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DBS, PVG and AccessNI

Apply for a DBS Check

Life in the UK can be confusing. A lot of the confusion when it comes to dealing with government departments is down to the fact that processes vary depending on where you live. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are all devolved to some extent, which means that rules might be different in each place. This is certainly the case when it comes to police criminal records checks. This is an issue which you might come up against if you are applying for a job in a wide range of occupations.


Disclosure and Barring Service – DBS

In England and Wales, the organisation which looks after police checks is called the DBS. DBS is a government body which falls under the Home Office. The organisation has a head office in Liverpool, and a smaller site near Swindon. DBS looks after the processing of criminal records checks on anyone living in England at the time of application. It’s probably worth pointing out that when applying for a criminal record check it really doesn’t matter how you define yourself in terms of your nationality. If your current address is in London, you apply to DBS even if you grew up in Glasgow and define yourself as Scottish.

The Disclosure and Barring Service has been around for about a decade. Before that, there was a similar body called the Criminal Records Bureau or CRB, and you’ll still see this term being used online.


PVG and Disclosure Scotland

If you live north of the border, then you’ll deal with an organisation called Disclosure Scotland. The reason there is a separate body in Scotland is that there is a completely separate legal and police system. The overall aim of Disclosure Scotland is the same though. They run criminal records checks on people applying for certain jobs and issue certificates. PVG is the name of the scheme operated by Disclosure Scotland. PVG stands for Protecting Vulnerable Groups, and sums up nicely what the process is about. If you’re in Scotland, you’ll see wording like “subject to satisfactory PVG” on a job advert. You’ll also hear people referring to getting “their PVG check”. This is what they are talking about.



To complicate matters even further, Northern Ireland has yet another separate legal and police system. The government body in Northern Ireland which does the police records checking is called AccessNI. The general ethos is the same as in the rest of the UK, although on a smaller scale given the smaller population in Northern Ireland.


Application Process

Whichever of the three organisations you are applying to, the process will be broadly similar. There are three basic steps. First, complete the application form. It’s usually easiest to do this online. Then take along some official documents like passport or utility bills to prove who you are, and where you live. Then wait while the checks are done. Finally, the certificate will drop through your letterbox. Show it to your employer, keep the original and start work in your new position.