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DBSs Explained

With DBS checks coming up more and more frequently in the media, we thought it was about time to demystify the checks and answer some of the questions that are asked again and again.


What is the DBS?

The Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) acts as a 'one-stop-shop' for organisations, checking police records. It was established following public concern about the safety of children and vulnerable adults, and the police did not have adequate capability or resources to routinely process and fulfil the large number of criminal record checks in a timely fashion.

What is a DBS Check?

It has been referred to in many different ways personnel check, pre-employment screening, police check, employee due diligence check but it all comes down to the same thing: a DBS check. Quite simply, it is the means for an employer to verify a prospective or current employee's response to the question: "Do you have any criminal convictions?" In certain jobs, the employer has both the moral and legal obligation to be sure. They cannot merely accept the applicant's word.

Do I need one?

From a legal perspective, only when your current or potential employer asks you for one! Generally, it is unlikely unless you will be working in a position of trust, or with children or vulnerable adults.

If you are a self-employed sole trader, you've probably been screaming out for access to an enhanced DBS in order to apply for work in sensitive areas. Unfortunately, current legislation makes it impossible for you to apply for one. However, if you register with our sister company - recruitment consultancy Completely Care they carry out an enhanced DBS disclosure as part of their registration process. See our page on DBSs for the self-employed for more information.

I've been asked for one, but I'm not a criminal!

Don't panic! The check is just a formality for most people, and is purely a precautionary measure to ensure that they present no danger during their work. The search is also for relevant records, so, for instance, there is also no need to worry if you want to work with children but have a speeding ticket!

Are there different levels of checks?

Yes, there are two. Whichever is performed is dependent on the nature of the position.

If you are applying for a job in the security, medical, legal or financial sectors, you may be asked to undergo a standard disclosure. This entitles the employer to request, and be given, details of any convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings held in England and Wales on the Police National Computer. Where necessary, the check will include records in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and those held by British Transport Police, Royal Military Police, and Ministry of Defence Police.

If you want to work with children or vulnerable adults, you will be subject to an enhanced disclosure. This contains the same information as above, plus any locally held police force information considered relevant to the job role. Where relevant, it also includes a check of two specific lists: one containing the names of people barred from working with children; the other for those barred from working with vulnerable adults.

So anyone in a position of responsibility with my children will have been thoroughly checked?

Absolutely. It is the legal obligation for an employer to carry out these checks before allowing them to work. If anything in an applicant's history presents a risk to your child, then you can be sure that the employer denied them the job and, where relevant, requested that the applicant be placed on the relevant barred list.

These checks will be made on anyone who has unsupervised access to your children, be they full-time and part-time employees, volunteers or even workers and contractors who are working on site.

What about those working in care homes and the like?

The same applies: anyone working with children, vulnerable adults or other specific, sensitive areas will have been checked to ensure that nothing in their history that shows that they present a risk.

So I don't need one for taking my neighbours to school?

No, that is an absolute myth and a question that has caused so much confusion over recent months. DBSs are all about professionals in a professional setting. Any reciprocal arrangement between friends such as babysitting, giving lifts and the like is fine. You are not being employed, or paid, as a professional in a professional setting, so the rules do not apply.

Can anyone apply for a check on me?

No, the forms requesting a DBS check must be signed by you to say that you give your permission for the check to take place. If you haven't signed, then it is rejected. Only an employer (current or potential) can apply for one on your behalf, and only with your express permission, and only as part of your job requirements.

Individual members of the public cannot get a DBS check done for themselves or for anyone else. The only people who can access a DBS disclosure for themselves are self-employed sole traders who wish to provide goods and services to certain sensitive environments, where a DBS disclosure is needed.

If your services fit certain criteria, our sister company - recruitment consultancy Completely Care can register you on their books and carry out an enhanced DBS disclosure as part of their registration process. You will get a copy of this disclosure. See our page on DBSs for the self-employed for more information.

Where can I get further information?

We have compiled a series of downloads and guidance notes. If you still cannot find what you are looking for, our team will be happy to help.