicant’s likeness.
You should also gain full information about any name changes or address changes, with proof of address needed for the five years prior to the application.
How much does a DBS check cost?
The basic and standard DBS check currently cost £23 and the enhanced DBS check costs £40.
The checks will remain free for volunteers who require a standard or enhanced check.
These prices were reduced in Oct 2019 in order to make the service better value for money.
How old do you need to be for a DBS check?
You’ll need to be at least 16 years old to be eligible for a DBS check.
What if you already have a DBS check?
The applicant may still be able to use a DBS certificate from a previous role if the employer is willing to accept it. If they do this, they must make sure their identity is the same, that the certificate is appropriate for the job and sign up for the DBS update service to check for changes.
Who will keep the DBS certificate?
The certificate belongs to the person whose name is printed on the certificate.
Can you fail a DBS check?
The DBS isn’t a test that you can pass or fail. It’s simply a check that identifies whether anyone has a criminal record, caution, warning or conviction. Should a problem be identified, it’s up to the employer to decide whether the crime is relevant to the role before they make a
Individuals will only be barred from working with children or vulnerable adults if they appear on the Children’s Barred List (List 99).
A DBS check is a legal requirement for those applying for certain paid or volunteer positions working with children, vulnerable adults or in other sensitive roles.
It helps protect children and adults from abuse and protects sensitive information from inappropriate use. Each of the four types of DBS check are affordable and you can usually access them within a month of the application.
If you’re the employer, you must ensure all members of staff undergo this check and keep their records up to date, or you could be held legally responsible for any problems that may arise.
For more information on DBS checks, safe recruitment and safeguarding children and vulnerable adults, visit our courses page here.