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How Long Does A DBS Check Take?

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Every few months the DBS system hits the headlines due to some huge delay over processing applications which means someone doesn’t get a job they’ve been promised. The government sets national targets for processing DBS forms, but as it’s the job of the 43 separate police forces across England and Wales to process the checks, it’s perhaps not a surprise that performance varies hugely depending on where you live.



The DBS target is that 95% of applications should be processed and forms sent back to the applicant within 8 weeks, or 56 days. A recent report to parliament flagged up the issue that there were significant backlogs at some points in the system, mainly in the police force checking part of the process. There are always going to be some people’s applications which take a lot longer than usual, either because they’ve moved around a lot, have periods of living overseas, or have numerous aliases. Delays are also sometimes caused by applicant error – incorrectly completing the form, applying for the wrong sort of DBS or providing the wrong identity documents. When you look into the figures in more depth, it’s clear that the regional variations are enormous.


Best and Worst Performing Areas

The government regularly releases statistics showing how long, on average, it takes to turn around a DBS check in each Force Area. In the most recently released figures, for June 2018, if you applied for a DBS check in Northern Ireland, Norfolk, Leicestershire or Guernsey, the checks would be done and returned to DBS for printing on the certificate in three working days or less. Other large police areas such as Suffolk, Wiltshire and West Midlands come in under the 10 day mark. At the other end of the scale, Avon and Somerset Police were taking on average 31.6 days to turn around a DBS check, North Yorkshire were taking 28 days and the Metropolitan Police took 24.9 days. Worryingly, performance at all three of these police areas has been deteriorating over 2018; in April 2018 Avon and Somerset were taking 24.6 days, but by June this had increased by almost a week.


Strategies for Minimising Delay

There’s not a lot you can do about choosing where you have your DBS check done – if you’re resident in Birmingham, you’ll have no choice but to deal with West Midlands Police. The performance figures are widely advertised though, so if you think you’re going to need a DBS check done, get onto the government website to look at the numbers and get an idea of the most recent processing times. If you’re in an area which is experiencing delays, do everything you can in being quick with filling in forms and taking extra care not to make errors on the form. Manage a potential employer’s expectations; if there are delays in processing let them know and tell them that you’re doing everything you can to get your DBS check back as quickly as possible.