Most parents are aware of the fact that people who look after children in nurseries or in hospitals require a criminal records check. However, there is a lot of confusion about what happens in a situation where the parents are present along with their children. Do staff or volunteers still need a DBS check in these situations? It’s a fairly complex picture, so let’s go through it step by step.
One Off or Irregular Situations
The law about DBS checking says that people only need a DBS check to work with children or vulnerable adults on a regular basis, defined as once a week, or four times over a month. Parents who are asked to help out on a school trip or take a place on a parent rota for Brownies and Cubs twice a year therefore do not require a DBS check. The risk assessment for this activity or the organisation should take into account that some adults present will not have a DBS check and plan accordingly, with steps such as ensuring unchecked adults are not left alone with children.
Regular Volunteering and Overnight Stays
Someone who volunteers or works regularly with children will need a DBS check, even in situations where the parents are expected to stay, but only in situations which are defined as regulated activity. So the leader who is running the Brownie pack will be DBS checked, as they are there each week. The one exception to the “regularity” rule is for overnight stays or sleepovers. All adults attending or supervising these events require a DBS check, even if they are all parents of the children involved.
What is Regulated Activity?
Only people who are engaged in what is defined as regulated activity need a DBS check. Lots of people come into contact with children every day in their working lives working in a shop, driving a bus or even working in a soft play centre and this is not classed as regulated activity. Employers recruiting staff to work in shops or soft play centres might choose to run basic DBS checks on their staff, but legally don’t have to.
Regulated activity is clearly defined in law and covers activities such as caring for children by providing help with personal care or eating, teaching children, providing counselling to children or vulnerable adults, or working in mental health support. Employers who are recruiting staff to work in these positions are usually very clear about their responsibilities.
Getting a DBS Check
Employers drive the DBS process and should give applicants all of the information which they need to make their application and receive their certificates. It is easier and quicker to use online submission for forms, and recent changes to the system makes it easier for applicants to verify their identities online too. Smaller employers might choose to use a third-party organisation to manage their DBS checks rather than do it themselves, and this often gives applicants expert advice at the end of the phone or by email.