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Why is it so Important to Complete DBS Checks?

Last updated on 20th December 2023

A Disclosure and Barring Service check, better known as a DBS check is a process that is crucially important for safe recruitment. It s is especially important when a job requires the applicant to be in a position of trust around children or vulnerable adults. A DBS check enables you to find whether your employee has a criminal record and is likely to pose a danger.

Having a criminal record should not stop an ex offender from working and a minor offence doesn’t mean that someone is necessarily unsafe in other areas. There are guidelines in place to ensure that people with a criminal record are treated fairly.

However for jobs that involve contact with vulnerable adults such as the elderly or disabled or when working with or around children, there is no choice A DBS check is the only way to ensure that the person you employ is not a danger. It is designed to prevent people being abused by others who see a position of trust as an opportunity to do just that.

When you are working in recruitment it is important to remember that abusers usually come across as perfectly normal and often seem well suited to this type of work.  This means you cannot always trust your own gut instinct; you need the background information of the correct DBS check.

The 4 different categories of DBS checks

To cater for different positions there are 4 different types of DBS check. The category you choose depends upon the type of job position you are offering and if it is one involving vulnerable adults and children you should carry out the most comprehensive check.

You can’t carry out a DBS check on yourself apart from a basic check.

  • Basic check: This enables you to see conditional cautions and unspent convictions.
  • Standard check: This discloses spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings
  • Enhanced check: The same information as a standard check. However it also provides any added information held by the local police that’s considered relevant to the role
  • Enhanced check with barred lists: This shows the same information as an enhanced check. It also reveals whether the applicant is on the list of people barred from doing the role.

There are two types of barred list: One is for people who have been barred from working with vulnerable adults. The other is for people who work with children.

If you are employing people who will be working within these areas, an enhanced check with barred lists is a must. The aim of the DBS Barred Lists is to keep people safe.

Staff carrying out safer recruitment checks

So who needs to have an enhanced check with barred lists?

Anyone who works with vulnerable adults or children needs to be checked off against the list.

The types of job can include care work such as personal care, driving vulnerable adults such as hospital taxi drivers or positions where you have access to somebody’s finances. It includes hospital workers, people who work in hospices or any other kind of responsible position that brings you in contact with vulnerable people on an unsupervised basis.

For people who work with children an enhanced check with barred lists, is required for nursery workers, people who work in schools or playgroups, in children’s homes or any position that brings you in contact with children on an unsupervised basis.

How often does a DBS check last?

Surprisingly there is no expiry date on a DBS check. So if you have someone working in a sensitive position you need to monitor this yourself and ensure that your employee’s DBS status is updated regularly.

Most authorities require that a DBS check is updated every three years.  Some organisations such as hospitals require a re check every year.

However there is no official expiry date so if you work in recruitment you do need to check that an applicant who says he or she has a valid DBS check has had this updated recently. It is highly possible that someone could carry out an offence or be associated with recent  abuse that passes under the radar.

The background of the DBS Check

The DBS check replaced the earlier Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check which was initially introduced in 2002 in order to check the background of people working with children or vulnerable adults.

Before then there was no comprehensive register of offenders or people who may have posed a risk to safety and as we know from history this had very dire consequences.

The Soham Murders

Rules on disclosure were tightened following the Soham murders, when school caretaker Ian Huntley sexually assaulted and murdered 2 school girls.

He had got his job as a school caretaker six months before the basic legislation was introduced. Despite police records which showed that he had been accused of rape and sexual assaults, because he had never been charged this information was not passed on.

Had this information been available to his employers he would never have got his job in a school. It is important to remember that Ian Huntley was a popular figure at the school and nobody appeared to have had any concerns about his true character.

After the Soham murders, the rules were tightened and now  everyone working with children or vulnerable adults had to have a CRB check which checked out whether somebody had ever been associated with these types of crime, even though they may not have been convicted.

In 2012, the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check was merged with the Independent Safeguarding Authority, under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

Worker carrying out safer recruitment check

The Importance of DBS checks

According to YouGov statistics, 11 million people in the UK have some kind of criminal record yet 50% of employers say they would never employ an ex offender.  If your applicant does have a criminal record that shows up in a basic DBS check it is important to find out when the offence occurred, whether it was serious and involved violence and whether the nature of the offence has any relevance to the role.

Many applicants are reluctant to admit to a criminal record during the recruitment process but this is understandable given that employers are so reluctant to employ them.

However the most important factor of the DBS check is one of safety. Although it can seem like an added expense and yet another government hoop to jump through, when you are recruiting you cannot afford to ignore the dangers. Employing someone who has criminal behaviour and who is likely to carry out abuse puts lives at risk.

In addition it is equally important to ensure that all your current staff undergoes regular DBS updates so that you can ensure that vulnerable adults and children are safe. After all we don’t want another Soham but at least we can all learn from this shocking experience and the deaths of two innocent victims.

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About the author

Eve Johnson

Eve Johnson

Eve has worked at CPD from the start, she organises the course and blog production, as well as supporting students with any problems they may have and helping them choose the correct courses. Eve is also studying for her Business Administration Level 3 qualification. Outside of work Eve likes to buy anything with flamingos on it, catching up with friends, spending time with her family and occasionally going to the gym!

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