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DBS Checks Across the UK

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You’ll often hear people talking about disclosure checks, DBS checks or even CRB checks, even though that’s old terminology. Although “DBS checks” is perhaps the phrase you’ll hear most often, the Disclosure and Barring Service only operates in England and Wales. Due to separate legal systems, there are different ways of getting criminal records checks in each part of the UK.


England and Wales – DBS

The Disclosure and Barring Service is part of the Home Office and looks after DBS checking for people living in England and Wales. Remember that the body you apply to for your criminal records check depends on where you live, not where your employer is based. The main office of the DBS is in Liverpool, processing applications from across England and Wales. There are three separate levels of DBS check available, and the type you apply for will depend on the sort of role you are going to be doing. As most people in the UK live in England and Wales, you’ll find a lot of information on the internet about the process and the timescales online.


Scotland – Disclosure Scotland

The legal system in Scotland is very different to that in England and Wales, and north of the border, criminal records are done by Disclosure Scotland. This is part of the Scottish Government and has offices in Glasgow. Just as in England and Wales, there are three levels of DBS checking: basic, standard and enhanced. The type of check will depend on your role. The most detailed level of checking, which is usually for people working with children is called the Protecting Vulnerable Groups scheme, or PVG. You’ll often see references to PVG checks, or people talking about “getting a PVG”. Certificates are issued in the same way as in England and Wales, but legal terminology may be different.


Northern Ireland – AccessNI

AccessNI is part of the devolved government in Northern Ireland. As with in the rest of the UK, there are the same three levels of check available. Checks can be done online, and most of the same rules about who needs a DBS check and what types of role fall into the “regulated activity” category. There is lots of information on the NIDirect website about the criminal records checking process, and applicants can complete their forms and make payments online too.


Moving Between Countries

Although there are different systems in the various parts of the UK, organisations which work across the country such as the NHS are accustomed to dealing with DBS checks from each of the three systems. As an applicant you can’t pick and choose where to go for your DBS check; you have to use the scheme which applies wherever you are currently living. If you have recently arrived in the UK, then this complicates matters a bit. There’s no point in applying for a criminal records check in the UK, and depending on the job, you may be asked to supply a similar check or statement of good character from your country of origin.