There’s been lots of discussion about how important DBS checks are in order to safeguard children. Teachers, sports coaches and other people working with children usually need an enhanced disclosure check, and the processes for going about this is widely understood. But what happens when you have a young person who wants to work with children or vulnerable adults?
How Do You Define a Child?
Part of the problem with all this is working out who, legally, is a child. We have various ages in UK law at which children assume some of the responsibilities of an adult. At 16, children can buy Lottery tickets, vote in Scotland and get a job or apprenticeship. At 17 they can start learning to drive, and at 18 they can enter into credit agreements or vote in UK elections. As far as the Disclosure and Barring Service is concerned, they term anyone under the age of 18 as a child or young person.
Under 16s and DBS Checks
The situation is clearest when it comes to under 16s. People who haven’t reached their 16th birthday cannot have a disclosure check, or the equivalent in Scotland or Northern Ireland under any circumstances. Any young person who is doing part time work or volunteering in a role which would ordinarily need a DBS check cannot get a certificate in their own name. Organisations which use teenage volunteers and staff must think of other ways to keep their service users safe, and make sure that the under 16s are safe in their role too.
16 to 18 Year Olds and DBS Checks
A more common scenario involves young people between the ages of 16 and 18. Perhaps recent school leavers who are starting on an apprenticeship, or people still at school who want a part time job. The same rules apply to 16 and 17 year olds as they do to older workers. The work they are doing must fall under the legal definition of regulated activity in order for them to need a DBS check. Employers are not allowed to exempt them from the checking process purely because of their age, or conversely, run more stringent checks because they are young.
Under 18s and Documentation
For young people, the main problem in getting a DBS check is proving their identity. The list of identity documents which the DBS will accept is extensive, but many of the items are unlikely to be relevant, especially if a child is still at school and living at home with their parents. Under 18s won’t have credit cards or utility bills in their own names, may not have a driving licence and might not have a passport either. This lack of evidence can often cause significant problems when under 18s are applying for a DBS check.
If you are in this situation or are helping a young person navigate the DBS application process, get advice from the DBS if you are struggling with documentation. Other items, such as a student card, or a letter of endorsement from a school Head may be accepted in some situations.